You can pull up a twig from the lakebed of any lake infested with zebra mussels and find dozens of fingernail-sized shells bearing a black and white stripe pattern. Zebra mussels do an excellent job of filtering the water, too good as a matter of fact. This filter-feeding organism removes algae from the water column.
Zebra Mussels Threatening Lake Ecosystems
The zebra mussel is a mollusk that is a serious threat to our fresh water lakes. This invasive specie threatens a lake's ecosystem by breaking a link in the lake food chain.
Yes, this vastly improves the water clarity of the lake, but removes the smallest organisms of the food chain. One little zebra mussel can filter up to a gallon of water everyday. One of the main problems with zebra mussels here in North America is that they don't appear to have any predators. In Europe, where the zebra mussel is native, they have natural enemies that keep them in check. Two predators that have shown potential to control the zebra mussel populations are crayfish and smallmouth bass. Unfortunately, the rusty crayfish is also an invasive specie that needs to be kept in control.
Zebra mussels get from lake to lake by clinging on to and colonizing on the bottom of boats. In the great lakes areas, boaters will recreate on lakes like Lake Michigan and bring their boats to inland lakes. They don't realize the impact of not cleaning the bottom of their boats before launching on inland lakes. The zebra mussels then get transferred and planted in a new waterway. In our Great Lakes, the zebra mussel has been wiping out native clams and mussels. They can't compete with the zebra mussel. According to the US Geological Survey, "zebra mussels are in more than 200 freshwater lakes, and they have the potential to invade any fresh water stream and lake," causing havoc on hundreds or thousands of ecosystems.
A female zebra mussel can lay over 1 million eggs in a spawning season, according to the USGS. The only control of the zebra mussel now is the comprehensive care of boaters and fishing anglers. Boats must be kept clean, washed in soapy water before being transferred from lake to lake. Fishing enthusiasts must also change the water and clean their live wells. Also, don't transfer fish or bait from one lake to the next.