Wisconsin Invaders

Zebra Mussels

Spiny Water Flea

Chinese Mystery Snail

Rusty Crayfish

Rainbow Smelt

Round Goby


Smart Prevention of Aquatic Invasive Species

Wisconsin's 15,000 lakes and 45,000 miles of streams are among the state's most valuable natural resources. The abundance, diversity, and quality of Wisconsin's aquatic resources provide the cornerstone of the state's multi-billion travel and tourism industry, in addition to a wide range of recreational opportunities, and environmental and aesthetic benefits. Unfortunately, there is an ever-expanding threat to our aquatic resources. Nuisance exotic species have already taken over the Great Lakes, causing major ecological and economic damage. Increasingly, they are spreading to inland lakes and streams by hitchhiking on recreational boats, and spreading through interconnected waterways, rivers, and canals. What does the arrival of these new nuisance species mean for our inland waters? And more importantly, what can we do to stop their spread and reduce their impacts?

In response to these questions, researchers at the Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin - Madison have been conducting studies that are relevant to understanding and managing aquatic invasive species in Wisconsin. The central theme of this work can be summarized as 'smart prevention' (Vander Zanden and Olden 2008). Because invasive species typically cannot be eliminated once they establish (Vander Zanden et al. in press), preventing their spread is generally the best management option. But with approximately 15,000 lakes in Wisconsin, how and where should prevention efforts be focused? Our research has aimed at identifying the lakes and streams that are most vulnerable to invasive species: those where invasive species are likely to be introduced, survive, and have undesired impacts (Fig. 1; Vander Zanden et al. 2004; Vander Zanden and Maxted 2008). Answering these questions has proven to be challenging. Yet with such knowledge in hand, prevention, enforcement, and monitoring efforts can be directed more effectively.

In addition to the vulnerability research described above, we have addressed a wide range of other questions relating to the spread, impact, and management of aquatic invasive species (see species accounts below). For example, recent research has found that lakes created by damming are much more likely to be invaded than their non-dammed counterparts (Havel et al. 2005; Johnson et al. 2008).

The goal of this website is to help make the results of recent research on invasive species spread, impact, and management conducted at the UW-Madison Center for Limnology available to resource managers, residents, and concerned citizens. We provide links to species accounts for the following invasive species: zebra mussel, spiny water flea, Chinese mystery snail, rusty crayfish, rainbow smelt, and round goby. In addition to the brief descriptions of our findings presented here, we also provide weblinks to pdfs of scientific publications and book chapters that describe our research in much greater detail. We hope that our efforts to communicate the result of this research to stakeholders are helpful in some way in the ongoing battle against invasive species in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

For support of our efforts to study and communicate the impacts of aquatic invasive species in our waters, we acknowledge the support of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the National Science Foundation (the North-Temperate Lakes Long-Term Ecological Research Site and the Bioeconomics of AIS project), and the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment.


Havel, J.E., C.E. Lee, M.J. Vander Zanden. 2005. Do reservoirs facilitate invasions into landscapes? BioScience 55: 518-252. (Click for PDF)

Johnson, P.T., J.D. Olden, M.J. Vander Zanden. 2008. Dam invaders: impoundments facilitate biological invasions in freshwaters. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6:357-63. (Click for PDF)

Vander Zanden, M.J. and J.T. Maxted. 2008. Species invasions in Wisconsin lakes and streams. Pages 423-438 In The vanishing present: Wisconsin's changing lands, waters and wildlife. Edited by D.M. Waller and T.P. Rooney. University of Chicago Press. (Click for PDF)

Vander Zanden, M.J. 2005. The success of animal invaders. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.) 102: 7055-7056. (Click for PDF)

Vander Zanden, M. J., J. D. Olden, J. H. Thorne, and N. E. Mandrak. 2004. Predicting the occurrence and impact of bass introductions in north-temperate lakes. Ecological Applications 14: 132-148. (Click for PDF)

Vander Zanden, M.J., G.J.A. Hansen, S.N. Higgins, M.S. Kornis. In press. A pound of prevention, plus a pound of cure: Early detection and eradication of invasive species in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research

Vander Zanden, M.J. and J.D. Olden. 2008. A management framework for preventing the secondary spread of aquatic invasive species. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 65 (7): 1512-22. (Click for PDF)