Courtesy M. McCormickFor more than 20 years, zebra mussels have gone unchecked in midwest waters. Introduced to North America as stow-away passengers on the bottoms of Great Lakes shipping vessels that came from Europe, the invasive species have exploded to fresh waters in 34 states at an alarming rate.
But their days may be numbered. A New York-based researcher has discovered a bacterium that can kill zebra mussels (and also the related invasive species quagga mussels) without disrupting the rest of the food web.
After rounds of lab testing, the Environmental Protection Agency has okayed the commercial production of Pseudomonas fluorescens strain CL145A, which can then be applied to waters and kill the menacing mussels. In lab tests, the bacterium killed over 90 percent of the the invasive mussels in came in contact with.
Along with pushing out other species in the waters, the invasive mussels have also become a nuisance by clogging up intake pipes at water plants and attaching themselves to docks, piers and other submerged water equipment. Plans are still being developed on how to apply this new bacterium to the waters. All wise zebra mussels might want to start packing their bages and heading back to Europe before they find out what this new bacterium has in store for them!
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending Environmental Initiative's 2012 Legislative Preview, part of their Policy Forum series.
Basically, a bipartisan group of legislators discussed their environmental priorities with a diverse audience of public, private and nonprofit representatives for the purpose of providing
"a valuable first look at the most pressing environmental issues facing the state in anticipation of the upcoming legislative session."
Courtesy State of Michigan
The biggest surprise to yours truly was the prevalence of carp among the discussion. Asian carp, AIS (aquatic invasive species), etc., etc.. Everyone appeared in agreement regarding the threat posed by carp, so the real question is what do we do about their impending invasion?
One repeated suggestion was to fund more research, specifically at the University of Minnesota. This is probably an important step towards defending our state waterways, and I think this story helps illustrate why:
"As yet, no technology can stop these downstream migrations; neither grates nor dangerous, expensive electrical barriers do the job.
But a wall of cheap, harmless bubbles just might—at least well enough to have a significant benefit."
Researchers at the U of MN have discovered that bubble barriers may deter 70-80% of carp migration. It's not the visual affect of the bubbles that prevents all but the most daring carp from penetrating the barrier, rather the noise -- equivalent to what you or I would experience standing about three feet from a jackhammer.
The bubble barrier has currently only been tested on common carp, but researchers involved in the experiment want to test the technology on Asian carp next.
In addition to the bubble barrier, U of M researchers are investigating whether Asian carp pheromones can be used to lure them into traps.