Friday, May 14, 2010

Featured Research: by Karin Limburg

Limburg, K.E., and 4 others. 2010. The good, the bad, and the algae: perceiving ecosystem services and disservices generated by zebra and quagga mussels. J Great Lakes Res. 36:86-92

Karin Limburg and colleagues explore the social complexities surrounding the common perception of zebra and quagga mussels as pests in the Great Lakes region. In fact, these non-native invasives are responsible for phenomena considered both good and bad: the production of clear water versus an increase in nuisance filamentous algae (e.g., Cladophora glomerata can become superabundant, and when it dies it sloughs off onto beaches and becomes a nuisance). People form very strong preferences for clear water, and very strong dislikes of the algae. These preferences have economic consequences: homeowners experienced a $3500 increase in property values that they attributed to increased water clarity, and a $750 decline in property values due to nuisance algae.

This study highlights the importance of considering the social dimension in the assessment of invasive species, as it may identify “positives” in addition to “negatives”.

Karin is an Associate Professor of Fisheries and Ecosystem Science at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry of the State University of New York in Syracuse.