by Alisha Davidson, Ph.D.
ML&SA Research and Development Coordinator
Disturbance events, such as flooding or vegetation removal, can leave ecosystems in vulnerable states, increasing the opportunity for nonnative species to colonize. Ecologists call this process “invasibility”. Wayne State University ecologists tested this hypothesis by assessing habitat, water quality, and fish and macroinvertebrate communities across a disturbance gradient (i.e., from pristine sites to severely degraded sites) in several rivers in Michigan to determine the factors associated with invasibility of the infamous round goby (Neogobius melanostomus). Put more simply, the researchers wanted to know what characteristics of Michigan’s rivers seem to improve the chances of round gobies establishing (and having impacts). They found that when analyzed across a watershed, sites with greater disturbance had higher than expected abundances of round goby. These differences also seemed to effect fish community composition. More data is needed to determine exactly why that is, but this study will inform efforts to prevent the spread of gobies and other invasive species in Michigan waters.
For a more detailed article on this and related studies happening in our state related to invasive species, see the spring issue of The Michigan Riparian magazine. Wayne State University aquatic ecologist Corey Krabbenhoft will provide an interview on her latest research in this area and what waterfront property owners around the state can do to prevent gobies and other invasive species from establishing in their own “backyards”.