Project Aimed at Removing Quagga Mussels from Lake Michigan

LELAND — Northwest Lower Michigan’s national park proved a fruitful natural laboratory for an invasive species study.

Scientists recently reported pronounced reductions in both cladophora algae and quagga mussel density in Lake Michigan’s offshore waters near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore after an underwater project by the Invasive Mussel Collaborative. An offshore fish-spawning reef was the experimental zone in Good Harbor Bay.

Scientists said they observed a 95 percent reduction in mussel density by using an inert, or dead, bacteria in a compound called Zequanox, a molluscicide designed to target zebra and quagga mussels without affecting native mussel species. The compound disrupts the invasive mussels’ ability to consume nutrients and they eventually die.

The results are heartening, officials said.

Erika Jensen, interim executive director for the Great Lakes Commission, said they were encouraged by the experimental project’s outcome and will look for “an opportunity to conduct related studies in other locations around the Great Lakes.”

The scientific goal was to find a way to better manage invasive zebra and quagga mussels that have infested Great Lakes waters, particularly in natural rocky reef habitats. The project involved divers who built underwater containment areas with poles and plastic tarps, so they could treat mussels collected on an offshore reef in Good Harbor Bay.

The collaborative will monitor the studied spot offshore from the national park to see whether the invasive mussels will recolonize, officials said.

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