A transportation model assessment of the risk to native mussel communities from zebra mussel spread

Daniel W. Schneider, Christopher D. Ellis, Kevin S. Cummings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When introduced species threaten native flora and fauna, protection requires an analysis of the risk that native species face from the spread of the introduced species. Models of invading species, however, of ten do not include a dynamic component of risk. North American freshwater mussels are at risk of fouling by the introduced zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha). Predictions of the risk to native mussel communities of invasion by the zebra mussel can help prioritize conservation efforts. We present a model for the spatial analysis of zebra mussel spread that allows the characterization of relative risk of infestation to the high-quality mussel communities of Illinois streams. A gravity model, constrained at origin and destination, was parameterized with data on boat use at 120 boat landings in Illinois. The risk of spread of zebra mussels depends on the number of boat trips from infested waters, which in turn depends on distance from an infested water, boat use at a site, and the position of a lake within a river system. Habitats supporting a high diversity of native mussels and threatened and endangered species are at risk of infestation from reservoirs upstream. Invasion of inland lakes and reservoirs in Illinois is predicted to occur first at areas of high boat use close to currently infested waters, including the Fox Chain of Lakes, followed by central Illinois reservoirs. These reservoirs will act as stepping stones, facilitating the invasion of lakes upstream of critical native mussel habitats. Efforts to protect waters that center on prevention of the initial invasion of stepping-stone lakes could significantly reduce the risk of infestation. Education and inspection efforts are predicted to be more effective than quarantine because quarantines would displace boat traffic to critical habitats. The class of models presented here is useful for predicting risk of invasion when complete data on vector movement are not available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)788-800
Number of pages13
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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