Effects of the Zebra Mussel, Dreissena polymorpha, on Community Nitrogen Dynamics in Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron

Wayne S. Gardner, Joann F. Cavaletto, Thomas H. Johengen, Jeffrey R. Johnson, Robert T. Heath, James B. Cotner

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The effects of the zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha, on chlorophyll and nutrient concentration changes and community ammonium uptake and regeneration rates were determined in bottle experiments on waters collected from a eutrophic site and an oligotrophic site in Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron in 1992. Our objectives were to estimate nitrogen cycling rates and to determine the direct (excretion) and indirect (foodweb) effects of the zebra mussel on these rates. Isotope labeling experiments with added 15NH4+ were conducted on waters collected on five sampling dates between April and October. Direct effects of zebra mussels on ammonium regeneration and potential uptake were examined by comparing results from bottles incubated with (15 individuals in 4 L lake water) and without added zebra mussels. Indirect foodweb effects were examined by measuring regeneration and potential uptake rates in subsamples of water that had previously been incubated in the presence or absence of zebra mussels. Zebra mussels removed a large fraction of chlorophyll from the oligotrophic site on all sampling dates and from the eutrophic site in October, but had a negligible effect on chlorophyll levels in waters from the eutrophic site in June, July, August, and September when cyanophytes were abundant. Community ammonium regeneration rates and uptake rates both followed seasonal patterns resembling those for chlorophyll concentrations in control treatments at the eutrophic site. Rates for water from the oligotrophic site were low (usually not significantly different from zero) and are not reported here. Community ammonium regeneration rates were consistently enhanced in the presence of zebra mussels, indicating that zebra mussel excretion could have a dominant effect on nitrogen regeneration in regions where it is abundant. Zebra mussels appeared to decrease community uptake rates of ammonium in August and September but did not predictably affect nitrogen remineralization rates by other lower foodweb organisms (e.g. bacteria, protozoans, zooplankton).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-544
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1995


  • Lake Huron
  • Saginaw Bay
  • Zebra mussels
  • nitrogen cycling
  • nutrients


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