New MAISRC research to determine long-term impacts of spiny waterflea
This summer, MAISRC launched a new research project aimed at determining the threat that spiny waterflea pose to the structure and function of food webs in Minnesota lakes. Currently, little is known about how exactly the invasive invertebrate changes a lake’s ecology and how much, if any, time passes before changes appear in an invaded ecosystem.
“Using lake sediment data, we’ve learned that spiny waterflea arrived in the Duluth area about eight years before they were detected,” said lead researcher Donn Branstrator. “That means that there’s a lot we don’t know about how their establishment and proliferation translates into impacts on food webs and game fish.”
Researchers will use lake sediment data to reconstruct long-term environmental histories of four lakes – two that have been invaded by spiny waterflea, and two that have not – and compare the long-term historical trends in key components of the food webs.
“Determining the types, magnitude, and timing of changes that occur to lakes after spiny waterflea invade will help give managers a more clear idea about the sense of urgency, the magnitude of the problem, and the lag time associated with an invasion,” added Branstrator. “It will also help us understand and define the threats this organism poses to sport fishing and water quality.”
Spiny waterfleas (Bythotrephes longimanus) are a microscopic freshwater zooplankton. They disturb the food web by consuming native Daphnia and can clog the eyelets of fishing rods. They have fewer predators than native zooplankton because small fish can’t consume their sharp, barbed spine.
Learn more about spiny waterfleas on our website and hear from Donn Branstrator about this research at the 2016 Aquatic Invasive Species Research and Management Showcase on September 12 – registration now open!