By Lake Windermere Ambassadors

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors direct a community-based water monitoring and citizen-science education program designed by the Ministry of Environment and put in place to identify stressors to our Lake’s aquatic life.

Throughout the 2021 Invasive species survey a lack of freshwater mussels was noted in comparison to previous years. Rachel Darvill’s invasive species survey made an informal observation of a lack of freshwater mussels, which are often observed when pulled up on the rake tosses designed for plants. However, an interesting note was more freshwater sponges were pulled up with the rake survey compared to previous years. The lack of freshwater mussels is concerning because Windermere Lake is an ideal habitat for them.

Freshwater mussels are amongst the most endangered organisms globally, with only four to seven species known to occur in B.C. 45 per cent percent of North America’s mussels have gone extinct or are endangered, compared to only seven per cent of the continent’s bird and mammal species. This significant decline in native mussel populations is associated with habitat destruction and degradation from anthropogenic influences. Examples of native mussel habitat destruction include:

  • Dams.

  • Sedimentation (that can come from motorboats).

  • The introduction of nonindigenous aquatic bivalve mollusks and pollution.

A variety of biological and ecological indicators can be used to evaluate changes in our lake’s ecosystem. Not only are mussels an indicator of aquatic habitat destruction but they can also be used as tools to monitor the health of the water itself. Mussels are an indicator of aquatic ecosystem health because they are filter feeders who consume food from the water, they live in. In the water monitoring world this means they can be used to track bioaccumulation (accumulation of a chemicals in an organism) in aquatic environments.

Very little information is known about Lake Windermere’s abundant freshwater mussel population and their ecosystems. Therefore, the Lake Windermere Ambassadors recommend a freshwater mussel inventory be conducted on Lake Windermere in conjunction with our proposed Carrying Capacity Study. This mussel survey would gather baseline information on their abundance, diversity, and habitats. It would highlight specific locations and ecosystems that may be more important habitats for freshwater mussels, as well as identify areas of habitat degradation.

We are grateful for our generous sponsors and funders who support our work. To learn more about our organization or if you are interested in volunteering with us, please contact [email protected].