Zebra mussels

“Unknown in North America until 1988, the zebra mussel has become a pest whose exploding population has prompted alarming predictions of millions of dollars’ worth of damage to water supply…

” (Nash/Monroe, J. Madeleine). Zebra Mussels are not only destructive, but they help out our lakes. There is one main way that Zebra Mussels got to the United States. They are found in Russia and came over to the United States into the Lake St.

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Clair and then quickly spread through the great lakes, rivers, and lakes in Michigan (“USGS Great Lakes Science Center”). They came over in ocean going freightliners with the opening of the St. Lawrence seaway. These freightliners carried the Zebra Mussels in their ballast waters. The ship empty ballast waters into Lake St. Clair.

When these ships empty the ballast water, Zebra Mussels were placed in the lake also. It is also a theory that clumps of Zebra Mussels fell off the hull of ocean freightliners. Since Lake St. Clair is a warm lake the Zebra Mussels multiplied quickly. Since global warming has been raising the temperature in all lakes, the Zebra Mussels spread quickly (See map below). According to John Erwin, Zebra Mussels are an economic problem in North America, where they compete with Native populations for food and habit, make beaches and swimming areas unpleasant to use and negatively impact shipping and industries that use fresh waters.

Zebra Mussels are bad to aquatic marine life and the ecosystem. According to the article by Erwin, the way in which they compete with other animals is that they use the same aquatic species and algae for food that other animals use. As the Zebra Mussels take these food sources away from native birds, fish, and other lake animals, this populations go into decline. As the Zebra Mussels increase in number they can form colonies which attach themselves to other lake species. Some of this species would be turtles, clams, and crayfish. As they attach themselves to these lake animals and grow in number, it makes it harder for the different species to move and eventually can no longer feed themselves.

The species dies off when this happens. When these animals die with the colonies attached to them, they wash up on the shores. This makes the beaches not attractive to swimmers and also dangerous. The Zebra Mussels are very sharp and can cause cuts on feet when swimmers enter the water. Zebras Mussels not only affect lake species, but they have a large impact industry and recreation.

Power plants hate Zebra Mussels. Municipal industries hate Zebra Mussels. In fact, anything that uses fresh water from these freshwater lakes and rivers hate Zebra Mussels. Why? “The Mussels attach in thick colonies to the water supply pipes at these facilities, restricting flow and increasing energy and maintenance cost,” according to John Erwin. The Zebra Mussels not only affect industry but they can also negatively affect shipping. The Zebra Mussels attach themselves to the hulls of the ships.

As the ships move through the water the colonies of Zebra Mussels produce more drag in the water. This means that the ships use powered energy to reach their destination. Additionally, it takes more maintenances to clean the hulls of these enormous ships. When you look around the Great Lakes, you will see Zebra Mussels attach to docks and navigational markers. “Navigation buoys have been sunk under the weight of the attached Zebra Mussels. Wood, steel, and concrete are all damaged by prolonged attachment of the mussels,” (Article).

Some of the recreation impacts are the effects on beaches, fishing and luxury boats, and fishing. The sharp shells of the Zebra Mussels keep swimmers from the entering the water. Zebra Mussels attach themselves to the fishing boat and motors causing damage and mean the owners have large expenses for the upkeep in their boats. In the areas where Zebra Mussels have overpopulated, fishing has been greatly hurt. “Zebra Mussels can severely affect native mussels and clams by interfering with their feeding, growth, movement, respiration, and reproduction” (Article). On the other side of the coin Zebra Mussels can have some positive effects; ducks for example use Zebra Mussels as a food source.

In fact, it has been observed that ducks actually have changed there fly routes during migration to use the populations of Zebra Mussels for food. Some native fish like yellow perch feed on the larval of the Zebra Mussels. The Great Lakes have also been clean of population by the filtered feeding of the Zebra Mussels. As the water has been cleared, light as entered deeper into the water which has meant better plant growth for fish habitat. The Great Lakes have been affected both negatively and positively by the introduction of Zebra Mussels. Man in all his wisdom has brought this invasive species into the Great Lakes accidentally for his monetary gain by the opening of the St.

Lawrence seaway. As one can see there have been some positive impacts from the Zebra Mussels. The main impact was clearing the lakes of a lot of pollution. The negative impacts, however, far outweigh the positive advantages of the Zebra Mussels. The positive monetary advantages from the St. Lawrence seaway has been striped away by all the problems caused by the Zebra Mussels.


Web. 01 Mar. 2013. Works Cited “Article.” Zebra Mussels.

The National Atlas of the United States, 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. Erwin, John.

“How Do Zebra Mussels Affect Plants, Animals & Humans?” EHow. Demand Media, 24 May 2010. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. Nash/Monroe, J.

Madeleine. “Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews.” Time. Time, 21 Jan. 1991.

Web. 05 Mar. 2013. O’Neill, Charles R., Jr.

“Economic Impacts of Zebra Mussel Infestation.” Economic Impacts of Zebra Mussel Infestation. N.p., 28 Feb.

2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. “USGS Great Lakes Science Center.

” USGS Great Lakes Science Center. USGS, 31 Jan. 2008. Web. 12 Feb.