New tool improves AIS prevention efforts for lakes across Minnesota
Researchers from the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center will soon be releasing a new, first-of-its-kind tool that will improve the prevention and management of zebra mussels and starry stonewort across the state. The model has been created based on three main questions:
How likely is it that the AIS will be introduced?
To answer this, researchers analyzed four years’ worth of the Minnesota DNR’s Watercraft Inspection Program data. This includes what lake the boater is currently on, the last lake they went to, and the next lake they plan to go to. This resulted in an incredibly detailed picture of boater movement around the state (pictured). Researchers also included whether the lake is connected via river/ streams to other infested or uninfested lakes.
Will the AIS survive here if introduced?
Even if a species can get to a new lake, it still needs to be able to survive. To analyze this, researchers used ecological niche modeling, which predicts habitat suitability for specific species based on environmental and climatic conditions like water clarity, pH, nutrient concentration and temperature.
How can management efforts change the outcome?
The data above will be combined to assess risk for every lake in Minnesota for these two important AIS. From there, managers can test specific intervention scenarios – such as new decontamination units or increased education – and see how the risk changes for lakes across the state.
“This tool will help counties and AIS managers prioritize their limited budgets and staff in order to have the highest impact possible in reducing new infestations of AIS,” said Zoe Kao, a graduate student working on the project.
Researchers are currently in the final stages of validating and refining the model. It will be shared and discussed with a small group of DNR, county and other AIS managers in late June, and finalized shortly thereafter.
“In addition to generating the most cost-effective intervention strategies, we think that this tool will help increase stakeholder buy-in by putting the most up-to-date information possible in the hands of people who need it, allowing them to make the most informed decision,” added Dr. Nick Phelps, project leader.