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Successful survival, growth, and reproductive potential of quagga mussels in low calcium lake water: is there uncertainty of establishment risk?
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The risk of quagga mussel (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis Andrusov 1897) establishment into water-bodies of the western US has expanded the geographic concern regarding the ecological and economic impacts this species will have in aquatic ecosystems. Thresholds based on calcium concentrations, an element critical for mussel growth and physiology, have been used as a primary predictor of quagga mussel establishment success to aid management decisions. We evaluated the invasion potential of quagga mussels in low calcium waters using laboratory experiments to compare the survival, growth and reproductive potential of adult mussels held for 90 days at low (9 and 12 ppm), moderate (15 to 32 ppm) and high (72 ppm) calcium water concentrations. In conjunction with adult experiments, veliger stage survival, growth and settlement were evaluated under similar low, moderate, and high calcium water treatments. Adult mussels survived, grew and showed reproductive potential in low calcium water (12 ppm). Veligers were also able to survive, grow and settle in low calcium water. Higher levels of natural seston biomass appeared to improve adult mussel life history performance in low calcium water. Survival curve analysis predicted that 99% adult mortality could occur in < 170 days at 9 ppm and 12 ppm, however water with > 15 ppm could have adults surviving more than a year. The results from these bioassays provide further evidence that quagga mussels have higher risk of establishment in low calcium lakes if habitats exist that have slightly elevated calcium. These results should help emphasize the vulnerability of water-body in the 12 to 15 ppm calcium range that could potentially be at risk of establishing sustainable quagga mussel populations. Furthermore, these results provide insights into the uncertainty of using a single parameter in assigning establishment risk given the complexity of variables in specific water-bodies that influence life history performance of introduced species.