Friday, July 29, 2011

40 High Level Invasive Threats to the Mississippi/Great Lakes Basins

As part of its agonizingly long 5 year Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study, the US Army Corps of Engineers identified 40 other problem invasive species that could cross between the Mississippi/Great Lakes watershed. Why agonizingly long? Because nobody is denying there's a threat to the two water basins, and it's closing it right now. DNA studies have found the highly damaging asian carp species to be close to the Great Lakes, some even claim they've gotten beyond the electric barriers.

It's like we're watching a disaster unfold while years of research goes on about how or if we can stop it. Personally I'd like to see more action. We know it's a problem and we know it goes well beyond Asian carp, and it impacts two vast water sheds.

Here's how the study group defines an "invasive" species:

"Invasive" – an alien or native species that can grow quickly, spread rapidly, and dominate an area to the point where native species are displaced, or have taken an area over because native species were eradicated by a previous event

The critters identified aren't what you might expect. Many of them are things like algae, bizarre fresh water invertibrates like Lophopodella carteri which is toxic, so there's nothing that can eat them:

There's the shrimp-like scud and the spiny water flea which are painful for fish to eat.

We're not looking at just one direction of infection...from the Mississippi to the Great Lakes. Heavens no. We're looking at bi-directional more cases we're actually looking at creatures crossing from the Great Lakes into the Mississippi basin. Many of these invasive species came into the Great Lakes from distant lands, carried in freighters and deposited from ballast water. And from there, they now are able to move into the Mississippi water basin and the massive network of tributaries beyond....and why?

Because there is no longer the natural separation between the watersheds of the two water bodies. The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal joins the two water basins and accelerates the rates of invasive species infestation...much faster than native species can adapt to. Much faster than local natural resources management teams can respond to.

These two water sheds need to be separated. I'd like to see action now.

1 comment:

Eclectablog said...

Honestly, what's surprising to me is that there isn't the political will to do this already. It just goes to show you how much power the shipping companies have.