Amazon River, the mightiest waterway of the world, is facing severe threat from tiny golden mussels that is invading from China.
Long after hitching its path to South America in the 1990s, these tiny creatures claimed the new territory at a very alarming speed, cultivating all over the indigenous flora and fauna of the region as it spread to the waters across five nations. Now, the researchers suspect the invasive species could enter the Amazon and pose dangerous risks to one of the unique ecological systems of the world.
Marcia Divina de Olivieira, from the Embrapa research agency, Brazil, said, “There’s no suspicion that the adverse environmental effect would be dramatic.”
The golden mussel, which is usually not bigger than an inch in length, is a hardy breeder that reproduces nine months per year with the release of microscopic larvae clouds that keeps on floating with the water current to new territories. They can easily get attached to hard surfaces, such as stones, river bedrock, artificial structures and even with each other, and form large reef-like structures.
They prove to be very disastrous to the water pipes as they can easily clog them. This ability of clogging has forced operators of water and hydroelectric treatment plants in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo state, Argentina, and many more regions to spend millions of dollars per year over clearing and maintenance of these pipes with chemical drips and finally scrape out the massive mussel formations.
“You clearly want to keep these out of the Amazon because if they were to get in, the potential consequences are very significant. The key right now is you have to shut the door to make sure they can’t spread further,” said Hugh MacIsaac, a professor at the University of Windsor who studies invasive aquatic species, in Ontario, Canada.
The scientists fear that the invasive species may jump into the Amazon via Pantanal, which is only 1,200 miles away from water channel linked to the Amazon.
Steve Hamilton, an ecology professor at Michigan State University, “If you just have a liter (of water) down in the bottom of a boat and put it on a trailer and travel over land to a new river system, you could be injecting potentially hundreds or even thousands of microscopic larvae into a new water body.”
The Brazilian government is working hard to stop the progress of golden mussel for a decade. Some of the measures include requiring ships heading toward Brazilian ports to stop at least 200 miles off the coast and emptying the ballast waters when far at sea. The experts, however, complain that the measure is spottily being enforced.
The Amazon has the right temperature, acidity and calcium levels to assist colonization of golden mussel.
Even though the threat posed by the golden mussel might appear small if seen in perspective of the deforestation, hydroelectric dams and sewage in the cities, but if these tiny creatures succeeded in reaching the Amazon, they could wreak havoc on one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world which is home to the largest population of freshwater fish species.