- Paperback: 264 pages
- Publisher: Wayne State University Press (April 4 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0814341241
- ISBN-13: 978-0814341247
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #708,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Lake Invaders:Invasive Species and the Battle for the Future of the Great Lakes Paperback – Apr 4 2016
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About the Author
William Rapai is an amateur naturalist and former newspaper journalist. He is the author of the 2013 Michigan Notable Book <i>The Kirtland’s Warbler: The Story of a Bird’s Fight Against Extinction and the People Who Saved It</i>.
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The ugly creature on the cover is a sea lamprey, getting to the Lakes via probably the St. Lawrence Seaway (opened 1959). The much earlier Welland Canal (Canada) and a number of American canal systems have allowed invasive species to get into the Lakes--Niagara Falls between Erie and Ontario was once an effective barrier. No longer; and there are a number of sources. For one, ocean-going ships discharging water ballast let a lot of species loose, including the zebra mussel, the quagga mussel and the spiny water flea. The Lakes vary in size, depth and temperature, so different areas may experience differing circumstances. Invaders are nothing new: the alewives arrives in the later 1800s, outcompeting native species, and by the middle 1900s becoming the basis of a salmon fishery (coho mostly). Salmon have reduced the alewives so much the salmon population is down (they were intentionally introduced, but can't reproduce in the Lakes, so they are the creation of fish hatcheries--start to see a pattern? Reminder: the Great Lakes contain something like 40% of the world's freshwater, and are about 100,000 square miles in total area, this is a very big and very important system.
Much of the Lakes' ecosystem was altered by overfishing and pollution. Split between two nations, a number of states and provinces, regulation has and remains difficult (the Coast Guard seems to do a good job). The cycle of a fishery has typically been boom and bust, even before the lamprey and other species that outcompete native species. Some have gone extinct and some, like the lake sturgeon, have become fairly rare.
Chapter 2 could stand on its own, detailing the arrival, discovery, explosive population growth an consequent problems. The round goby sounds harmless but the consequences are not amusing. Rapai suggests the species arrived in ballast on Russian ships come to carry grain back to the USSR, grain subsidized by the US in a large and special program in the Reagan years. Chapter 4 could also be a stand-alone case study, on the zebra mussel (and the related and slightly later quagga mussel). These have had some peculiar results: they filter water and the populations are so huge as to create a water clarity the best since the tribal peoples dominated the region. Good result--but they can quickly and massively clog pipes in power plants and other vital facilities. The invading mussels are eaten by many native fishes, by cormorants and other water birds, and may have saved the rare Lake Erie water snake (no, that is not a joke). The mussels outcompete the once-rich native mussel species and appear to be altering the very base of the food chain by their preferences. This some good/ some bad complicates the issues--but the mussels are here to stay.
There's plenty of discussion of other threats, including several species of carp (grass carp, black carp, silver and bighead), rusty crayfish, hydrilla and others. The carp would outcompete many of the remaining native species and disrupt the ecosystems in other ways. That crayfish is an internal migrant, from the Ohio valley. Other dangers are from live animals used in school classes--they order from national bio supply houses, and may get potentially dangerous species that they then let loose at the end of a school year (dangerous here does not mean to people but a potential disruption of the Lakes ecosystems). The carp have acclimated to much of the US and the problem of preventing them from getting into the Lakes is central to the book; invasive species can travel not just in ballast of ocean-going ships, but in bait buckets or in fishing boats transported from lake to lake. Rapai describes working with several different groups and organizations, nicely illustrating potential problems and how they are being dealt with. The book describes some of this, and the reader is likely to better appreciate the work of fish and game outfits (but the EPA doesn't come across so well).
One problem may be the names of potential invaders. Three are the monkey goby, killer shrimp and water lettuce. These do not carry much weight of worry. But! The goby carries dangerous parasites, the shrimp are not killers but are voracious and the water lettuce can clog waterways.