The Reflection

Gull Lake High School's Online News Source

Invasive species threaten local lakes

An underwater shot of starry stonewort in Gull Lake. This invasive specie can grow so tall, that it can interfere with boating and swimming. Courtesy of: Gull Lake Quality Organization
An underwater shot of starry stonewort in Gull Lake. This invasive specie can grow so tall, that it can interfere with boating and swimming.
Photo courtesy of Gull Lake Quality Organization

Residents of the Gull Lake area can testify that during the summer one of the best places to be is by the water.  Favorite summer activities include tubing, swimming and cruising around the lake. Gull Lake’s community as well as its open and secure waters makes it a pleasant place to spend summer afternoons. Country clubs, restaurants and marinas are all part of this community’s experience. In addition, Gull Lake supplies the area with economic benefits. While businesses rely on people visiting the area during the warm summer months to fish, boat or cool off, the future of the waters is threatened.

Many residents who live in the area own a boat and host parties or swim during the summer. While many boat owners live on Gull Lake, many bring their boats onto it through public and private boat launches. The problem with this is that these individuals often do not solely use their boat on one lake. A boat that has been in multiple lakes has a high chance of having seeds, plant fragments, or marine animals from different lakes attached to its bottom, and these can easily be transferred from one lake to another. While this may seem insignificant, some of the aquatic plants attached to these boats are invasive species, which grow rapidly and outcompete native plants. Although the increase of people living and enjoying the waters benefits the community, the aftermath of the situation is damaging Gull and other local lakes.

A recent concern in the Gull Lake area is starry stonewort, a highly invasive aquatic species. This plant, recognizable by its star-shaped white bulbs, has been confirmed in Gull Lake as well as other area lakes. The plant is able to grow seven feet high and if left unchecked, can form thick masses of vegetation beneath the surface of the water, covering the sandy bottom of the lake as well as taking over native aquatic plants. In addition, once starry stonewort crowds out the native plants, which are a food source, the fish population can quickly die out.

“Perch are typically the first to be affected,” said Susan Houseman, president of the Gull Lake Quality Organization.

The ecosystem is not the only thing at stake however. The thick vegetation will cause boating, fishing and swimming to decline since boats can get stuck in the overgrowth of aquatic weeds.

“In other Michigan lakes, starry stonewort has grown so dense that swimming and boating is nearly impossible in near shore areas,” Houseman said. “While we don’t know how much of a problem it will become in Gull Lake, starry stonewort is a serious threat.”

Area lakes spend large amounts trying to keep the plants at bay.

“Most lakes in our area, such as Sherman Lake, Wall Lake and Pine Lake spend anywhere from $22,000 to $35,000 a year on invasive species control,” Houseman said. “Once invasive species take hold in a lake, it is difficult to eradicate them. Like dandelions on your lawn, typically you have to treat them every year. And even expensive annual treatments aren’t always effective in controlling them.”

It should be noted that if spotted, starry stonewort or any recognizable invasive should be reported. The Gull Lake Quality Organization highly recommends that individuals do not pull out these invasive species since once detached, they can reproduce from fragments and be transferred around the lake or to other lakes through contact with boots, gloves, boats or paddles. The Gull Lake Quality Organization also encourages boat owners to check and make sure that there are not any signs of this plant on their boats.

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By: Brian Hall

Author Profile

I am a senior in high school and the Business Manager of the newspaper. I enjoy running, skiing, and hanging out with friends and family. Next year I will be attending Colby College, a small liberal arts school in the heart of Maine with intentions to explore different educational opportunities.

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