Rapid assessment of Dreissena population in Lake Erie using underwater videography.
Dreissenid bivalves (Dreissena polymorpha and D. rostriformis bugensis) are considered the most aggressive freshwater invaders inflicting profound ecological and economic impacts on the waterbodies that they colonize. Severity of these impacts depends on dreissenid population sizes which vary dramatically across space and time. We developed a novel method that analyzes video recorded using a Benthic Imaging System (BIS) in near real-time to assess dreissenid distribution and density across large waterbodies and tested it on Lake Erie. Lake Erie basins differ dramatically in morphometry, turbidity, and productivity, as well as in Dreissena distribution, density, and length-frequency distribution, providing an excellent model to test the applicability of our method across large and dynamic environmental gradients. Results of rapid assessment were subsequently compared with dreissenid density obtained from Ponar grab samples collected at the same sites. In the eastern and central basins, the differences in basin-wide density estimations from BIS and Ponar were 3% and 23%, respectively. In the western basin, this method had limited application due to high turbidity and abundance of small (< 10 mm length) mussels. By substantially reducing the time required to assess dreissenids across large areas, rapid assessment could be a useful and cost-effective addition for monitoring their populations.