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Forecasting the Expansion of Zebra Mussels in the United States

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Because zebra mussels spread rapidly throughout the eastern United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s, their spread to the western United States has been expected. Overland dispersal into inland lakes and reservoirs, however, has occurred at a much slower rate than earlier spread via connected, navigable waterways. We forecasted the potential western spread of zebra mussels by predicting the overland movement of recreational boaters with a production-constrained gravity model. We also predicted the potential abundance of zebra mussels in two western reservoirs by comparing their water chemistry characteristics with those of water bodies with known abundances of zebra mussels. Most boats coming from waters infested with zebra mussels were taken to areas that already had zebra mussels, but a small proportion of such boats did travel west of the 100th meridian. If zebra mussels do establish in western U.S. water bodies, we predict that population densities could achieve similar levels to those in the Midwestern United States, where zebra mussels have caused considerable economic and ecological impacts. Our analyses suggest that the dispersal of zebra mussels to the western United States is an event of low probability but potentially high impact on native biodiversity and human infrastructure. Combining these results with economic analyses could help determine appropriate investment levels in prevention and control strategies.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Département de biologie and Québec-Océan, Université Laval, Québec, QC G1K 7P4, Canada 2: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, U.S.A.

Publication date: 01 June 2007

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