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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.


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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dubai Dubai Do!  

Gulf News has an interesting article about invasive species in Dubai. Scientists from the Wadi Fish Project have been finding everything from American red-eared slider turtlesre (Trachemys scripta elegans), abandoned as unwanted pets, to tilapia, stocked to provide fishing opportunities. An intriguing look at introduced species issues in a country that gets little environmental press coverage here in the USA. This older article at UAE Interact mentions additional non-native species present in the United Arab Emirates, including parakeets, mynahs and crows, and the Floridian snail Polygyra cereolus.

This marks the first post about the UAE on the ISW.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Lessoning Loosestrife  

From a meeting I recently attended comes news that Mass Audubon has developed "Lessoning Loosestrife," a standards-based curriculum that deals specifically with purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and its impact on wetlands. They have even released the lessons online so that others can download the files for free. Topics range from wetland monitoring to the use of beetles as a biological control for the loosestrife. The project was funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, so it's really nice to see the results shared with others who might be interested in incorporating this into their own curricula.

Bonus points to Mass Audubon for using a punny title, making my job here so much easier ;-).

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Trouble With Truffles  

A chinese truffle is threatening native truffles in Europe, according to this article from BBC News. The discovery that the Chinese black truffle (Tuber indicum) had established in the wild in Italy seems to have come as no surprise to scientists, who are at once disheartened and concerned about the potential impact to the prized native Perigord white truffle (Tuber melanosporum). You can read the full story in a letter in the journal New Phytologist (hooray for free content!). Also, keep in mind that this is more than just an ecological issue - truffles are an agricultural product that fetches a high price, and Europeans are none too happy about even allowing black truffles to be imported from China.

Thanks to biosparite for sending in a link to the article, and for suggesting the title...really, if I could just get you guys to actually write the posts for me too, I'd be all set ;-).

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Circuit City  

Reports at the Times Online (and elsewhere) are indicating that the state of Texas is under attack from electronics-eating ants. The "crazy rasberry ant" (no, that's not a typo, they're named after the exterminator who brought them to attention), which for now has been identified taxonomically only as "Paratrechina sp. nr. pubens," was discovered in Texas back in 2002. Since then, the ant has been a nuisance for homeowners and businesses, invading electrical equipment and sometimes causing it to short out. No one knows exactly why the ants are attracted to electrical equipment, but they are not the only species known to be. As the article notes, circuitry is not the crazy rasberry ant's only sustenance - they also eat everything from lady beetles to baby birds, and even fire ants.

These ants do sound pretty crazy, but not as crazy as the people photographed with the ants running up their arms. That's just INSANE.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

But Does It Have A Popcorn Button?  

An article in New Scientist details an interesting technique for dealing with ballast invaders: zap them with microwaves. Researchers at Louisiana State University have developed industrial-strength microwave generators that can heat ballast water to 55'C (131'F), killing potentially invasive aquatic organisms (and everything else as well!). Now they're working to find a way to integrate the technology into ships, providing a relatively cheap and effective method of treating ballast water. If you want to learn more, check out the original research, published in last month's issue of Environmental Science & Technology (bonus points to them for providing the entire article free of charge!).

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

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Postal Service  

In case you are wondering why the posts aren't quite so "daily" here at the ISW, it is because I have a new job that came with a new website and I have been blogging a bit over there. The Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project is, as you can guess, focused on the state of Massachusetts, so the flavor of the posting there is decidedly New England-centric. Feel free to stop by.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fun With Weeding  

In my yard today...

  • Pulled: 20 Norway maple seedlings (Acer platanoides)
  • Cut: 7 Norway maple saplings/suckers (note to self: get Weed Wrench!)
  • Severed: 5 Asiatic bittersweet vines (Celastrus orbiculatus)
  • Spared (from said bittersweet vines): 2 cherries, 2 maples, 2 dogwoods, 1 sassafras
  • Eyed with disdain: blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis) growing in my compost pile

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

DidyMaryland  

In case you missed it in the Twitter feed, Maryland announced Tuesday that they are the latest state to become host to the nasty invasive alga affectionately known as "rock snot" (Didymosphenia geminata, or didymo). The freshwater algae was discovered by anglers (go anglers! :-)) at Gunpowder Falls. Click through to the press release for a map of the area and contact information if you're in Maryland and think you've found didymo.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Psyllid Sting  

The Telegraph has a report today about plans to introduce a biological control to Britain in the hopes of squashing the invasion of Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, Reynoutria japonica, Polygonum cuspidatum, etc. etc.) in that country. This news is significant not because of the control (a sap-sucking insect) or the weed (perhaps the very bane of the UK) but for the fact that it would be the first introduced species ever approved for use as a biological control in Britain. The proposal still needs to go through a public review, so the psyllids would be on the attack no sooner than the summer of 2009. The insect in question appears to be Aphalara itadori, a psyllid that attacks knotweed stands in its native Japan. You can check out a photo of it here (scroll almost all the way down the page).

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Washington State Knotweed  

If you are in Washington State and you know some good sites to check out Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, Polygonum cuspidatum, Reynoutria japonica, et al.) or Giant knotweed...and especially if you are willing to give a quick tour of those sites, please drop me an email (jennforman AT knottybits DOT COM). My Japanese photographer friend, Koichi, is planning a West Coast visit this summer, and I've been having trouble getting in touch with my contacts there.

For more about Koichi's interesting artistic study of Japanese knotweed, click here and here.

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