Oneida Lake Education Initiative

"Your gateway to understanding Oneida Lake"


Invasive Species

Oneida Lake ’s waters are clearer now than they were historically. Low light penetration was common prior to the 1980s, but the lake has experienced heightened transparency in the 1990s. Zebra mussels, which took root in Oneida around 1991, are a big reason the lake is clearer today. These non-native mollusks filter algae from the water. An increased abundance of bottom dwelling organisms and a wider depth distribution of aquatic plants accompanied these changes. Biologists use the term “benthification” to describe this process.


Aquatic plants grow along Oneida Lake’s shore and beneath its surface. They are an important part of the ecosystem and create habitat for fish, reduce shoreline erosion, and improve water quality. The availability of light strongly influences the abundance and distribution of plants. As water clarity increases, the amount of light for submersed plants also increases. Light penetration determines the maximum depth at which these plants can grow.


Oneida Lake’s clearer water has helped increase aquatic vegetation. Prior to the 1990s, most plants were found in waters less than six feet deep. Today, vegetation thrives in waters from six to thirteen feet, and some plants have been collected from depths exceeding 20 feet.


Despite improved water quality, Oneida Lake’s overall health remains vulnerable. Established nonnative species are altering the structure and function of the food web, while new invaders lurk near. Subtle changes in climate may be affecting the lake in ways that we are only beginning to understand.


Established Aquatic Invaders: Non-native species have often affected Oneida Lake’s food web, especially since the completion of the Erie-Barge Canal in 1918. Early invaders included sea lampreys, European faucet snails, Eurasian milfoil, and white perch. Other non-native fish that have played a prominent role in Oneida Lake’s history are carp, gizzard shad, and freshwater drum.


To learn more about Oneida Lake Invasive Species...


Alewife, Amphipod, Carp, Eurasian rudd, European faucet snails, Gizzard shad, Round Goby, Rusty crayfish, Sea lamprey, White perch, Zebra mussel


Common reed, European frog-bit, Eurasian watermilfoil, Purple loosestrife, Starry stonewart, Water chestnut

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