Invasive Species

Invasive species are non-native plants and animals that reproduce and spread quickly, compete with native species for food, degrade habitat, and ultimately cause ecological and economic damages.

Invasive species are perhaps the greatest stressor currently facing the Great Lakes aquatic ecosystem. They are known to modify food webs which alters energy pathways, changes lake productivity, and disrupts fisheries, costing millions of dollars annually in control and mitigation. The Great Lakes has been severely impacted by invasive species, most notably the zebra and quagga mussel, the round goby, and the sea lamprey.

There are more than 185 non-native species in the Great Lakes, but only those species that cause or are likely to cause harm to the economy, environment, or human health are considered invasive.

With our partners at NOAA GLERL, CIGLR is committed to developing information products, predictive models, and strategies to combat and manage invasive species in the Great Lakes region. Our activities in this area include:

1. Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS)

The Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS) is a searchable regional database with species-specific fact sheets, threat assessments, and maps designed to improve public education and inform prevention, management, and control of invasive and non-native species. The database is a collaboration between CIGLR, NOAA, Michigan DNR Institute for Fisheries Research, USGS, and EPA. CIGLR helps the partnership by maintaining current data, making updates when needed, as well as improving the database through technologies and products. This involves programming enhancements for improved functionality, adding reports of non-native species in new locations, adding new species to the watchlist of likely invaders, moving species from the watchlist to the established category, and adding maps habitat suitability for non-native species. CIGLR is also working with the Sea Grant Great Lakes Network to ensure the most current state of knowledge regarding current and future threats is being delivered to the public and managers. Information served through GLANSIS helps managers make informed decisions when formulating and implementing strategies to prevent, control, and mitigate the introduction and impacts of invasive and non-native species.

2. Forecast Impacts of Asian Carp and Other Potential Invasive Species

There are about 67 non-native species on the GLANSIS watchlist that pose a threat to the Great Lakes. Some of them, like the Asian carps, have been identified as potential invasive species. Asian carps include four species, bighead carp, silver carp, grass carp, and black carp. Although they all bear the name carp, grass carp feed on aquatic plants, black carp eat mussels and snails, and bighead and silver carp feed on plankton in the water column. Bighead and silver carp are highly abundant in the Illinois River and have been captured 47 miles away from Lake Michigan. They threaten to invade the Great Lakes and disrupt aquatic food webs and fisheries through their voracious consumption of large volumes of plankton. In river and other lake ecosystems throughout North America, Asia, and Europe, Asian carps have caused a decline in many of the native fish species. CIGLR has produced models for Lake Erie that show if Asian carps were to invade, they would dominate the fish community and seriously devalue the vital recreational and commercial fisheries present there. We are currently developing similar ecosystem models to assess the Asian carp threat in the other Great Lakes and their embayments. Since the Great Lakes each have unique characteristics, the potential growth, survival, and impacts of Asian carps are expected to be different from those predicted for Lake Erie. This information is urgently needed to support informed management decisions regarding Asian carp control. CIGLR is also using these models to predict ecological impacts on the Great Lakes food webs by other invasive species from the watchlist, such as killer shrimp and golden mussels.

Stay up-to-date on the most recent news and scientific media generated from our Invasive Species research here:


  • GLANSIS database and information: Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS) is a searchable database with fact sheets, threat assessments, and maps designed to improve stakeholder education, and inform prevention, management, and control of aquatic nonindigenous species (ANS).
  • Asian Carp Assessment


Asian Carp


Beletsky D. , R. Beletsky, E.S. Rutherford , J.L. Sieracki, J.M. Bossenbroek, W.L. Chadderton, M.E. Wittmann, G. Annis and D. Lodge. 2017. Spread of aquatic invasive species by lake currents. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 43:14-32. (DOI:10.1016/j.jglr.2017.02.001). Beletsky_etal.pdf

Cooke, R.M., M.E. Wittmann, D.M. Lodge, J.D. Rothlisberger, E.S. Rutherfod, H. Zhang and D.M. Mason. 2014. Out-of-sample validation for structured expert judgment of Asian Carp establishment in Lake Erie. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management. 10(4):522-528. (DOI:10.1002/ieam.1559). Cooke_etal.pdf

Davidson, A.D., A.J. Fusaro, R.A. Sturtevant, E.S. Rutherford and D.R. Kashian. 2017. Development of a risk assessment framework to predict invasive species establishment for multiple taxonomic groups and vectors of introduction. Management of Biological Invasions. 8:25-36. (DOI:10.3391/mbi.2017.8.1.03). Davidson_etal.pdf

Fusaro, A.J., E. Baker, W. Conrad, A. Davidson, K. Dettloff, J. Li, G. Núñez-Mir, R.A. Sturtevant and E.S. Rutherford. A risk assessment of potential Great Lakes aquatic invaders. NOAA Technical Memorandum GLERL-169. Fusaro_etal.pdf

Kao, Y-C., S. Adlerstein and E.S. Rutherford. 2016. Assessment of bottom-up and top-down controls on the collapse of alewives Alosa pseudoharengus in Lake Huron. Ecosystems. 19:803-831. (DOI:10.1007/s10021-016-9969-y). Kao_etal.pdf

Lodge, D.M., P.W. Simonin, S.W. Burgiel, R.P. Keller, J.M. Bossenbroek, C.L. Jerde, A.M. Kramer, E.S. Rutherford, M.A. Barnes, M.E. Wittmann, W.L. Chadderton, J.L. Apriesnig, D. Beletsky, R.M. Cooke, J.M. Drake, S.P. Egan, D.C. Finnoff, C.A. Gantz, E.K. Grey, M.H. Hoff, J.G. Howeth, R.A. Jensen, E.R. Larson, N.E. Mandrak, D.M. Mason, F.A. Martinez, T.J. Newcomb, J.D. Rothlisberger, A.J. Tucker, T.W. Warziniack and H. Zhang. 2016. Risk analysis and bioeconomics of invasive species to inform policy and management. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 41:453-88. (DOI:10.1146/annurev-environ-110615-085532). Lodge_etal.pdf

Nalepa, T.F. 2014. Relative comparison and perspective on invasive species in the Laurentian and Swedish Great Lakes. Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management. 17(4):394-403. (DOI:10.1080/14634988.2014.972494). Nalepa.pdf

Reisinger, L.S., A.K. Elgin, K.M. Towle, D.J. Chan and D.M. Lodge. 2017. The influence of evolution and plasticity on the behavior of an invasive crayfish. Biological Invasions. 19(3):815-830. (DOI:10.1007/s10530-016-1346-4). Reisinger_etal.pdf

Sturtevant, R.A., L. Berent, T. Makled, A.J. Fusaro and E.S. Rutherford. 2016. An overview of the management of established nonindigenous species in the Great Lakes. NOAA Technical Memorandum GLERL-168. Sturtevant_etal.pdf

Sturtevant, R.A., J. Larson, L. Berent, M. McCarthy, A. Bogdanoff, A.J. Fusaro and E.S. Rutherford. 2014. An Impact Assessment of Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species. NOAA Technical Memorandum GLERL-161. Sturtevant2_etal.pdf

Tucker, A.J, W.L. Chadderton, C.L. Jerde, M.A. Renshaw, K. Uy, C. Gantz, A.R. Mahon, A. Bowen, T. Strakosh, J.M. Bossenbroek, J.L. Sieracki, D. Beletsky, J. Bergner and D.M. Lodge. 2016. A sensitive environmental DNA (eDNA) assay leads to new insights on Ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernua) spread in North America. Biological Invasions. 18:3205-3222. (DOI:10.1007/s10530-016-1209-z). Tucker_etal.pdf

Wang, L., C.M. Riseng, L.A. Mason, K.E. Wehrly, E.S. Rutherford, J.E. McKenna, Jr., C. Castiglione, L.B. Johnson, D. Infante, S.E. Sowa, M. Robertson, J. Schaeffer, M. Khoury, J. Gaiot, T. Hollenhorst, C. Brooks and M. Coscarelli. 2015. A spatial classification and database for management, research, and policy making: The Great Lakes aquatic habitat framework. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 41:584-596. (DOI:10.1016/j.jglr.2015.03.017). Wang_etal.pdf

Wittman, M.E., G. Annis, A.M. Kramer, L. Mason, C. Riseng, E. S. Rutherford, W. L. Chadderton, D. Beletsky, J.M. Drake and D.M. Lodge. 2016. Refining species distribution model outputs using landscape scale habitat data: Forecasting Grass Carp and Hydrilla verticillata establishment in the Great Lakes Region. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 43:298-307. (DOI:10.1016/j.jglr.2016.09.008). Wittmann_etal.pdf

Wittmann, M., R. Cooke, J. Rothlisberger, E.S. Rutherford, H. Zhang, D.M. Mason and D. Lodge. 2014. Use of structured expert judgment to forecast invasions by Bighead and Silver carp in Lake Erie. Conservation Biology. 29(1):187-197. (DOI:10.1111/cobi.12369). Wittmann2_etal.pdf

Zhang, H., E. Rutherford, D.M. Mason, J. Breck, R. Cooke, M. Wittmann, T. Johnson, X. Zhu and D. Lodge. 2016. Forecasting the Impacts of Silver and Bighead Carp on the Lake Erie Food Web. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 145(1):136-162. (DOI:10.1080/00028487.2015.1069211). Zhang_etal.pdf

Research Themes


Invasive Species Photo Gallery