Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Geographic Information Science

First Advisor

Bradley C. Rundquist


Aquatic invasive species are a major problem in Minnesota. Aquatic invasive species disrupt ecosystems, limit lake recreation, and reduce lakeshore property values. They are expensive to manage, and often impossible to eradicate once established. In this study, I am asking this question: What is the economic impact, in terms of residential shoreline property values, of the introduction of the invasive zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) into large and popular freshwater lakes in west central Minnesota?

Past studies comparing lakeshore property values based on environmental factors such as water quality, clarity, lake size, and depth have shown that these environmental amenities are positively related to lakeshore property values. In other words, these amenities are capitalized in the value of the property. Studies exploring other invasive aquatic species, such as Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) have repeatedly shown a decrease in property values following infestation. There is a gap in the literature however with regard to lakeshore property values and zebra mussel infestation. To test the hypothesis that zebra mussels have a negative impact on lakeshore property values, I am using residential lakeshore property sales from 1994 to 2012, obtained digitally from Otter Tail and Becker counties in Minnesota. Lakes were selected based on the availability of sales data and also on the basis of their geographic proximity, size, depth, and market similarity. The raw data for each lake were brought into Microsoft Excel where I cleaned and sorted them. My criteria were specific; only arm's length (e.g. excluding sales between friends and family members below market value) sales transactions of single-family residential properties were considered. I discarded undeveloped parcels, apartments, farms, and resorts. I then sorted the remaining annual transactions and calculated the median sales value per year for each lake in my study. I then adjusted the medians for inflation using the Consumer Price Index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, I averaged the medians into a running four-year mean for each lake.

Results suggest that the presence of zebra mussels in the lakes that I am studying have not negatively impacted residential lakeshore property values. These results suggest

the value of lakefront property in my study area is capitalized in more subjective terms. Moreover, this researcher cites the continuance of real-estate transactions and home construction on infested lakes as prima facie evidence that the presence of zebra mussels has not negatively impacted the consumption patterns of people desiring to live on lakes.