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The Starry Stonewort Invasion: An Unprecedented Threat to Michigan’s Inland Lakes

posted Aug 27, 2014, 4:42 AM by Rlc SiteMgr   [ updated Aug 27, 2014, 4:45 AM ]

The Starry Stonewort Invasion: An Unprecedented Threat to Michigan’s Inland Lakes

Article by Scott Brown, ML&SA Executive Director

(Editors Note: This article originally appeared in the Winter 2014 edition of The Michigan Riparian magazine.  The spread of Starry Stonewort within Michigan inland lakes has continued unabated during the summer of 2014 - a relatively cool Michigan summer has provided near ideal water temperatures for the growth and spread of Starry Stonewort.  Many of Michigan's inland lakes are susceptible to Starry Stonewort invasion due to relatively good water transparency, water temperature profiles that are conducive to the growth of the species, high calcium carbonate levels associated with presence of marl, relatively shallow basins and the presence of public access boat launch facilities.) 

Starry stonewort (Scientific Name: Nitellopsis obtusa), a member of the Characeae family, and considered a beneficial, though increasingly rare species within its native range of northern Europe and Asia, was first observed as an invasive species within the North American waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1978, and was later detected in the St. Clair-Detroit River system by the summer of 1983. Discovered in Michigan inland lakes in February of 2006, successful colonization of over one hundred twenty five of the state’s inland lakes had been confirmed by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality by the spring of 2012. Due to the repeatedly observed ability of invasive starry stonewort to degrade ecologically sensitive areas of shallow water habitat within colonized inland lakes, federal and state government agencies, including the United States Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, have classified starry stonewort as a highly invasive aquatic species. Michigan limnologists Pullman and Crawford (2010) have suggested that rapidly proliferating starry stonewort “may be one of greatest challenges ever faced by management professionals and lake user groups in Michigan.” Read more