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Invasive algae is overwhelming Michigan lakes

Mar 1, 2017

Michigan has the largest population in the world of starry stonewort, an invasive macroalgae that stifles native plants and fish. 

Starry stonewort loves the clean, clear, and calcium carbonate rich waters of Michigan’s inland lakes. It grows in dense mats which can range in thickness from a few inches to a little over six feet.

Scott Brown, the executive director of the Michigan Lake & Stream Association, studies the species and spoke to Stateside about the problems it creates in lake ecosystems.

The plant looks “quite beautiful in a crude sort of way,” Brown said, but it blocks the growth of native aquatic plants and prevents fish from accessing their spawning grounds.

To prevent the spread of invasive aquatic plants like starry stonewort, Brown supports the Clean Boats, Clean Waters program, which educates boaters on how to clean and dry their boats between lakes. This prevents fragments of the plant from “hitchhiking” to new lakes, Brown said.

“Even though it’s beautiful from a natural history standpoint, it’s very disruptive to our inland lakes because its growth is not regulated here, there’s nothing to limit its growth,” Brown said. “So therefore, it grows in such abundance that it becomes a problem.”

Listen to the full interview above.

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