CU study: Reservoirs partly responsible for invasive lake species

Boulder Daily Camera By Brittany Anas

A growing number of dams and man-made reservoirs is leading to a surge in unwelcome lake-water lurkers, such as zebra mussels and spiny water fleas, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado.

Impoundments create “stepping-stone habitats” for invasive species to sneak into natural lakes, ponds and waterways, where they disrupt the natural habitat.

The research team combined data on water chemistry, the distribution of five “nuisance invaders” and boating activity from the Great Lakes region for the study, according to Pieter Johnson, an assistant professor at CU and one of the lead authors.

Zebra mussels recently jumped to reservoirs in the West, including Colorado, Johnson said, leading to mandatory boat inspections at some landings. Other invaders are either already in Colorado — the rainbow smelt and water milfoil — or have a high probability of being introduced, such as the spiny water flea and rusty crayfish, Johnson said.

In Boulder, officials are looking to hire two inspectors this month to make sure zebra mussels don’t hitchhike on visitors’ boats and make their way into the Boulder Reservoir, disrupting the biodiversity, said reservoir manager Stacy Cole.