, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 475-489

Patterns and Pathways in the Post-Establishment Spread of Non-Indigenous Aquatic Species: The Slowing Invasion of North American Inland Lakes by the Zebra Mussel

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Abstract

The zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha, has spread through eastern North American aquatic ecosystems during the past 15 years. Whereas spread among navigable waterways was rapid, the invasion of isolated watersheds has progressed more slowly and less predictably. We examined the patterns of overland spread over multiple spatial and temporal extents including individual lake districts, states, and multi-state regions in the USA and found that only a small proportion (<8%) of suitable inland lakes have been invaded, with the rate of invasion appearing to be slowing. Of the 293 lakes known to be invaded, 97% are located in states adjacent to the Laurentian Great Lakes with over half located in Michigan. Only six states have more than 10 invaded lakes and only in Michigan and Indiana have more than 10% of suitable lakes become invaded. At smaller spatial extents, invaded lakes are often clustered within a lake-rich region across southern Michigan and northern Indiana. This clustering appears primarily due to multiple overland invasions originating from the Great Lakes followed to a lesser extent by subsequent secondary overland and downstream dispersal. Downstream spread appears responsible for only one third of the inland invasions. Temporally, invasions peaked in the late 1990s, with only 13 new invasions (0.4% of suitable lakes) reported in 2003 in the four-state region surrounding Lake Michigan. Peak rates of invasion occurred 4–6 years earlier in Michigan relative to Indiana and Wisconsin, but this time lag is likely due to differences in the establishment of Great Lake source populations rather than ‘stepping stone’ dispersal across the landscape.