Since the dreissenid invasion of the lower Great Lakes, calcium concentrations in the offshore waters of Lake Ontario have decreased by approximately 4–5 mg/L. This decline has coincided with a three-fold reduction in August turbidity values and nearly a doubling of Secchi depths, presumably due to reduced summer calcite precipitation events in the lake. The reductions in calcium have followed a dramatic reduction in alkalinity in the central and eastern basins of Lake Erie, which provides most of the inflow to Lake Ontario. This reduction in alkalinity in Lake Erie corresponds to a period of rapid dreissenid growth in that lake, strongly suggesting calcium uptake by dreissenid mussels as a causative factor. The mass of calcium resident in the dreissenid population in Lake Erie, estimated from published lake-wide census data, is sufficient to account for the observed decreases in alkalinity. In addition, observed changes in alkalinity in Lake Ontario closely match those expected to result from inflows from Lake Erie, based on mass balance considerations. Considered in sum, our data strongly suggest that calcium uptake by dreissenid mussels in Lake Erie has resulted in decreases in the calcium concentration in Lake Ontario, reducing the frequency and/or intensity of whiting events in the latter lake. We believe this is the first report of an increase in transparency that can be reasonably attributed to a chemical change brought about by Dreissena. These increases in transparency may have very different consequences than those of dreissenid filtration activities. For example, rather than decreasing phytoplankton populations, the improved light climate might increase summer phytoplankton populations, particularly sub-epilimnetic ones.
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Vol. 32 • No. 1