Crater Lake is an appealing dive for scuba aficionados, but the lake will be temporary closed to them until Crater Lake National Park officials can formulate protocols for keeping invasive species out of the water.
In a release park officials said they anticipated the protocols would be in place before the beginning of the 2013 season and would require divers to take precautionary measures before entering the lake.
"We have seen the devastation to ecosystems and economies caused by the inadvertent introduction of invasive species from Lake Mead to Lake Erie," said park superintendent Craig Ackerman."We want to prevent it from happening at Crater Lake rather than deal with the aftermath.The increasing popularity of the lake for scuba diving also increases the opportunities for divers and their gear to carry microscopic 'hitchhikers' into the water.They may be small, but damage that can be caused by aquatic invasives is enormous and oftentimes irreversible."
Crater Lake is world-renowned for its crystal clear water and purity and is considered by some scientists to be the most pristine naturally occurring large body of water on the planet. Minor changes in the hydrologic conditions of the lake could permanently affect both purity and clarity.
Aquatic invasive species like quagga mussels, spiny water flea, and viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus cause severe and permanent damage to the habitats they invade by reducing the abundance of native species and altering ecosystem processes. They rank among the most severe threats to biological diversity and are among the leading causes of extinctions.
Aquatic invaders can range from microscopic bacterial and viral pathogens to plants and animals. In their native environments these species are often controlled by interactions with predators, parasites, pathogens, or competitors. However, when introduced to new environments, like Crater Lake, the same natural checks are often absent, giving invasives an advantage over native species and making them very expensive and difficult, if not impossible, to control. Consequently, focusing on preventing introduction of harmful invasives is key to reducing the risk.
For more information, visit the website of the Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force, a consortium of 12 federal agencies including the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at http://www.anstaskforce.gov/default.php