Knoll, L. B., O. Sarnelle, S. K. Hamilton, C. E. H. Kissman, A. E. Wilson, J. B. Rose, and M. R. Morgan. 2008. Invasive zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) increase cyanobacterial toxin concentrations in low-nutrient lakes. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 65(3):448-455.


We investigated whether concentrations of the cyanobacterial toxin microcystin were positively associated with Dreissena polymorpha invasion by conducting surveys of 39 inland lakes in southern Michigan with low to moderate total phosphorus concentrations (≤20 μg·L-1). Lakes with D. polymorpha had 3.3 times higher microcystin concentrations and 3.6 times higher biomass of Microcystis aeruginosa (a major producer of microcystin) than comparable lakes without D. polymorpha. In contrast, the biomass of Anabaena spp. (another potential producer of microcystin) was 4.6 times higher in lakes without D. polymorpha. We also conducted a large-scale enclosure manipulation of D. polymorpha density in Gull Lake, a low-nutrient lake containing D. polymorpha. The experiment revealed a positive effect of D. polymorpha on microcystin concentrations and M. aeruginosa biomass. The congruence between survey and experimental results provides strong evidence that D. polymorpha invasion causes an increase in toxin concentrations in lakes with low to moderate nutrients. An increase in M. aeruginosa biomass may negatively impact food webs and public health because microcystins are known to be toxic to aquatic and terrestrial organisms.

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