ANN ARBOR, MICH. — A project aimed at reducing the number of invasive quagga mussels in Lake Michigan near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has proved successful, providing important takeaways for groups involved in the ongoing effort to combat Great Lakes invasive species.
The project used a molluscicide consisting of dead cells from Pseudomonas fluorescens bacteria last August on a reef within Sleeping Bear’s Good Harbor Bay, an important habitat for native fish that is currently jeopardized by invasive species, algae growth, and the botulism toxin.
The project’s results, announced this week, saw a 95% reduction in mussel density in the treated area — without any changes in water quality — which is good news for the Good Harbor site, but also has broader implications.
“It gives us a good base of knowledge to work from,” said Erika Jensen, interim executive director for the Great Lakes Commission, which provided coordination for the project. “We’ll be taking the lessons learned through this project and thinking about what other opportunities there are to do other demonstration or experimental projects to continue our learning and improve, and figure out what is the most feasible, effective way of treating or managing mussels in these valuable coastal habitats.”
The project was overseen in large part by the Invasive Mussel Collaborative, a network of U.S.- and Canada-based entities, agencies and research institutions devoted to controlling invasive zebra and quagga mussels in the Great Lakes. The collaborative recently released a video highlighting its work at Good Harbor Bay.
Lake Michigan is heavily infested with quagga mussels, a thumbnail-sized aquatic invertebrate inadvertently introduced to the Great Lakes region via ballast water discharged from commercial cargo ships.
The mussels not only fuel the growth of nuisance algae, they also serve as a food source for an invasive fish called the round goby, which has displaced some native species and plays a role in avian botulism outbreaks, responsible for killing an alarming number of Common loons.
In the coming months, the Invasive Mussel Collaborative will continue to monitor the long-term effects of the molluscicide treatment in Good Harbor Bay. Researchers will also be able to compare the lessons from this project with those from similar efforts, including ongoing work by the National Park Service, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a team of citizen divers to manually remove quagga mussels from another site in Good Harbor Bay.
“The presence of zebra and quagga mussels has significantly impacted Good Harbor Bay and the entire Great Lakes basin,” said Dave Clapp, a research biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in a release. “This project and related efforts show us that targeted mussel removal has the potential to help us restore these important coastal reefs.”