Invasive Species: Zebra Mussels and the Great Lakes
Zebra Mussels and the Great Lakes Two Invasive Plant Species
by Sara Diaz, age 13
The zebra mussel is native to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. However during the past 20 years this species has found a way to the Great Lakes, Mississippi River, and California.
Zebra mussels moved to the United States by latching onto passing ships and boats. They were also transported to North America in the ballast water of ocean-going cargo ships.
This invasive species was first discovered in the Great lakes in 1988. It is dangerous because it clogs pipes at power and water plants. Zebra mussels also cover surfaces such as intake pipes, making them much harder to repair. These mussels filter water to take in food, and they multiply quickly. In the Great Lakes they have no natural predators. For these reasons, zebra mussels dramatically alter any new ecosystem once they invade and take hold.
Two Invasive Plant Species
Kudzu originated in Japan and is now found all over the southeastern United States. It was used as a decorative flower in the late 1800’s. Later, people used it to protect soil from washing away. Kudzu grows a foot a day, covering everything in its path.
Although garlic mustard comes from Europe and parts of Asia and Africa,it is now found around most of the United States. It arrived in the United States when European settlers brought garlic mustard in the 1800’s using it to add flavor to food. It quickly crowds out native plants and is considered an invasive pest because it grows many seeds and can very easily take over.
[Sources: Associated Press; Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; Ranger Rick]