Nutrient levels and the zebra mussel population in Lough Key

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Resource or Project Abstract

The Zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) is an aquatic invasive species, which spread to Lough Key, Co. Roscommon, from the lower Shannon in the late 1990s. The mussels have been monitored in this 9km2 lake each year since 1998. By 1999 the population estimate was 6 billion (6x109) with high cover of zebra mussels on stones in near-shore areas of the lake. This project was a three-year study (2001-2003) on the impact of nutrients on the zebra mussel population in Lough Key (2000-MS-5-M1: ERTDI programme), which included some previous data from 2000.
Zebra mussels are effective filter feeders, with high individual clearance rates of phytoplankton, Cyanobacteria and other particles. Successful colonisation of a lake results in increased transparency and decreased chlorophyll levels and often a consequent decrease in total phosphorus. Since 1999 these changes have been noted in Lough Key. Transparency and chlorophyll levels indicate an improvement in trophic status (to oligotrophic) but total phosphorus levels are still within the mesotrophic range and have not reached limiting levels. These direct impacts create problems in classifying lakes according to existing (OECD) and developing (water framework directive 2000/60/EC) classification schemes.The construction of the new Boyle sewage treatment plant with a phosphorus removal system has reduced the loading of total Phosphorus to Lough Key. It was believed that the reduction in Phosphorus loadings could have a limiting effect on zebra mussels in Lough Key, due to a consequent reduced production of phytoplankton. It is not possible to separate the nutrient impacts this species has had on lake water quality from that due to the new sewage treatment plant. The project aimed to quantify the total number and biomass of zebra mussels and also to assess any changes to the population during the course of the study. Relevant water parameters and phytoplankton samples were analysed; direct ecological changes were also noted during the project.Zebra mussels were studied at all stages of growth from larva/veliger stage, through juvenile settlement and most intensively in the juvenile and adult stage (0-3 years). The total number of adult zebra mussels in the lake was estimated at 34 billion (34x109) with a total biomass of 4.4 x 106kg. This number is believed to relate to a more effective method of population estimate, rather than any real increase since 1999. This population is capable of filtering the entire volume of Lough Key in a 10 - day period. Biomass estimates taken in 2001 and 2003 were not significantly different ? this indicates that changes in total phosphorus did not limit the zebra mussel population during the course of the study. Food availability appears to be the main density-dependant limiting factor in the lake, as many stoney areas are not fully colonised. Ecological changes noted during the study included the extirpation of the native duck mussel, Anodonta anatina; reduced usage of the common reed (Phragmites australis) as a substrate and increased growth of aquatic plants and benthic algae.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Frances Lucy
Water Science Group

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Author(s)Lucy, F.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationNutrient levels and the zebra mussel population in Lough Key
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifiera5acfb17-282f-102a-a46d-815c4b6107fc
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-07-14

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Lucy, F.   "Nutrient levels and the zebra mussel population in Lough Key". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2024-07-14)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsZebra mussel, Lough Key, substrate, phosphorus
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2000-MS-5-M1
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeWater Quality
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceFurther publications based on the project will be submitted by research partners in 2006/2007. Any usage of data by other parties must be attributed to the project authors and referenced to this project or to the relevant publications.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 1
Project Start Date Sunday 1st October 2000 (01-10-2000)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Friday 3rd November 2000 (03-11-2000)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Monday 1st December 2003 (01-12-2003)
Published on SAFERTuesday 20th March 2007 (20-03-2007)
Date of Last EditThursday 3rd March 2011 at 14:10:05 (03-03-2011)
Datasets or Files Updated On Tuesday 20th March 2007 at 12:19:42 (20-03-2007)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
Lough Key is a lake in the Republic of Ireland. It is located in the north of County Roscommon, to the northeast of the town of Boyle. The lake is several kilometres across,almost circular, and contains over thirty wooded islands including Castle Island, Stag Island, Bullock Island, and Drummand Island. Castle Island contains Cloontykilla Castle, also occasionally known as Macdermott's Castle for one of the most important traditional families in the district. It is a trout and coarse fish lake. The lake is northern part of the River Shannon's catchment, and feeds a short tributary of that river which joins the main river at Lough Drumharlow, some eight miles (13 km) to the east.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
Independent datasets created by Lucy, Sullivan and Minchin in 2000
Supplementary Information
Description of Dataset:
1. Water quality data for Lough Key: temperature (0C); chlorophyll a (g/l); transparency (m); total phosphorus (g/l P); orthophosphate(g/l P); total phosphorus load (kg/day)

2. Hydromorphological data for Lough Key: bathymetric map (pdf) and substrate map (pdf)

3. Zebra mussel data for Lough Key:

habitat map (pdf); larval density (larvae/l); larval size distributions (┬Ám); settlement estimates (zebra mussels/m2); adult size distributions on different substrates(mm); adult number on individual aquatic plants; adult biomass on individual aquatic plants(g/plant); adult biomass on individual Anodonta(g); adult densities on stone(m2); adult biomass on stone(kg/m2); estimate of total number in lake( number x 10x); estimate of total biomass (kg x 10x); estimate of total filtration rate (m3)

Dataset is including with full report on (see link provided), therefore viewing is not constrained. Further publications based on the project will be submitted by research partners in 2006. Any usage of data by other parties must be attributed to the project authors and referenced to this project or to the relevant publications.

Other Parties: Monica Sullivan, Dan Minchin, Ivor Marsh, John Breslin, Martin Manning, Pat Timpson, EPA, Roscommon County Council
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