The arrival of the Quagga mussel

News of the discovery of the Quagga mussel (Dreissena bugensis) in UK waters has been abundant this month and with good reason. Due to its filtering capacity and ability to produce dense populations (a mature female can produce a million eggs annually), this species has the potential to make significant changes to our freshwater ecosystems and native biodiversity. In addition, its economic impacts are potentially vast with its habit for blocking pipes in water treatment plants and electric power stations, and its ability to smother the hulls of commercial ships.

The Quagga mussel was discovered in Wraysbury Reservoir and the Wraysbury River, near Egham in Surrey and was positively identified on 1st October 2014 by Dr David Aldridge of Cambridge University. At one time this species was restricted to a small area of the Ukraine but has spread widely since 1980 and is now found in the Netherlands, Germany, and North America. Its spread may be aided by the ability of adult mussels to survive out of water for up to 5 days under temperate summer conditions, meaning it is possible for them to be spread by overland on small trailer-boats. The Quagga mussel is a voracious filter feeder with a single adult capable of filtering one or more litres of water a day which has an impact on the abundance, biomass and species composition of zooplankton. The native species that will be most affected by the Quagga are filter-feeders and those that live in deep waters and are reliant on detrital rain for their survival.

Mark Owen, head of freshwater at the Angling Trust has said, “It is vitally important that all water users, including anglers, take every possible precaution to stop this species spreading throughout the UK. Quagga mussels could do untold damage to freshwater and estuarine environments if they are allowed to spread which could have a significant impact on marine and freshwater fish stocks”.

It is important that anyone finding a Quagga mussel reports the sighting by sending details of the location it was found, along with a photograph to alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk.

The Quagga mussel (and many more non-native species) can be identified using information on the GB non-native secretariat (NNSS) website www.nonnativespecies.org//downloadDocument.cfm?id=802.

Anyone using the waterways for boating or angling should apply the Check, Clean, Dry principal. While adult mussels can be seen with the naked eye, larval stages cannot which makes washing equipment in hot water and drying thoroughly, a good biosecurity measure. See www.nonnativespecies.org/checkcleandry for more details.

Photo credit Dr David Aldridge

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