Why Worry About Zebra Mussels?

If the zebra mussel's westward invasion follows the pattern observed elsewhere, the creature’s population in the Mississippi River will peak in a few years. For the zebra mussel, “peak” population is thousands per square foot, covering every inch of solid surface down to 45 feet.

Zebra mussels can attach to anything firm, including water intakes of power generating plants and municipal water systems. They can accumulate 6 inches deep, severely reducing the flow of water and posing a multibillion-dollar threat to industry, agriculture, and municipal water supplies.

 

Because of their sheer numbers (females can produce 100,000 eggs per season), zebra mussels can smother native freshwater mussel beds. Other wildlife are vulnerable, too. Zebra mussels are filter feeders, gleaning tiny particles of organic food from the surrounding water. Some observers fear they will deplete the supply of food available to shad, paddlefish and other native species. Add the cost of damage to boats, motors, docks, and other marine equipment, and you have a very expensive scenario.