Colonization of the Laurentian Great Lakes by the invasive mussel Dreissena polymorpha was a significant ecological disturbance. The invasion reached Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron, in 1991 and initially cleared the waters and lowered algal biomass. However, an unexpected result occurred 3 years after the initial invasion with the return of nuisance summer blooms of cyanobacteria, a problem that had been successfully addressed with the implementation of phosphorus controls in the late 1970s. A multi-class phytoplankton model was developed and tested against field observations and then used to explore the causes of these temporal changes. Model scenarios suggest that changes in the phytoplankton community can be linked to three zebra mussel-mediated effects: (1) removal of particles resulting in clearer water, (2) increased recycle of available phosphorus throughout the summer, and (3) selective rejection of certain Microcystis strains. Light inhibition of certain phytoplankton assemblages and the subsequent alteration of competitive dynamics is a novel result of this model. These results enhance our understanding of the significant role of zebra mussels in altering lower trophic level dynamics of Saginaw Bay and suggest that their physical re-engineering of the aquatic environment was the major force driving changes in the phytoplankton community composition. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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