Guest Post: Tiny invader a cause for big concern
Today’s guest post from the Zetetic deals with one of the most pressing ecological issues facing the Pacific Northwest today: The introduction of invasive species. For more information about invasive species globally visit the USDA National Invasive Species Information Center. Here’s Z.
I’m listening to the radio as I load up my kayak for the first float of the summer. The reporter describes the first zebra mussels found in Oregon, stuck to a boat that is latched to a trailer being hauled behind a truck heading west from Michigan. This little clutch of shellfish is a very long way from home.
Yes, it’s a Trojan horse.
Sam Chan’s shoes explain why. Chan, a watershed health specialist with Oregon Sea Grant Extension, displays his sneakers whenever he needs to make a point about aquatic invasive species.
He had anchored the shoes (unattached to his feet) for a couple of months in California’s Lake Mead. When he retrieved them from the lake, the sneakers were completely encrusted with several generations of tiny, bead-like zebra mussels, one of the most invasive of freshwater alien species in the United States.
Zebra mussels form dense colonies that can encrust surfaces, clog pipes, and really mess with irrigation, hydropower, municipal drinking water, and the life in and around fresh water. Except for these very dead ones decorating Chan’s sneakers, zebra mussels had not yet sneaked into Oregon. Until now.
Native to the Caspian Sea in Eurasia, zebra mussels immigrated Michigan in ship ballast water in the late 1980s. Within less than 3 years, they had colonized all the Great Lakes. They moved steadily east and west, and now are busy clogging the California-Arizona aqueduct system. Oregon’s sharp-eyed invasive species inspection team caught these zebra mussels at the Ashland Port of Entry on I-5 during a voluntary inspection.
People are often inadvertently to blame for introducing these invaders, Chan told me. Zebra mussels can survive up to week out of water. Attached to boats, they can be easily towed a long way and launched into unifested waters. “That boater who volunteered for inspection deserves a medal,” Chan said.
So, now I’ve got my Oregon Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention permit attached to the bow of my kayak. The program is helping to fund aquatic invasive species prevention, including the sharp-eyed inspectors in Ashland. We all need to keep an eye out for this Trojan horse.