Calcium chloride pollution mitigates the negative effects of an invasive clam

Kayla D. Coldsnow, William D. Hintz, Matthew S. Schuler, Aaron B. Stoler, Rick A. Relyea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Invasive bivalves can drastically alter freshwater ecosystems and affect ecosystem services, but they can be influenced by external factors including calcium concentrations. When a common road salt, calcium chloride (CaCl2), enters freshwater ecosystems, it may be toxic to organisms or facilitate bivalves by serving as a calcium source. Therefore, CaCl2 could benefit invasive mollusks tolerant to chloride that require calcium to grow. We used mesocosms to investigate the impacts of CaCl2 (35–187 mg Ca2+ L−1) and invasive bivalves (Asian clams, Corbicula fluminea; zebra mussels, Dreissena polymorpha) on a native lake food web. We hypothesized that invasive bivalves facilitate benthic algae because they reduce phytoplankton and excrete waste. These changes in primary producers would subsequently impact consumers. We also hypothesized that low to moderate CaCl2 concentrations promote the survival, growth, and reproduction of native and invasive mollusks, while causing few toxic effects. If so, we hypothesized that invaded communities exposed to CaCl2 experience stronger impacts from the invasive bivalves. We found that invasive bivalves decreased phytoplankton, which led to decreases in periphyton, zooplankton, and native clams. They caused increases in filamentous algae and isopods. While zebra mussels survived poorly in all treatments, moderate concentrations of CaCl2 substantially reduced Asian clams, which reduced their community effects. Our highest CaCl2 treatments also reduced zooplankton densities. Thus, while freshwater salinization from road salts poses a concern, we observed no indication that CaCl2 road salt will benefit Asian clams and zebra mussels. However, the community-wide consequences from Asian clams at low CaCl2 emphasize the extensive effects that invasive bivalves can have on freshwater communities and the immense concern surrounding their invasions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1349-1366
Number of pages18
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Corbicula fluminea
  • Dreissena polymorpha
  • Invasive species
  • Road deicing salt


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