Non Native Invasive Species

Lake Erie is one of the five Great Lakes located in North America, with a surface area of approximately 25,700 square kilometers. The lake provides a habitat for a diverse range of fish and other aquatic organisms, as well as being a significant source of drinking water for millions of people in the surrounding region.

Unfortunately, Lake Erie has been impacted by several non-native invasive species that have been introduced into the ecosystem. These species have had significant negative impacts on the lake’s ecology, including the displacement of native species, alteration of food webs, and changes to water quality and clarity.

There are several non-native invasive species that are negatively affecting Lake Erie, including:

  1. Zebra Mussels: One of the most significant invasive species affecting Lake Erie is the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha). Zebra mussels are small, fingernail-sized freshwater mussels that are native to the Caspian and Black Sea regions of Eurasia. They were first discovered in Lake Erie in the late 1980s, likely having been transported in the ballast water of ships. Since then, they have spread rapidly and now cover the lake’s rocky bottom and other hard surfaces. Zebra mussels are filter feeders, meaning they remove plankton from the water column, leading to reduced food availability for other aquatic organisms. They also compete with native mussels for food and space and can cause ecological imbalances. Zebra mussels can also accumulate contaminants, such as PCBs and heavy metals, which can pose a risk to human health.
  2. Quagga Mussels: Another invasive species that is affecting Lake Erie is the quagga mussel (Dreissena bugensis). Quagga mussels are similar to zebra mussels, but they are able to live in deeper water and tolerate lower temperatures. They were first discovered in Lake Erie in the early 2000s and have since spread throughout the lake. Quagga mussels have a similar negative impact on native species and ecosystems as zebra mussels, and their combined impact is even greater.
  3. Eurasian Watermilfoil: Eurasian watermilfoil is an invasive aquatic plant that was first found in Lake Erie in the 1960s. This aquatic plant is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa and was introduced to North America as an ornamental plant in the mid-1800s. Eurasian watermilfoil grows quickly and can form dense mats that shade out native aquatic plants, reducing the amount of oxygen in the water and making it difficult for fish and other aquatic animals to survive. It can also alter the lake’s nutrient cycling and alter the food web, leading to further ecological imbalances.
  4. Round Goby: The round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) is a small, bottom-dwelling fish that is native to the Black and Caspian Sea regions of Eurasia. It was accidentally introduced to Lake Erie in the 1990s, likely through the discharge of ballast water from ships. Round gobies have rapidly established themselves in the lake and have a negative impact on native fish species. They feed on native fish eggs and compete with native fish for food and habitat. This can lead to reduced populations of native fish species, further affecting the lake’s ecology.

Overall, the non-native invasive species that are negatively affecting Lake Erie have had a significant impact on the lake’s ecology and pose a threat to its long-term health. Efforts are underway to control and manage their populations, including the use of chemical treatments and physical removal methods. Additionally, efforts are underway to prevent the introduction of additional invasive species into the lake, such as through the development of regulations on ballast water discharge from ships.