Zebra Mussels

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Dreissena polymorpha, also known as zebra mussels, is an invasive species of mussels native to Black, Caspian, and Azov Seas in Eastern Europe and Western Russia. Zebra mussels are known as one of the most aggressive freshwater invaders in the world. [1] Zebra mussels were first spotted in the United States in 1988 in Michigan. [2] They are thought to have arrived here as larvae through the ballast water of ships from infested waterways.[3] Since their arrival, zebra mussels have spread through many waterways throughout the country. Zebra mussels typically attach to solid surfaces underwater and have a D shaped shell with multiple brown colors and stripes. The adult size of zebra mussels ranges anywhere from 1/4 inch to 2 inches fully grown.[4]

Effects of Invasion

Natural Problems

Zebra mussels are known as incredibly efficient water filter feeders. Because of this efficiency in water filtration, water bodies that are infested with zebra mussels often have much clearer water. One adult zebra mussel is able to filter 1-2 liters of water every day. Because of the incredible number of zebra mussels in a typical infestation, this may lead to lower levels of plankton that are natural. [5] This effect may be felt through the entire food chain as lower levels of plankton may lead to food scarcity for fish larvae. The increased clarity of the water also allows higher light penetration, allowing more plant growth at deeper levels of water. While not a problem in its own right, increased vegetation on the water floor makes it harder for larger fish to locate food.[6] Zebra mussels also have a strong effect on other native mussel species. Zebra mussels, as mentioned before, attach onto whatever solid surface that they are able to find. Often this solid surface may be a competing mussel species that is native to the water body. This is often enough to kill the native mussel outright as it is smothered to death by the invading species. If the native species survives that then it is faced with stronger competition for food in the area and often starves to death as a result of the the zebra mussels superior feeding capacity.[7]

Economical Problems

On top of the natural ecosystem, zebra mussels also have a strong effect on the economical infrastructure in waterways. Zebra mussels are especially problematic for water treatment facilities and power plants.[8] Zebra mussels give these establishments problems because they cling to the inside of water intake pipes and may clog the pipe completely. It has been estimated that these water treatment facilities and power plants spend an average of $500,000 per year to prevent zebra mussel invasions or to fight infestations that have already taken place.[9]

Recreational Problems

Zebra mussel invasions have a tremendous impact on the recreational aspects of a body of water in a number of ways. Zebra mussel invasions are typically very visible in shallow water and can be especially problematic for swimmers on beaches because the mussels tend to be very sharp and may cut swimmers that step on them. This often leads many swimmers to wear swimming shoes in order to try and avoid cutting themselves on the zebra mussels. Zebra mussels also attach onto the propellers of boats that are left in the water. As the zebra mussels add up on the propeller, the performance of the boat is often adversely affected.

Invasions

The reason that zebra mussel invasions are so common can be at least partially attributed to the ability of zebra mussels to survive for nearly seven days out of water.[10] This survival ability allows for zebra mussels to attach to a boat's motor and be transported to a waterway that is not infested. This introduction to a foreign waterway is often all a zebra mussel requires to start a new invasion. Zebra mussel infestations are nearly impossible to stop once a zebra mussel is introduced to a new water way because of the rate in which they reproduce. Adult female zebra mussels are able to release over 40,000 eggs a cycle and over a million eggs in a year.[11] This rate of reproduction is part of the reason why zebra mussels are known as the most aggressive fresh water invasive species and it makes these invasions so serious.

Prevention

Zebra mussels, as mentioned before, tend to cling onto solid surfaces such as boats, docks, bait buckets, and other underwater plant life. This makes it important to the prevention of zebra mussel invasion to properly wash off the before mentioned objects before putting them into a separate body of water. The recommended cleaning measure is to use hot water or high pressure water to clean off infested surfaces.[12] Prevention of zebra mussel invasions has taken a preliminary basis because of the rapid reproduction rate of zebra mussels. State department of natural resources, such as Minnesota[13] and Wisconsin[14], have their own webpages in which one is able to report a zebra mussel infestation or sighting. This is important to these organizations because it allows them to keep an up to date database of infested waterways in which recreational and commercial boating vessels need to be washed down properly before going into an uninfested water way and spreading potential zebra mussel larvae. There is however a possibility of removing a zebra mussel infestation if it is caught early enough. There have been cases in which zebra mussels were eradicated from early action by several federal and state organizations when spotted very early on.[15] There are also methods involving the use of chemicals such as: chlorine, bromine, and potassium permanganate.[16] These methods have been widely adopted by the water treatment and power plant facilities that are most affected by the zebra mussels but have done little to fight against the reoccurring infestations of zebra mussels.

References

  1. "Dreisenna Polymorpha" Global Invasive Species Database. Accessed on 4/26/2017
  2. Mark Hoddle "Quagga & Zebra Mussels" Center for Invasive Species Research, UC Riverside, accessed 4/26/2017.
  3. "Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha)" Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Accessed 4/26/2017.
  4. "Zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha)" Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Accessed 4/26/2017
  5. "Dreisenna Polymorpha" Global Invasive Species Database. Accessed on 4/26/2017
  6. "Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha)" Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Accessed 4/26/2017.
  7. Mark Hoddle "Quagga & Zebra Mussels" Center for Invasive Species Research, UC Riverside, accessed 4/26/2017.
  8. "Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)" Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Accessed 4/26/2017.
  9. Mark Hoddle "Quagga & Zebra Mussels" Center for Invasive Species Research, UC Riverside, accessed 4/26/2017.
  10. "Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)" Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Accessed 4/26/2017.
  11. "Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)" Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Accessed 4/26/2017.
  12. "Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)" Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Accessed 4/26/2017.
  13. "Zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha)" Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Accessed 4/26/2017
  14. "Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha)" Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Accessed 4/26/2017.
  15. "Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)" Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Accessed 4/26/2017.
  16. "Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha)" Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Accessed 4/26/2017.

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