As part of its agonizingly long 5 yearGreat Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study, the US Army Corps of Engineers identified 40 problem invasive species, in addition to asian carp, that could cross between the Mississippi/Great Lakes watershed. That is to say, invasive species that can hop from one watershed, and infest the other.
Why agonizingly long? Because nobody is denying there's a threat to the two water basins, and the threat is closing in right now. DNA studies have found the highly damaging asian carp species to be close to the Great Lakes, some even claim they've gotten beyond the electric barriers.
We are watching a disaster unfold while years of research goes on about how or if we can stop it. Personally I'd like to see more action. We know it's a problem and we know it goes well beyond Asian carp, and it impacts two vast water sheds.
Here's how the study group defines an "invasive" species:
"Invasive" – an alien or native species that can grow quickly, spread rapidly, and dominate an area to the point where native species are displaced, or have taken an area over because native species were eradicated by a previous event
The critters identified aren't what you might expect. Many of them are things like algae, bizarre fresh water invertibrates like Lophopodella carteri which is toxic, so there's nothing that can eat them:
There are also things like the shrimp-like scud and the spiny water flea which are painful for fish to eat. There are several varieties of those on the high threat list. And multiple types of fish.
We're not looking at just one direction of infection...from the Mississippi to the Great Lakes. Heavens no. We're looking at bi-directional infestations...in more cases we're actually looking at creatures crossing from the Great Lakes into the Mississippi basin. Many of these invasive species came into the Great Lakes from distant lands, carried in freighters and deposited from ballast water. And from there, they now are able to move into the Mississippi water basin and the massive network of tributaries beyond....and why?
Because there is no longer the natural separation between the watersheds of the two water bodies. The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal joins the two water basins and accelerates the rates of invasive species infestation...much faster than native species can adapt to. Much faster than local natural resources management teams can respond to.
These two water sheds need to be separated. I'd like to see action now.