Impacts of invasive mussels on a large lake: Direct evidence from in situ control-volume experiments

Author: Xia Z., Depew D. C., Valipour R., Maclsaac H. J., Weidman R. P.
Year: 2022
Digital Object Identifier:

Type: Journal Article
Topic: Biology, Ecosystem Impacts




Invasive dreissenid mussels have reengineered many freshwater ecosystems in North America and Europe. However, few studies have directly linked their filter feeding activity with ecological effects except in laboratory tests or small-scale field enclosures. We investigated in situ grazing on lake seston by dreissenid mussels (mainly quagga mussel Dreissena rostriformis bugensis) using a ‘control volume’ approach in the nearshore of eastern Lake Erie in 2016. Flow conditions were measured using an acoustic Doppler current profiler, surrounded by three vertical sampling stations that were arranged in a triangular configuration to collect time-integrated water samples from five different depths. Seston variables, including chlorophyll a, phaeopigment, particulate organic carbon and nitrogen, and particulate phosphorus, along with stoichiometric ratios and water flow over mussel colonies, were considered when estimating grazing rates. We observed suboptimal flow velocity for mussel grazing, i.e., 0.028 m s−1 at 0.1 m above bottom (mab), and resuspension was deemed minimal. Water temperature (mean: 25.1 °C) and an unstratified water column were optimal for grazing. Concentration of seston was low (mean: 0.2 mg L−1 particulate organic carbon) and decreased from surface to lakebed where noticeable depletion was observed. Grazing rates calculated at discrete depths varied substantially among trials, with maximum rates occurring at 0.25 or 0.5 mab. Positive grazing rates were restricted to 0.5 mab and below, defining an effective grazing zone (0.1–0.5 mab) in which the flow velocity, seston concentration, and water depth were consistently and positively correlated with grazing rates of different lake seston variables. Horizontal changes in stoichiometric ratios of seston were strongly associated with grazing rates, revealing higher uptake of particulate phosphorus than nitrogen and carbon. Our study supports the nearshore phosphorus shunt hypothesis, which posits that dreissenid mussels retain phosphorus on the lake bottom and contribute to a wide range of ecological effects on freshwater ecosystems.