Soluble nitrogen and phosphorus excretion of exotic freshwater mussels (Dreissena spp.): Potential impacts for nutrient remineralisation in western Lake Erie

Joseph D. Conroy, William J. Edwards, Ruth A. Pontius, Douglas D. Kane, Hongyan Zhang, John Shea, Julie N. Richey, David A. Culver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

113 Scopus citations


1. Recent increases in phytoplankton biomass and the recurrence of cyanobacterial blooms in western Lake Erie, concomitant with a shift from a community dominated by zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) to one dominated by quagga mussels (D. bugensis), led us to test for differences in ammonia-nitrogen and phosphate-phosphorus excretion rates of these two species of invasive molluscs. 2. We found significant differences in excretion rate both between size classes within a taxon and between taxa, with zebra mussels generally having greater nutrient excretion rates than quagga mussels. Combining measured excretion rates with measurements of mussel soft-tissue dry weight and shell length, we developed nutrient excretion equations allowing estimation of nutrient excretion by dreissenids. 3. Comparing dreissenid ammonia and phosphate excretion with that of the crustacean zooplankton, we demonstrated that the mussels add to nitrogen and phosphorus remineralisation, shortening nitrogen and phosphorus turnover times, and, importantly, modify the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles in Lake Erie. The increased nutrient flux from dreissenids may facilitate phytoplankton growth and cyanobacterial blooms in well-mixed and/or shallow areas of western Lake Erie.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1146-1162
Number of pages17
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


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