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Impacts of dreissenid mussel invasions on chlorophyll and total phosphorus in 25 lakes in the USA


YoonKyung Cha, Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research, University of Michigan, 440 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA. E-mail:


1. Invasions of zebra and quagga mussels have had long-term, large-scale impacts on lake ecosystems in the USA as characterised by high abundance, broad-scale spread and effective adaption to new environmental conditions. Due to their high filtering capacity, decreases in chlorophyll a (Chl) and total phosphorus (TP) concentrations have been reported in many affected lakes.

2. In 25 US lakes, we analysed the effects of dreissenid invasions on changes in Chl and TP concentrations, measured as the probability of a concentration decrease in the post-invasion period and changes in Chl–TP relationships using Bayesian hierarchical regressions. We also examined whether changes in Chl and TP concentrations and in the Chl–TP relationship differed according to lake hydromorphology, such as mean depth or mixing status (mixed versus stratified lakes).

3. Our results showed that dreissenid invasions were often, but not always, associated with subsequent TP and Chl declines. Dreissenid effects on Chl and TP may be influenced by lake thermal structure. Decreases in Chl and TP were consistently found in mixed lakes where benthic–pelagic coupling is tight, while the effects were less predictable in stratified lakes. Within stratified lakes, Chl and TP reductions were more clearly discernible in deeper lakes with long water residence times.

4. Regression results demonstrated that a joint increase in slope and decrease in intercept and a tighter correlation of the Chl–TP relationship were likely to occur in dreissenid-invaded lakes; this does not support the idea of a shift from bottom-up to top-down control of primary production. These results have important implications for management, suggesting that a relaxation of TP standards would be unwarranted.

5. Across lakes, the slope of the Chl–TP relationship for mixed lakes was substantially higher than that for stratified lakes before mussel invasion, indicating an important role of light in limiting primary production. The slope differences between mixed and stratified lakes decreased in the post-invasion period, possibly because mussel filtration results in a relaxation of light limitation that is more pronounced in deeper, stratified lakes.