The Nuisance Zebra Mussels
We focus a lot on aquatic invasive plants, just because that is our business – but there is another invasive species that certainly deserves some print on our blog. It is partically because of them that weed harvesters are needed.
Zebra mussels, a freshwater aquatic nuisance, which grow to about the size of a dime and live up to eight years, are rapidly invading North American lakes.
Zebra mussels have three main effects on the water bodies they invade.
Zebra mussels siphon a liter of water per day to live. They act as filters and clear the water of food necessary for small larval fish to survive – ultimately starving the top of the food chain – the walleye, catfish, and Northern Pike. The clear water is certainly desirable, but water that is too clear allows sunlight to reach the bottom creating ideal growing conditions for invasive aquatic plants like watermilfoil and flowering rush.
Clear waters as mentioned above not only kill off fish leaving anglers to find new fishing spots, but the number of invasive aquatic plants make water transportation difficult often getting tangled in engine propellers. The additional plant growth hinders swimming, boating, and paddling/canoeing. The zebra mussels can cause bodily harm with their razor-sharp shells and because they attach themselves to hard surfaces such as docks and boats, they are easily spread from lake to lake.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated zebra mussels have cost Great Lakes region’s water and power plants close to $5 billion in the past decade to clear clogged intake pipes. Annually zebra mussel-related maintenance was estimated to be around $100 – $200 million.