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USGS and Washington State University Partnership to Develop an Integrated Columbia River Basin Research and Monitoring Program for Invasive Mussels and other Nonnative Species

Zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species present an economic and environmental threat to the Columbia River Basin and many other watersheds within the United States. The Columbia River Basin (CRB) covers an area the size of France that includes portions of seven states and British Columbia. Developing programs to prevent new introductions of aquatic invasive species (AIS), assess risk, quickly detect new arrivals, and control their spread is complicated by the sheer size of the basin and the number of jurisdictions. All jurisdictions within the basin are dependent upon one another, since an AIS introduction into any part of the system can cause dire consequences to all. The 100th Meridian Initiative – Columbia River Basin Team was established to coordinate and enhance each jurisdictions capacity to protect our shared CRB resource. The actions taken in this project will complement the 100th Meridian Initiative efforts by providing additional resources to fill existing programmatic gaps. The structure and information systems created in this CRB project will be adaptable for use in other river basins within the United States.

WSU and USGS received funding in the 2010 federal budget to cooperatively plan and build capacity for the full implementation of this project. The following actions are underway with the 2010 funds:

  • Developing a comprehensive nonnative species information system for the CRB. This will allow all states within the basin to have up to date knowledge of where species of concern are located, where monitoring activities are underway, and access to information to assess risk or evaluate the impact of climate change. This information system will be created by the nationUSGS and Washington State University Partnership to Develop an Integrated Columbia River Basin Research and Monitoring Program for Invasive Mussels and other Nonnative Speciesal USGS Nonindigenous Species (NAS) website and possibly accessed through the PSMFC website.
  • Refining existing efforts to create an early detection monitoring program for zebra mussels and other AIS to increase the probability of rapidly detecting an introduction and minimizing economic and environmental impacts.
  • Work collaboratively with state, academic, tribal and federal partners to cooperatively gather the information required to protect the CRB from the threat of aquatic invasive species.

Future funding will implement the following actions that build upon the planning and capacity building efforts accomplished in 2010.

  • Additional monitoring activities will be implemented in partnership with the 100th Meridian Project to increase the probability for a successful early detection and rapid response to a zebra mussel or other aquatic invasive species introduction.
  • New data will be entered into the CRB information system and analyzed to evaluate to effectiveness of the early detection program, identify areas of risk to focus prevention efforts, locate areas to conduct control programs, and to enable the analysis of the impact of climate change on native and nonnative species.
  • An annual report will be generated to answer questions that are important to state, academic, tribal and federal partners based upon the data gathered within the CRB nonnative species information system.
  • Focused research will be initiated to address the causes (e.g., vectors of introduction and expansion) and consequences (e.g., ecological impacts) of selected aquatic invasive species in the CRB.

Anticipated Benefits

The new CRB nonnative species information system will empower states with the information required to better manage this valuable aquatic resource. It will also make data available to researchers that are critical to answering questions relating to risk management, improving prevention/control/eradication efforts and evaluating or predicting impacts. The methods and information systems developed in this project will be applicable for implementation in other basins throughout the nation. The project will also increase monitoring efforts in areas that will cost-effectively increase the probability of early detection. The cost of jobs created by this project will be more than offset by savings from reduced AIS economic impacts.


We will work closely with the 100th Meridian Initiative-Columbia River Basin Team, and include the actions identified in this project into the QZAP (Quagga and Zebra Mussel Action Plan) proposal to establish a truly effective integrated monitoring and information system. This effort will improve existing prevention, early detection and control measures for zebra mussels and other AIS in the Columbia River Basin. Each of the seven states covered by the Columbia River Basin will be consulted as we develop new products. Individual states do not have the capacity to undertake this type of regional initiative and all will benefit from increased data sharing.

Federal, state, academic and tribal organizations are implementing their own efforts to monitor for specific species of concern, such as invasive mussels. At present, the resulting data are not collected using common protocols, nor are they stored in an information system that could support the development of a comprehensive approach to research and monitoring. This project will coordinate and add to the existing capacity of seven states to protect the CRB aquatic resources by:

  • Producing an integrated monitoring and information system
  • Enhancing and further coordinating the existing early detection efforts
  • Evaluating pathways and vectors
  • Providing the physical and biological data necessary to assess the impact of climate change on native and nonnative biota

The project should be considered one piece of a comprehensive investment needed to enhance aquatic invasive species (e.g., zebra mussel) prevention, detection, and response preparedness in cooperation with western states