The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Attack of the QUAGGAS!

One of the questions I often get at while on my book tour is:

What's the most pressing issue
facing our Great Lakes?

There are many issues facing our lakes including loss of habitat for wildlife, loss of buffering wetlands, toxic sites, invasive species (both present and threatening to enter the lakes), over-development of the lakeshore, and ongoing pollution.

But if I could magically fix just one thing, I would eradicate the invasive mussels in our great lakes. Specifically, the quagga mussels (in photos) that have so completely colonized four of the lakes and are eroding the foundation of the food web.

gives more details about how the quaggas have thrived in our Great Lakes. It is estimated that there are over 400 TRILLION quaggas in Lake Michigan alone.

That's TRILLION with a "T"

What can be done about the quaggas? Unfortunately, it would take a magic wand to get rid of these invasive mussels. They spread rapidly, filter food endlessly out of the water, and reproduce prodigiously.

From the article:

"Quaggas are causing the biggest changes we've ever seen in Lake Michigan," said Tom Nalepa, a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory who has studied the lake for more than 30 years. "The numbers are still going up. We are going to see more severe impacts."
The havoc they have created includes an increase in toxic algae, a loss of tiny plants and animals that fish feed on, a decline in prey fish, and skinnier game and commercial fish.

Short of a disease or poison that could be targeted at them in the lakes' depths, quaggas are here to stay, Nalepa said.

But they represent a lesson for the future.

Of the 186 invasive species in the Great Lakes, two-thirds came from ships in the St. Lawrence Seaway, which pick up ballast water in foreign ports and discharge it into the Great Lakes. "We need to cut off the tap," said Kerfoot.

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