Ballast Water is the Most Important Vector Responsible for the Invasion of Zebra Mussels into the Great Lakes

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Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are one of the most problematic invasive species in freshwater systems globally (Aldridge et al., 2004). McGinley (2011) reports the US legal definition for invasive species as an organism that is introduced, either accidentally or deliberately, to an environment that they are not native to. The organism must form an established community, and their presence must lead to negative consequences on the aquatic or terrestrial ecosystem. Both accidental and deliberate introduction may be due to natural causes. However, human or anthropogenic influences tend to be a more common causal factor in recent years. This essay will review several theories regarding the causation of spread of zebra mussels in the Great Lakes, as well as ways in which to mitigate the problem. As consequences of zebra mussel establishment are an important factor in determining mitigation strategies, these will also be touched upon. Dreissena were first identified in the North American Great Lakes in 1988 after their spread from native ecosystems in the Black and Caspian seas (Aldridge et al., 2004). Communities were initially recorded in Lake St Clair (the water body connecting Lake Huron with Lake Erie), near Detroit (McMahon, 1996). Dreissena were able to spread rapidly in both directions and by 1990 populations were recorded in all three lakes. Established communities were recorded slightly earlier in downstream Lake Erie than in Lake Huron (Minchin et al., 2002); possibly because of the construction of the Erie Canal, which provides a key pathway for introduced species from the Atlantic Ocean via shipping (Domske & O’Neill, 2003). With the facilitation of waterways and canal systems, Dreissena then spread to further ... ... middle of paper ... ... R. and Morrison, D. (2005) ‘Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien-invasive species in the United States’, Ecological Economics, 52 (3), pp. 273-288. Ricciardi, A. and MacIsaac, H. J. (2000) ‘Recent mass invasion of the North American Great Lakes by Ponto-Caspian species’, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 15 (2), pp. 62-65. Ruiz, G. M., Rawlings, T. K., Dobbs, F. C., Drake, L. A., Mullady, T., Huq, A. and Colwell, R. R. (2000) ‘Global spread of microorganisms by ships’, Nature, 408, pp. 49-50. Strayer, D. L. (2009) ‘Twenty Years of Zebra Mussels: Lessons from the Mollusk That Made Headlines’, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7 (3), pp. 135-141. Wacker, A. and Elert, E. V. (2004) ‘Food quality controls egg quality of the zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha: The role of fatty acids’, Limnology and Oceanography, 49.5, pp.1794-801.

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