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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.


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Monday, April 30, 2007

Im-Peared  

The Frederick News-Post has an interesting article about the Bradford pear's fall from grace. Once a favored street tree, Bradford pears (Pyrus calleryana, also known as Callery pear) have recently gained attention for their ability to naturalize and their propensity to split and crack after only twenty years of life. The article notes that urban plantings tend to aim for a more diverse mix of species, and of even include native trees.

For more ISW posts about Bradford pear, click here.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Weekend Photoblogging  

Garlic mustard is in bloom right now both in its native Europe and in North America, where it is typically considered an invasive plant. Here is a shot of it in its native range (The Netherlands):


Bibio lanigerus ( or marci?)/Alliaria petiolata - Kleine rouwvlieg/look-zonder-look
Originally uploaded by AnneTanne.

And here it is again in the USA:


garlic mustard visitor
Originally uploaded by cyanocorax.

Both are being visited by insects that are likely pollinating the flowers.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

New in the Literature  

Recently published journal articles you might find interesting:

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Haiku You - We Have A Winner!  

After much contemplation, including input from a second non-biologist judge, the ISW is pleased to announce that the winner of the 5th Bloggiversary Haiku Contest is:

m. reed, with her haiku about Cuscuta japonica:

Cuscuta. Dodder
Pale, alien spaghetti.
I will eat your trees.

Both judges found "Pale, alien spaghetti" quite evocative. Congratulations to "m." - she wins a cheesy prize from the ISW store.

An Honorable Mention goes to Michael for this vetching piece:

Remorseless vetch climbs
Pale spring colors reach for sun
Green and purple sea

Also, bonus points to Mr. Sun for opining about my middle school sense of humor. He is such a doofus! :-)

You can read all the haiku entries here. Thank you to everyone who entered and to all of those wishing the ISW a happy 5th bloggy birthday.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Viva La LBAM!  

According to this press release, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has just instituted a quarantine zone covering almost 200 square miles in an effort to combat the spread of the light brown apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana). The Australian moth, which was first discovered in California last month, is known to have caterpillars that feed on more than 250 different plant species, including, as it name suggests, apple and other trees in the rose family (peaches, plums, cherries and more). The quarantine covers the movement of any nursery stock and all fruits and veggies from areas including Marin County, Santa Clara County, and parts of San Francisco, and is expected to expand based on recent discoveries of new infestations. The CDFA has detailed maps (.pdf) of the quarantine regions but I can't seem to find a nice statewide map showing the spread.

Thanks to Michael K. for sending in a link to this story.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Game Fish Theory  

According to this report at The Mining Journal (and many other sources), a recent government study concluded that sport fishing in Lake Michigan has the serious potential to be negatively impacted by invasive species. A team of scientists from the USGS Great Lakes Science Center surveys the lake annually, and in fall 2006 they found that while prey fish were at their lowest levels since the 1970s, populations of invasive species like the round goby and the zebra mussel were at their highest ever recorded. Unfortunately, prey fish are crucial food sources for larger game fish, like salmon and alewife, that fishermen seek. The researchers are concerned that zebra and quagga mussels are consuming nutrients that would typically be taken up by zooplankton and other tiny organisms that prey fish typically eat, causing prey fish populations to dwindle and leading to crashes in game fish populations as well. Add to this the confounding fact that Lake Michigan is stocked with millions of game fish annually just to keep populations "stable" and you've got...a complicated mess.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Teach Your Children Well  

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, along with a group of experts*, has debuted a new invasive weed curriculum, Alien Invasion: Plants on the Move, a series of seven units covering various aspects of the ecology, data collection and management of weedy plants. Each unit splits out into three sections aimed at elementary, middle and high school students. Some of the activities, like the elementary school weed inventory, sound like a lot of fun. Others, like the high school-level weed prevention, sound rather silly:

Materials:
  • milkweed pod or some other plant with a large number of seeds that can easily spread by wind
  • fan
  1. Set up a fan in the classroom.
  2. Ask a student volunteer to remove the open milkweed pod from the classroom so the seeds don’t spread.
  3. As the student walks past the fan, turn on the fan and let the wind disperse the seeds.
  4. Ask students to clean up the mess.
  5. Discuss how it is easier to prevent weeds from entering an area than removing them once they have become established.

I LOVE Step 4! It brings back fond memories of a game I played with my younger brother called "52 Pickup" (funny, we only played that one time). Teachers should probably add Step 4b to this lesson plan: "Listen to high school students yell in disgust as they realize they've been tricked into cleaning up a huge mess."

*Well, that's what it said in the email I got, but the website gives creation and hosting credits to a private company.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging - Spotlight  

After a brief respite (flew south for the winter?), the Invasive Birds Weblog is back in full force. Recent posts have covered topics like introduced game birds in Hawaii and the reintroduction of trumpeter swans to the state of Michigan.

The Introduced Birds Weblog is written by John L. Trapp - bird aficionados will know him from the Birds Etcetera blog. I'm glad to have the IBW back and here's hoping John has no plans to go Cold Turkey again anytime soon!

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Weekend Photoblogging  

Wild Parrot Feeder
Originally uploaded by Dawn Endico.

From Dawn Endico comes this incredibly colorful shot of cherry-headed conures (Aratinga erythrogenys) being fed at Ferry Park in San Francisco, California. I was going to go on a bit about the whole parrot scene there but Dawn does such a good job of describing it (and linking it up) that you should just go visit the Flickr page for this photo. As a parrot owner, I think I can understand the joy this guy is feeling having the birds perching on him and enjoying their food, but as Dawn points out the feeding of these feral birds is generating some controversy and could soon be ending.

Bonus points to Dawn for sharing this photo under a Creative Commons license.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bio Blitzkrieg  

Blogger BioBlitz!

The 1st Annual Blogger BioBlitz has begun - are you Blitzing?

Update: More BioBlitz-related posts can be found here.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

New and Notable  

Some interesting new arrivals in the USA, courtesy of the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Alert System:

  • Congratulations to Georgia, the recipient of the Australian tubeworm Ficopomatus enigmaticus - only the second record of this species on the East Coast of the US (discovered May 2006).
  • As of August 2006, Maine's got yellow floating heart (Nymphoides peltata) - a whole ton of it covering a pond in Rockport. I guess it's not that surprising since until this record, Maine was the only state in the Northeast US without this aquatic plant.
  • Wyoming's got an established population of red-rim melania (Melanoides tuberculatus) in Grand Teton National Park (since June 2006). The mollusk was apparently introduced to the US via the aquarium industry.
  • Finally, and as usual, Puerto Rico brings us some new country-level records from the aquarium world:

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Devils In The Details  

An interesting story, perhaps a bit off-topic, comes to us from BerryBird at the Lake Loop blog. According to this report at Yahoo! News, scientists and wildlife officials have adopted extreme measures in their efforts to save the endangered Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii): they're shipping them to an island off the Australian coast.

Since the 1990s, Tasmanian devils have been ravaged by Devil Facial Tumor Disease, a cancer that threatens to wipe out the entire species, possibly within the next two decades. Now thirty healthy devils are being sent off to Maria Island, currently home to several endangered bird species. Tasmanian devils are considered to be mainly scavengers, but they occasionally do eat live prey, and some environmentalists are concerned about the potential effects this introduction will have on the island's birds. A representative of the Wildlife Conservation Society, an organization helping with the move, says that while there is a slight risk of harming the island ecosystem, the science behind the devil introduction is "very sophisticated." Not sure what that means, but as the also article notes, "scientists can only guess at the impact the introduced carnivores will have on the uninhabited island's ecology."

Are Aussies trading the the life of one endangered species for another?

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Haiku You!  

There is still time to get your entry in for the ISW 5th Bloggiversary Haiku Contest. Deadline is this Friday, April 20th, at 11:59pm EDT. Winner gets a prize from the ISW store, and his/her Haiku prominently displayed on the blog sidebar for an undetermined period of time.

Bloggiversary:
Write of invasive species
You could win a prize!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

You've Got A Feral Pig In PA  

The Tribune-Democrat is reporting that feral pig (Sus scrofa) populations in Pennsylvania are on the rise due to hunting. While that may seem counterintuitive, there are actually two good reasons why this is the case: 1) Hunting reserves have been importing the pigs to meet hunter demand and 2) Escaped pigs have responded to being hunted by dispersing into small groups and hiding, making them difficult to manage.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission will be meeting later this month to consider putting a ban on the release of feral pigs into the wild. As this article at Lancaster Online notes, feral pigs are not considered game animals in Pennsylvania, and as such are not subject to hunting regulations. It will be interesting to see how this is resolved, with the juxtaposition of concerns of sports hunters, pig farmers, state and local government officials and environmentalists. Do I smell bacon???

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Bee Leave It Or Not  

With all the talk lately about honeybees and CCD (wha? honeybees are Catholic? who knew?) some of you might have missed the fact that Hawaiian beekeepers got some bad news of their own this week. The Star-Bulletin is reporting that Varroa mites (Varroa jacobsonii) have made their way to the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The mites have only been reported by one beekeeper so far (and he's suggesting that Hawaii bring in the National Guard to assist!), but at a few different locations around the island. As they work to determine a plan of action, officials at the state Department of Agriculture are asking anyone who thinks they might have infected bees to contact them ASAP.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Weekend Shameless Self Promotion  

For anyone interested in Life on the Purple Loosestrife, a citizen scientist project I started to photodocument insects and other organisms using purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), I've posted a pdf version of a presentation I gave last week at the 4th Annual Massachusetts Water Resources Research Center Conference.

Since the LOTPL Project is all volunteer, all public, I felt it was only fair for any data I collect to be public as well. If you want more information, you can check out the Life on the Purple Loosestrife Flickr group, or even download the latest raw data in an Excel file.

Along with its sister project, Life on the Japanese Knotweed, this has turned out to be a very rewarding experience for me, and hopefully for some of the volunteers too :-). I am looking forward to collecting another season's worth of data this summer and hopefully recruiting some new volunteers as well!

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Weekend Photoblogging  

The Brown Winter
Originally uploaded by Jacob Krejci.

I almost didn't post this photo because it's from January, but darnit it's about to snow here in Massachusetts, so a photo from South Carolina called "The Brown Winter" seems appropriate. Unfortunately in this case, the culprit is not snow, but kudzu, or as the photographer puts it, "a brown blanket of death."

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Happy 5th Bloggiversary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111eleven  

It was 5 years ago today that I first started the Invasive Species Weblog. It took less than a week after that for the puns and general snarkiness to start leaking in. Thank you, readers, for all the visits, comments and post suggestions. Five feels old in internet years!

How will I be celebrating this 5-year-bloggiversary? By getting a root canal. :-( While I am hopped up on Valium and being tortured by my endodontist, I thought I would hold a contest:

Write me an Invasive Species Haiku and post it below. Best one wins the author a prize.

I'll start:

For you, dear readers
Invasive Species Weblog
Full of aliens

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

In Plane View  

A very cool new study about air travel as a vector for invasive species is out in the current issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: B (the "B" is for Biological Sciences). Authors Andrew Tatum and Simon Hay analyzed the networks that cross the globe (44,000+ flight routes!), and using the concept that a species is more likely to be a threat to a region with a climate that is similar to the region it originated from, they identified certain hotspots that were most at risk for non-native species introductions.

The most linkage between areas with similar climates occurs June through August, when air traffic reaches its peak. That means that at the same time that climates are best matched up, propagule pressure (numbers of non-native organisms that are introduced) is also at its highest. Hotspots where airports identified as being most at risk are clustered together include central and northern USA, the Caribbean, central-west Europe, Scandinavia and Eastern Asia. As the article points out in the concluding paragraph, "organisms have never had a better chance at expanding their ranges."

If you're not feeling scientificky you may be more interested in the Guardian's version of the story. Double bonus points to the RS of L for making the full text of the article available for free!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tangled Bank is Here!  

A new edition of the Tangled Bank is up over at Aetiology. Lots of scientificky bloggy goodness! (Yes, I made up that word)

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Can't See The Forest For The Grass  

EurekAlert! has this story about new research implicating Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) as an inhibitor of forest regeneration. The scientists conducting the study, which was done in Tennessee, noted that Microstegium can invade low-light habitats, and found that an increase in populations of the grass was correlated with a decrease in native woody plant biodiversity. Interested readers should check out this page, which includes a link to the full research article.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Cross The Pond  

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a request for their state's constituents: stop stocking your outdoor ponds with American bullfrog tadpoles. The American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), while native to the US, are only considered native in the far southeast part of Minnesota. Recent surveys have shown new naturalized bullfrog populations showing up all over the state. Part of the reason for this is likely that pet shops, nurseries and other sources for water gardening supplies are selling the tadpoles illegally. Though the darn things can still be sold legally, without a permit, for bait, which doesn't make sense to me given this dire-sounding press release.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Weekend Photoblogging  

Yellow flower
Originally uploaded by cyanocorax.

Cynthia from FieldMarking was down in New Orleans recently, volunteering to help clean up houses damaged during Hurricane Katrina. She posted a photo of a lovely yellow vine she notes is thriving in the area - unfortunately it's an invader from Central America known as cat's claw vine, Macfadyena ungus-cati.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Blind Boys of Georgia?  

The Ledger-Enquirer is reporting that Brahminy blind snakes (Ramphotyphlops braminus, also known as Brahminy worms) are now established in Georgia. No cause for alarm though, since, as the article proclaims, the snakes are not poisonous and "are considered harmless" - that of course means harmless to humans. Since it lives under the soil, my guess is that no one has a clue what kind of impact this Asian species is are having where it has become established. Besides being nearly sightless, Brahmniny blind snakes are also unusual in that they reproduce parthenogenetically (i.e. they don't need partners!), which certainly wouldn't hurt their chances of becoming established from sporadic introductions.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Illegal Aliens  

USA Today is reporting that there are aliens causing problems along the USA-Mexico border...and it turns out they're actually talking about alien plants. "Carrizo cane" spreads so fast and grows so tall that it is being blamed for providing cover for drug dealers and people trying to cross into the US illegally. It took a lot of Googling to track down the true identity of "Carizo cane" - the common name is attributed to Arundo donax, but also sometimes to Phragmites australis, and to other grasses as well. Finally, at the Journal of Homeland Security, I found proof: it is Arundo donax, also known by the common name giant reed.

The Department of Homeland Security is paying the US Department of Agriculture $1.5 million to help manage the problem, and from the article it sounds like this involves tracking down a biological control in the plant's native Europe. I find this slightly amusing in light of the fact that it was just a few months ago that Florida businesses were calling for permission to cultivate "e-grass" - the very same Arundo donax. Gee, hope that biocontrol doesn't spread...

Tip of the virtual hat to Ryan Grim over at Slate.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Corporate Response Ability  

Not Green Enough
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Starbucks has a new environmental activism campaign - I think it is called "Planet Green." It seems to be centered around an internet game that aims to educate us about global warming and reducing our carbon footprints.

So what's the best way to get the word out about your company's new campaign to reduce the world's carbon footprint? By giving out free bookmarks, of course...free bookmarks with paper disks containing wildflower seeds that you can plant and presumably make the world a better place.

Sounds nice, doesn't it? Except someone needs to tell Starbucks that "wildflower" is not the beautiful, perfect embodiment of do-gooding they seem to think it is (I tried, but they have yet to respond). What species are these? Where are they native to? Are they potentially invasive? I could not find out the answers to these questions, and that is why I am concerned.

Don't get me wrong, I see good parts to the Planet Green campaign - the game itself was informative (though I got 300 points for visiting a Starbucks and not so many for visiting the mayor to talk about climate change). Starbucks is also running a reusable mug campaign to reduce the number of disposable cups - that's a good thing.

But this is an environmental campaign - isn't anyone looking at the big picture? Sowing seeds from who-knows-where is equated with doing environmental good? The campaign is done in partnership with Global Green USA. They're an environmental organization, aren't they supposed to know better?

Are these wildflower seeds from invasive plants? Probably not. So why am I making a big deal out of this? Because by not informing the public about just what is in those little white disks, Starbucks is ignoring the issue of invasive species and encouraging its customers to do the same.

I promise to report back here when I find out the rest of the story, if you promise to be responsible gardeners and not plant anything without finding out what it is and where it came from :-).

Update 4/6/07: As per an NPR report this morning, looks like we can add BP (British Petroleum) to the list of corporations that think being green=spreading seed. The NOTCOT blog has photo proof. I have contacted BP as well and will post updated here.

Update 4/13/07: One seedling has already sprouted, but still no word from Starbucks. I did get a short note from BP saying that they were forwarding my concerns to the manager of marketing at Helios House.

Update 4/23/07: A second email has been sent to Starbucks, still no response, and no response yet from BP. Plus thisnext posts about some super cute Starbucks gift card holders containing...you guessed it...strips of paper embedded with wildflower seeds. Is plain recycled paper just not cool enough anymore? Why not try some treefree stuff, or my personal favorite, Bluejean Bond?

Also, as John Peter points out in the comments below and on the Invasive Notes blog, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society sends out packages of invasive forget-me-not seeds (Myosotis scorpioides) with their donation requests.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Fun With YouTube  

Via Technorati, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to hang out, I see that plenty of people are tagging their YouTube submissions with "invasive species." Some of these videos are quite entertaining:

  • From rienchien, a video of a brown anole lizard and a gecko. Both in Florida, both non-native there, and one eating the other! Awesome! (Not safe for the squeamish)
  • LeafMaker put together a five minute educational video about Japanese knotweed in the Great Lakes region of the US. It's a little trippy with the music and roadside driving and all, and I love the title fonts he uses. The video is actually pretty good, though at one point he does stand next to already-past-flowering stalks of knotweed and claim that they are about to burst ito flower (I think that was actually hybrid Fallopia x bohemica too, but never mind...).
  • From kieranpearson, coqui frogs at UMass Boston. Yes, my school has a coqui infestation in the greenhouse. Yes, it annoys me, even though we're in Boston, MA. Yep, I'm worried about climate change too.
  • From gurdonark, an animation of epically painful proportions. Plant invasions start in the backyard, dontcha know? (Let me know if you can make it all the way through this one - there's actually an educational message at the end.)
  • From ReallyLee, a photo montage of 71 pampas grass plants, naturalized in El Granada, CA. I like this - it is an interesting idea, and quite powerful, to show the photos streamed together in a video. Also, be sure not to miss the sequel: 90 more pampas grass plants.

Update 4/15/07: This got a small mention in the Boston Globe, have fun hunting for the linkback :-).

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Gudgeoned To Death  

Practical Fishkeeping is reporting that Environment Agency officials have removed more than 100,000 topmouth gudgeon fish (Pseudorasbora parva, or clicker barb) from Juniper Pond in Surrey, England. The Asian fish had taken over the pond, prompting concern that a flood could lead to them spreading into the nearby River Wey.

What the report doesn't get to until the middle of the page is that the "culling" was done with rotenone, a non-specific piscicide - that means any fish in the vicinity of the stuff would also have been killed (but then again, they found rogue goldfish in there too...).

Bonus points to PF for mentioning the scientific name of the fish! And tip of the virtual hat to budak for sending in the link to the story.

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