Thursday, September 30, 2010

Asian Carp's buffet may be bare, thanks to another invader who's devouring the base of the food chain like an NFL lineman at Ponderosa

Ok, so,…the good news is that when the Asian Carp begin multiplying in Lake Michigan, it may not be the Armageddon we’re fearing. The bad news is that’s only because the invasive quagga mussels have already eaten up most of the base of the food chain, leaving slim pickin’s. “Beaten the carp to the buffet table” as one researcher put it.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that drastic changes in the Great Lakes’ food chain over the last few decades due to invasive species means “trends for the food web are murky.” That’s researcher-speak for “We have no goddamn idea what’s going on right now, much less 5, 10, or 20 years from now. We can count quagga mussels and quantify the 80 percent loss of the phytoplankton at the base of the food chain. But please, for the love of God don’t ask us to predict what’s next.”

It’s a crap shoot, this business of hauling in exotic creatures from foreign lands in the ballast water of international freighters and releasing them into the world’s greatest freshwater ecosystem. There are almost 200 invaders, according to the latest count.

It’s a giant, uncontrolled, uncontrollable biology experiment in which random creatures are thrown into the Great Lakes without the slightest clue to their impact. Then we stand back and see what happens next. And our best hope is that the result is just sucky, and not catastrophic.

We could ban oceangoing ships from the Great Lakes – which accounts for an estimated 75 percent of the invasive species arrivals. It would even create new jobs and stimulate economic activity. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

In the meantime, we’ll just stand back and see what happens. Not much of a management plan.

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