August 2015 Letter from the Director
Dear Friends –
As summer is heating up, so is the number of lakes infested with aquatic invasive species in Minnesota – especially, this year, with zebra mussels.
In July alone, zebra mussels were confirmed in six lakes – Clearwater, Ruth, Big Cormorant, Forest, Fish Trap, and Eunice – along with the Red River. Just last week, they were also confirmed in Lake Stella.
This development is distressing and top-of-mind for many MAISRC researchers, myself included. As more lakes become infested, the opportunity for infestations of additional lakes grows exponentially – sort of like blowing the seeds off a dandelion flower.
Many of these new infestations are undoubtedly human-caused and should serve as a reminder that it’s as important as ever to be extremely diligent when recreating on our Minnesota waters. One aquatic invasive species violation is still too many – and is still enough to infest a new body of water.
Researchers at MAISRC are working across several fronts to address aquatic invasive species prevention and control, but research is just one piece of the puzzle. The human element will always be a crucial factor.
And just as these newly infested water bodies highlight what we are up against, what’s happening in Lake Mille Lacs underscores why it matters. There are many factors at play in the case of Mille Lacs, including aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels, spiny waterflea, and Eurasian watermilfoil. Lake Mille Lacs is one of the only lakes in the state where all three of these destructive species are present.
Although there is much yet to learn about the specific effects of these AIS, it’s likely they have dramatically altered the base of the lake’s food web – the foundation upon which walleye and other top predators depend. We know that the amount of “energy” now stored in zebra mussels and spiny waterfleas can’t be ignored when trying to understand the ecology of Mille Lacs. Ultimately, one has to wonder about the cumulative effect of these invasions – especially when coupled with warming waters.
It’s important now that we view the Mille Lacs experience as a reality check: an example of what is at stake for our natural resources and for our economy. Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams must be protected, and it’s up to all of us to do our part.
Dr. Susan Galatowitsch
Director, Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center