As if we don’t have enough things to worry about it would appear that the quagga mussel has arrived and is about to make its presence felt. I know what you’re all thinking; ….quagga mussel wtf is a quagga mussel???
The quagga – which is a native of eastern Europe – has been found in the Wraysbury river near Heathrow airport. Over the last few decades it has invaded rivers and lakes across Europe and has now got a foothold in the US. Whilst it is not known exactly how it got into our native river system it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to suspect that it arrived on or in some air freight delivery at Heathrow?
Some of you may have heard of the zebra mussel which has clogged up the Great Lakes in the US – however the less well known quagga mussel is actually even more invasive and aggressive – so much so that it has been found to displace the zebra mussel from their Great Lakes stronghold.
The quagga literally suffocate other mussel species by sitting on their shells and pushing them into underlying silt. Whilst only being relatively small at 5cm long or less, they breed incredibly fast and can rapidly block pipes and water inlets, potentially costing the water industry huge amounts of money in management strategies involving having to physically dislodge them.
The quagga mussels waste provides nutrients for its associated other invasive organisms from its native lakes and rivers of Eastern Europe. The infamous killer shrimp co-evolved with the quagga and frequently invade with them. Killer shrimp kill and eat most native shrimp wherever they invade and the native UK mussel species Pseudanodanta complinata could also be at risk from the quagga’s aggressive behaviour.
In what may seem like a benefit – the quagga filters and cleans water allowing light to penetrate the riverbed – unfortunately this allows problem weeds to flourish in areas where previously they could not establish …thus upsetting established ecosystems.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge led by David Aldridge say there is no way to completely eradicate the quagga mussel once they have established themselves in a river or reservoir – but there is a method of keeping them in check.
A poison has been developed which is applied via a capsule made from the same material that the mussel eats. Once the mussel has digested the capsule the outer layers dissolve releasing a salt that kills the creature. The ‘bio-bullet’ is harmless to other aquatic life and is rejected by the more discerning native mussel species.
Google it, get to know what it looks like…and add it to your list of problem species. Perhaps add it to your list of invasive non-native food stuffs? Maybe if we all ate Killer shrimp, American signal crayfish and quagga mussels there would be fewer of these invasive species around?
Maybe if we get Jamie Oliver to do a one off ‘special’ on TV ….?