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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Hmm, why not just breed "daughterless" ones?

Ananova is reporting that a British attempt to reduce populations of the non-native grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) has failed. With the goal of limiting the spread of this American species, which has replaced the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) in most parts of the U.K., scientists developed a contraceptive vaccine that could be injected into female grey squirrels, but the vaccine proved too difficult and expensive to manage the squirrels effectively.

Thanks to Conserv@tion for posting a link to this story.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Alaska considers biological control

According to this story from Kenai Peninsula Online, researchers in Alaska are considering bringing in a parasitic wasp (Lathrolestes luteolator) to combat burgeoning populations of invasive leaf miners. The European leaf miners, including the amber marked leafminer (Profenusa thomsoni), have destroyed tens of thousands of acres of birch trees in the Anchorage bowl. The project, if approved, would begin next summer, and would be the first widespread biological control effort in Alaska. (Bonus points to the AP writer for using scientific names!) Go here to read another detailed article on the subject, from the Anchorage Daily News.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Rodent Revelry

For a tongue-in-cheek perspective on the prominence of the nutria (Myocastor coypus) in Louisiana, you can now view streaming video of a report from Comedy Central's The Daily Show. To view the video, which requires Real Player, go here and click on the photo above "Unendangered Species." While the report follows the typical Daily Show format of insulting the interviewees, they still manage to get some interesting points across. Be prepared to laugh, and if you're easily offended, don't click! Perhaps Comedy Central is on some kind of nutria kick; I recently read that one of their other shows, Insomniac, featured a segment with host Dave Attell on a nutria-hunting trip with the New Orleans police. You can read his diary entry about it by going here and placing your mouse over the photo of Dave with a gun (5th one in).

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Saturday, February 08, 2003


Hawaii is dealing with invasions of several different species of seaweed (marine algae), according to this article from the Honolulu Advertiser. It's getting so bad that over the past six months, volunteers have removed more than 20 tons of Gracilaria salicornia from Waikiki reef, but they still don't have the upper hand. There are actually five major invasive seaweeds, also known as limu, threatening the coasts of Hawaii. You can read about them in detail at the Alien and Invasive Algae in Hawaii web site, created by Jennifer Smith, a grad student who spearheaded the seaweed removal efforts. Here's a link to an older article on the subject.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

A long way from home

There's an Associated Press article appearing in several newspapers today about a flock of tropical parrots that make their home in Seward Park (Seattle, Washington). The article doesn't even mention what species of parrot they are, but after a bit of sleuthing I found this blurb which says the parrots, native to Peru, are either Chapman's mitred conures (Aratinga mitrata alticola) or scarlet-fronted conures (Aratinga wagleri frontata). Both are kept as pets, though it is unclear whether the flock is the result of an accidental escape, or abandonment by the former owner. This article has more information about the flock, made up of about 10 parrots, which have been in the park for over a decade.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Messing with Texas, and more...

A few good articles have shown up today:

  • From the Environment News Service, details of a report just released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, outlining the impact of invasive species on the state of Texas.
  • Also from ENS, this report about a study in the journal Ecology. Results of the study indicate that areas subject to frequent flooding have more non-native plants. You can read the abstract here.
  • From BBC News, this article about the economic and ecological costs of non-native species introduced into Africa. One perspective not mentioned in the article is the potential usefulness of some of the invasives, like water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). You can read the full press release from the World Conservation Union (IUCN), which produced an educational booklet on the subject, by clicking here (.pdf file).
  • Finally, from the journal Nature, two short articles about the enemy release hypothesis, demonstrating that non-native organisms tend to have fewer "enemies" associated with them when compared to native species. One article is about plant pathogens (fungi, smut and the like), the other is about parasites on animals. You'll need a subscription (or a library with one) to read more than the first paragraph.

Thanks to members of the ALIENS-L listerserver and Woody for providing information about these articles.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Purple Loosestrife Patrol

I just added a hat to my Invasive Species Weblog store. If you're out releasing beetles or cutting and pulling purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) this summer, you'll want to be wearing one of these!

Purple Loosestrife Patrol baseball cap link

Monday, February 03, 2003

Take Action Now!

The Union of Concerned Scientists sent out a "Sound Science Initiative" alert today about the need for co-sponsors for the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act, due to be introduced to Congress in a week or so. They are asking members of their network of scientists to call their senators and representatives to urge them to sign on. You can read and send a form letter to your Congresspeople by clicking here. You don't even need to know their names, the form determines it by your zip code (Note that there does not appear to be any preview, the email is just sent without confirming it with you, so be careful if you change anything!)

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Britain Bombarded by Invasive Plants

A recent study by the non-profit UK group Plantlife indicates that the invasion of non-native plants into Britain has been more successful than most people would expect. According to this article at Guardian Unlimited, the study divided Britain into over 3000 squares of land, and 82% of those blocks contained at least one of the top fifteen invasive plants. Interestingly, while some of the top species, like Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), were introduced over a century ago, there are also successful invaders like Australian swamp stonecrop (Crassula helmsii, also known as New Zealand pygmy weed), which needed only 50 years to get to the top of the list, and floating pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides), which has only been in the UK since around 1990.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Plans for Lake Austin frozen, temporarily

Looks like the plan to release grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) into Lake Austin, to fight the invasive aquatic plant hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), has been put on hold. According to this article from News 8 Austin, a Texas judge granted a two-week restraining order preventing the release. Before the two weeks are up, he will hear from a group of bass fishermen ("S.M.A.R.T.") protesting the release, as well as from state workers who support it. The fishermen are concerned that the grass carp will not limit themselves to eating hydrilla, making them a threat to all the vegetation in Lake Austin. The article has links to full coverage of the Lake Austin saga at the bottom of the page. You can also browse two other blog entries on the subject by clicking here.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listerserver for posting a link to this article.

Friday, January 31, 2003

Tick Talk

A species of tick never before seen in Japan is attacking beetles and passing along a deadly bacteria, according to this article from The Japan Times Online. In America, this probably wouldn't be big news, but it is grabbing national headlines in Japan, where beetles are popular pets. Scientists suspect that the tick is not native, and was likely imported along with beetles collected from Africa or elsewhere in Asia. The concern that the tick will spread to native beetles is leading to calls for tighter restrictions on the import of non-native species.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Lippia Service

Another ground cover gone crazy: The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that lippia (Phyla canescens), once touted as the key ingredient for a "no-mow" lawn, has become a persistent weed in parts of Australia. Among other problems caused by this low-growing invader, the plants suck water from the soil with deep roots, leading to soil erosion. Populations have thus far proven very difficult to eradicate, and restoration of infested areas has been complicated by the fact that the plants release long-lasting toxins into the soil as they grow, impeding the growth of other species.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Trust us, Japan, they're not that cute!

A fisherman casting lines in the Shingashigawa River in Japan got a surprise when, instead of the carp he was looking for, he reeled in a nutria (Myocastor coypus), a large South American rodent. According to this article from The Asahi Shimbun, the nutria, affectionately named "Coypu-kun," was rather tame and ate from the fisherman's hand. Nutria are sometimes seen in rivers and swamps in Japan, having escaped or been released from failed fur farms.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Moth Man!

A man in New Zealand has been charged with recklessly violating the NZ Biosecurity Act by repeatedly importing foreign moth and butterfly eggs. According to this article from HortNews, one of the species was the pale tussock moth (I am assuming they mean Dasychira pudibunda, but in the U.S., this common name refers to Halysidota tesselaris), considered to be at high risk of infesting fruit trees and birch trees if allowed to escape (The country has previously dealt with tussock moth outbreaks). The culprit, who was keeping the creatures in jars in his bedroom (bleah!!!), claimed ignorance of the laws barring insect imports, but did admit to being aware of the danger if any insects escaped. There is currently an effort underway to publicize the UK company that provided the eggs, and to ban them from doing further business in New Zealand.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Restoring the Riverbank

The Tweed River in Scotland is about to become the focus of a massive giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) eradication project, according to this article from Scotland on Sunday. As part of the three-year, 375,000 BP ($612,000 USD) program, over 400 miles of the riverbank, infested with the invasive, toxic plant, will be sprayed with herbicide. To learn more about the Tweed Forum's Invasives Project, which targets Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) as well as giant hogweed, go here.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Malaysian Pest Management

A pair of articles on invasive species appeared in today's edition of Malaysia's New Straits Times. The first is about agricultural pests and regulations that are in effect to prevent their introduction. The article provides details on several pest species that threaten crops (like mango, tobacco, and cocoa), and gives examples of government prevention efforts, which included the installation of a tunnel, at the national airport, that blows air on passengers, to remove any spores that could be on their bodies. The second article is about the various pests that have been discovered during inspections, from itchgrass (Rottboellia cochinchinensis) to the Medfly (Ceratitis capitata). Bonus points to the New Straits Times for including the scientific names of the pests!

Saturday, January 25, 2003

But does it smell like Garlic Mustard?

Check out the new Garlic Mustard Coffee Mug at the Invasive Species Weblog store. Yours for only $11.99. I admit, that's kind of expensive, but when was the last time you had the opportunity to buy a coffee mug that promotes invasive species awareness? And to answer that first question, the mugs are unscented.

garlic mustard mug image

Friday, January 24, 2003

Bad things come in 3's

As much as state officials in North Dakota hated leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), they have learned to hate yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) even more. So much so, that, according to this article from the Bismarck Tribune, the state senate unanimously passed a bill establishing a zero tolerance policy for the invasive plant. Going beyond existing federal regulations, the law makes it illegal to sell agricultural seed if it contains any yellow starthistle. Also being eyed suspiciously by state officials: saltcedar (Tamarix spp.). To see the text of the bill, click here.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Marine algae seeks fame, possible book deal

These days we hear a lot about the invasive Caulerpa taxifolia, often referred to as "Killer Algae." Turns out that it's lesser known congener from the Pacific Ocean, C. brachypus, is causing major problems off the coast of Florida. As reported at Science Daily, the algae, only recently discovered in U.S. waters, is now smothering coral reefs near Palm Beach County. Dr. Brian Lapointe of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution has received EPA funds to study the invasion, with the first surveys scheduled to start today. According to Dr. Lapointe, one of the main contributions to the ongoing problem of marine algal blooms is the discharge of sewage. Here's a link to an older article on the subject, from the Naples Daily News.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Invasive Scuds

I have to admit, I had no idea what a scud was, until today. According to this article from the Northwest Indiana Times, and this more detailed article from the University of Illinois, scuds are crustaceans, and the non-native species Apocorophium lacustre has been found in the Illinois River. For now, the scuds at least making the river cleaner, but if their populations expand, they are expected to wreak havoc on the food web. While there are scuds native to the Illinois River, this species is from Atlantic coastal wetlands, and is thought to have been introduced via ships' ballast.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Starlings in a fog?

There's a battle that's been brewing between the city of Indianapolis, Indiana and several flocks of starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). According to this article from the Indianapolis Star, the animal rights group Fund for Animals, outraged at a task force's decision to poison the birds, offered free training and use of a fogging machine. The machine sprays methyl anthranilate, which has been effective at permanently scaring this non-native species away. Methyl anthranilate is a food additive and is harmless to humans. In the long term, I don't see how the fogging can be an effective solution, since the birds will just end up roosting someplace else. Instead, I prefer Mike Redmond's idea "If you can't beat 'em, then eat 'em!" The Indianapolis Star has featured several articles about the starling dilemma over the past couple of weeks, including one with general questions and answers and one about the initial delay in the planned eradication.


Monday, January 20, 2003

From "harmless ornamental" to "killer algae"

From the San Francisco Chronicle comes this excellent article about the invasive algae Caulerpa taxifolia. Colin Woodard reports on the history of this marine algae, and its suspected mutation from a harmless ornamental species into the "killer algae" it is often known as today. The article includes the perspectives of people dealing with Caulerpa invasion all over the world, as well as the feelings of aquarium hobbyists who are against banning the entire genus in an effort to prevent the introduction of a single species.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Invasives Looming in the Background

New, for your downloading pleasure: a new set of backgrounds has been uploaded to my seamless tiles web site. This set features 15 tiles created using photos of 6 different invasive plants, including tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata). Feel free to download the tiles, which are freeware, to use tham as desktop wallpaper, as webpage backgrounds, or whatever other uses you want.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Resisting Invasion

Scientists at the University of Montana have begun a five-year research project that will test the ability of native plants to resist invasion by non-native species. According to this article from the Billings Gazette, dozens of native plants will be grown in plots and exposed to different environmental conditions, and eventually tested against such invasives as spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) and St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum). One goal of the study is to better understand how to create native plant communities that will give revegetation projects the best chance of success.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Be aware, be very aware

February 24-28 is the fourth annual National Invasive Weeds Awareness Week. Held in Washington D.C., the event includes presentations by government agencies, posters and exhibits on display at the U.S. Botanic Garden conservatory, and the chance for you to set up meetings with your state senators and representatives. The registration fee is an affordable $35. If you're interested in presenting a poster, the deadline for submission is February 1st. Rumor has it that Woody Weed may make a special appearance.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Risk assessment for Hawaii

Researchers have completed a risk assessment study that screens plants to determine the risk of a species becoming invasive if it is introduced to Hawaii. According to this article from the from the Star Bulletin, there is talk of implementing a policy that requires evaluation of any species not on a pre-approved "white" list before it can be imported into the state. Some in the nursery/landscape industry are concerned that the policy would be too strict, and would prefer to work with the state to come up with voluntary guidelines. But Hawaii has already been subjected to such devastation from intentionally introduced plants and animals, it is likely that officials will lean towards legislation that makes regulation mandatory. You can read more about the risk assessment procedure, developed by scientists at the University of Hawaii, by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

That's not amusing, not one bit

According to this article in the People's Daily, the Fishery Department of the government of China has recommended banning the importation of the South American piranha (Serrasalmus spp.) and eradicating what is already in the country. The carnivorous fish, known as "fish-wolf" in China, was first introduced there in the mid-1980's, as an attraction in amusement parks. Piranha are now considered a threat to the country's freshwater ecosystems.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Treasure Hunt

The Invasive Species Weblog is now equipped with a search engine. In the panel to your left, there is now a search window. So if you got here from another search engine but the subject you were searching for ins't on this page, or if you just want to see if there are blog entries on a certain topic, Atomz Search is here to help!

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Booming Populations of Pike

Lake Davis, a California lake close to Reno, Nevada, is being overrun with the invasive northern pike (Esox lucius ), a potential threat to the trout fishery there. According to this article in the Reno Gazette Journal, officials are fighting back by literally blasting the fish out of existence. Starting this spring, when the ice on the lake has begun to melt, a blasting cord will be used to kill the fish with an underwater shockwave. Any trout killed will be replaced. Officials know that this is only a temporary fix, and are looking for a more permanent way of eliminating northern pike from the lake. There is also great concern that the fish will spread to the nearby San Joaquin river delta, where they could impact salmon fisheries. Northern pike, while native to North America, is not native to the west coast. Lake Davis is a man-made lake.

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