Arecent University of Wisconsin research paper sheds new light on an invasive species that’s infesting the Upper Midwest’s waterways.
According to researchers, spiny water fleas have reduced Lake Mendota’s water clarity by three feet in just five years. By feeding on algae-eating plankton, the fleas enable massive algal blooms that obscure the water and harm aquatic life.
The flea, which hails from Russia, first reached the Great Lakes in the 1980s. According to the Department of Natural Resources, it now resides in 65 Minnesota bodies of water, including Mille Lacs.
The fleas are partially to blame for the decline in Mille Lacs’ walleye population, which has grown so serious that the DNR announced last month that 2016 will be a catch-and-release-only season for walleye fishers on the lake.
Unfortunately, scientists say it could prove difficult to eradicate water fleas without poisoning other aquatic life in the process. Still, invasive species have cost the Great Lakes region hundreds of billions of dollars in damages, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Jake Walsh.
Invasive species have long plagued Minnesota. As the weather warms up and people begin spending their weekends at the lake, we urge our readers to abide by the state’s requirements to clean and drain any boats or trailers that come into contact with the water. Prevention is often the most effective way to stop invasive species from spreading.
Minnesota is famous for its lakes, and as state residents, it’s our responsibility to keep our water systems healthy.