Spatial and temporal distributions of Dreissena spp. veligers in lake Huron: does calcium limit settling success?
The larval stage of invasive Dreissena spp. mussels (i.e., veligers) are understudied despite their seasonal numerical dominance among plankton. We report the spring and summer veliger densities and size structure across the main basin, North Channel, and Georgian Bay of Lake Huron, and seek to explain spatiotemporal variation. Monthly sampling was conducted at 9 transects and up to 3 sites per transect from spring through summer 2017. Veliger densities peaked in June and July, and we found comparable densities and biomasses of veligers between basins, despite differences in density of juvenile and adult mussels across these regions. Using a generalized additive model to explain variations in veliger density, we found that temperature, chlorophyll a, and nitrates/nitrites were most important. We generated an index of veliger attrition based on size distributions that revealed a higher rate of attrition in the North Channel than the rest of the lake. A logistic model indicated a threshold calcium concentration of around 22 mg/L was necessary for veligers to survive to larger sizes and recruit to their juvenile and benthic adult life stages. Improved understanding of factors that regulate the production and survival of Dreissena veligers could improve the ability of managers to assess future invasion threats as well as explore potential control options.