Inside Rensselaer
* Darrin Fresh Water Institute
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Darrin Fresh Water Institute Discovers New Invasive Clam Species in Lake George
The Darrin Fresh Water Institute (DFWI) has discovered a new invasive fresh water clam species in Lake George. This species, found last week by DFWI student Jeremy Farrell, was located in the Village of Lake George and poses a serious threat to native mussels and the Lake George ecosystem, according to Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, director of the DFWI.

Nierzwicki-Bauer said the species — Corbicula fluminea — is an invasive clam from Asia, capable of self-fertilization, achieving densities of thousands per square meter, and crowding native species from their typical habitats. Commonly known as the Asian clam, it is a light brown triangular clam that can survive in fresh and brackish waters. If the invasion is a localized one, it may be possible to eradicate, she added. The dominant native mussel in Lake George is Elliptio complanata.

“It is imperative that we move quickly to determine the extent of this infestation to assess the best treatment options that can be undertaken immediately,” said Nierzwicki-Bauer, who is also a professor of biology. “We have reached out to the regulatory agencies to assess all our options.”

“While the discovery of an established Asian clam population in the lake was not good news to hear, the good news is that all the groups involved are taking swift action and rallying the troops.” — Walt Lender

The Lake George environmental organizations have contracted to bring in an expert in invertebrate biology and scientific SCUBA: Dan Marelli, from Florida. He has worked with DFWI scientists for over 15 years to help coordinate SCUBA surveys, and he will direct new surveys that will be carried out by FUND for Lake George, DFWI, Bateaux Below Inc., and volunteer divers. Immediate plans include a survey of the shallow and embayment areas to establish the extent of infestation. Possible eradication or management strategies include use of a benthic barrier, essentially a plastic mat that could “smother” the clams, suction harvesting, or a combination of these methods. Currently, benthic mats are being used on a one-acre area in Lake Tahoe, Calif., to help manage the infestation there. Preliminary field work by DFWI staff indicates that a minimum of 2.5 acres in Lake George is infested.

The environmental groups will be coordinating with the Adirondack Park Agency and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

An initial plan of action has been organized to complete a SCUBA survey to determine the geographical range of the infestation. This will involve surveys by divers of the lake bottom sediment. Once the extent of the infestation has been quantified, either a management or eradication strategy will be determined.

Peter Bauer, executive director of the FUND for Lake George, said, “This is the newest invader to be found in Lake George. We’ve long had Eurasian watermilfoil and curlyleaf pondweed, as well as zebra mussels. We’ve seen a few plants of Brittle Naiad, too. We don’t know the current extent of the Asian clam infestation, but if we’re lucky maybe this is an isolated infestation in Lake George that we caught early.”

Once field investigations are completed, further information on the extent of the infestation will be provided.

“While the discovery of an established Asian clam population in the lake was not good news to hear, the good news is that all the groups involved are taking swift action and rallying the troops. We are all divvying up the tasks, and LGA is heading up public outreach. It is very important to spread the word to area boaters and business owners, as we do not want the clam to spread further within our own lake or to other nearby bodies of water as well,” said Walt Lender, executive director, Lake George Association.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 13, September 10, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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