Saturday, November 30, 2002

King of the World

Hailing from the far eastern parts of Russia, the King crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) is invading Norway and killing native crabs along the way. As reported in this BBC article, the crabs have been in Norwegian water for about 30 years, and are now being found further north than ever before. While the crabs have no natural enemies, Norway is upping the annual quota for fishermen who wish to catch and sell them. Interestingly, the BBC published this article online in August 2000, in which they put a more positive spin on the story, claiming that the crabs were benign.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Seaweed tries to go bi-coastal

Scientists in the San Francisco area have begun an eradication program for the east coast brown algae known as rockweed (Ascophyllum nodosum), according to this article from The Argus Online. While this seaweed has been known on the west coast for over a quarter of a century, researchers noted its recent rapid spread and decided to take action. Rockweed is suspected to have been introduced through its use as a packing material for seafood and bait.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Gobble, gobble, gobble

Suburban residents in Marin County, California are being overrun by wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), according to this story from KRON (Channel 4). The turkeys, native to other parts of the U.S., were introduced to California for hunting over a century ago. A sudden population explosion has the birds strutting around homeowners' gardens, and many are not amused. As one resident commented, "...when they start eating my tomatoes and stuff, then the war's on."

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Raising Canes

At first glance, this looks like a nice story about a pulp mill trying to make good use of a nasty invasive plant. Unfortunately, it turns out that Samoa Pacific Cellulose (SPC), which started shipping giant reed (giant cane, Arundo donax) after wood chips and demand for them both became scarce, can't make a decent profit from buying the grass that's collected in small batches from infested sites across the country. The company's idea is to farm the stuff, planting 5000 acres of it in Central Valley, California. Luckily for this part of California, giant reed doesn't seem to grow very well there (for now), and though this is frustrating for SPC, it does mean that the chance of the species becoming invasive there is lessened. Still, there is concern about the potential for the species to spread to wetlands from the site where it will be planted or during transport. SPC is marketing the pulp under the trade name "Samoa cane," which they insist is proprietary. The grass yields short fibers that can be used for products like tissue paper, and because the pulp is wood-free, it may command a higher price in U.S. markets as well as overseas.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Aural Invasion

Missing boats, disappearing it a murder mystery, or are Invasive Species wreaking havoc? Newsbob Industries has created an old-time radio show for your listening pleasure. Listen as the characters use evidence and cheesy sound effects to figure out the mystery of what's plaguing the Great Lakes, while they teach you about various invasive species issues.

Monday, November 25, 2002

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out

A paper published in the December issue of the journal Conservation Biology concludes that European earthworms (including Eisenia hortensis) are threatening the rare goblin fern (Botrychium mormo) in forests in Minnesota. North American earthworms are found mostly in more southerly climates, so if you live in the northern parts of the continent, it's likely that all the earthworms you see are introduced. The addition of the earthworms to the forest ecosystem causes a decrease in the thickness of the forest floor. The study, done by Michael Gundale at Michigan Technological University, showed that goblin ferns were missing from parts of the forest where the litter layer was thinner. You can read about a similar study here.

Thanks to ScienceDaily for posting information about this study.

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Shoo Fushou!

As reported in the People's Daily, researchers and government officials in China are calling for stricter regulations governing the introduction of non-native species, following two high profile cases of invading non-native species. The Fushou snail (I think the article is referring to the golden apple snail Pomacea canaliculata, but I am not positive) and the water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), both intentionally introduced South American natives, have invaded aquatic ecosystems in China, causing environmental and economic damage, and evading attempts to control them. While in America we don't often hear about invasive species in Asian countries, it turns out that many of them are actually native to our part of the world. You can read a bit more about invasive species in China by clicking here.

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

Friday, November 22, 2002

Maui Wowie

Officials in Maui are concerned about four veiled chameleons (Chameleo calyptratus) found in the wild over the past eight months. The reptiles, native to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, are often kept as pets, but can survive outdoors in tropical climates. They have no natural predators in Maui, where it is illegal to own one, and are thought to pose a threat to native insects, birds and vegetation if they establish wild populations.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Shockingly good news

Maryland officials are declaring the eradication program for the snakehead fish (Channa spp.) a success, according to this article from A recent survey of the affected ponds (by electroshock) indicated that there were no more snakeheads, the evidence being that no fish floated to the pond surface after the shock was applied. The article concludes that quick action has prevented the snakeheads from spreading to the nearby Little Patuxent River, but there is no mention of any surveys done there, so I'm not sure how they can know this for sure. While it is estimated to have cost Maryland about $50,000 to remove the snakeheads, it is possible that this came with a greater ecological cost, since all the fish life was eradicated, and probably some aquatic invertebrate species as well. Apparently the rotenone application was a bit too effective, and back in September Maryland wildlife officials, worried that the piscicide would spread, added a neutralizer to the pond

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Acting out for clean water

Four Attorneys General from states bordering the Great Lakes (Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York) have submitted a court brief requesting assistance from the EPA in the battle against invasive species. They are specifically targeting marine invasives transported in ballast water, according to this article from the Environment News Service. Michigan already has a ballast water monitoring program in place, but is hoping to encourage stricter regulations by having ballast regulated under the Federal Clean Water Act.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

But they're so cute and fuzzy!

Louisiana officials are so desperate to get rid of the invasive Argentinian rodent known as the nutria (Myocastor coypus ), they've started a new program that puts a $4 bounty on each one. According to this story, the goal is to rid the state of 400,000 nutria, also known as coypu, by the end of the winter. In the meantime, having failed to convince Americans that nutria are good eatin', the state is working to develop a market for nutria meat in Asia. You can find nutria recipes here, and don't forget to check out the NutriaSuite Theme Song, which is actually quite nice.

Update 2/2006: The NutriaSuite song has disappeared, but in its place, the ISW points you to Spinn's most excellent "O Nutria." An excerpt:

"Don't listen to naysayers and detractors Who say you're just a rat 'Cause a rat never tasted so good in gumbo And a pound of you's got 7 grams of fat"
Bonus points to Greg Peters and Scott Fischer for that punk coda at the end - definitely worth a listen.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Is Michigan the new Emerald Isle?

Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan has stepped up the fight in her home state against the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). According to a report at, the Senator has requested federal funds from the USDA to battle the borers, which have already destroyed half of the state's ash trees. In the meantime, officials are warning people to take caution to avoid spreading the emerald ash borers to other states or up into Canada in contaminated firewood or other wood products, as reported last month in The Oakland Press. Sen. Stabenow has taken up environmental issues before, having recently urged the US Fisheries and Wildlife Service (along with Senator Carl Levin) to list several species of carp as injurious under the Lacey Act, with the goal of prohibiting their importation.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Fern Frenzy

The Honolulu Advertiser is reporting that efforts to clear the invasive aquatic fern Salvinia molesta from Lake Wilson, Oahu may be failing. The salvinia, a South American native, is on the federal noxious weed list. State and local officials have been working to remove the plants by mechanical means, with the hope that they can avoid treating the lake with chemicals that would harm other flora and fauna. The success of the salvinia has been tied to high levels of nutrients in this manmade lake, which regularly receives effluent from a wastewater treatment plant on a nearby river.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Here are a few great web sites gleaned from the Mass Bays "Eyes on the Estuaries" marine invasive species conference, held this past Thursday and Friday:

  • Rapa whelk (Rapana venosa) research from Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
  • The Marine Invertebrate Diversity Initiative (MIDI) website. The Northeast Aquatic Nuisance Species (NEANS) Panel and the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) will be collaborating with MIDI to create MarineID, an online repository of marine invasive species data.
  • The Aquatic Nuisance Species Clearinghouse is a great place to find resources. Though most of the major ones are not free, there are many fact sheets and identification cards that are.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Sunday Brunch with Rhinos?

An Indian and an American organization are partnering to get the mimosas away from the rhinos in Kaziranga National Park, India. (Not those mimosas!) A species of mimosa, a leguminous creeping plant originally introduced to nearby tea gardens for its capabilities as a nitrogen fixer, has escaped cultivation, and is now displacing native grasses and poisoning rhinos and other mammals with a toxin (mimosin). The Enviromental News Network has a detailed report.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Finch Pinch

From the Environment News Service (by way of heavy discussion on the ALIENS-L listserver) comes this article about parasites infecting Darwin's finches. The finches, theorized by Darwin to have evolved from a single species on the Galapagos Islands into 13 different species, have been infected with fly parasites, including Philornis downsi. Scientists have yet to confirm that the parasites are causing increasedmortality of the birds.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

One fish, two fish, black fish, blue fish

Waterways in Japan are being overrun with non-native fish species, including American natives like black bass and blue-gill (Lepomis macrochirus). While the Japanese apparently like sport fishing for black bass and other non-natives, they don't like eating them. Commercial fishermen are bearing the consequences, pulling up tons of fish that no one wants. According to The Yomiuri Shimbun, the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo now accepts donations of these fish and feeds them to its sea lions and birds. This is much better than the alternative, which was basically letting the catches rot while trying to find a way to dispose of them, but is likely a short-term solution.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Predicting Fish Invasions

The journal Nature is reporting on work published in the journal Science describing a mathematical model developed to predict which non-native species will become invasive. The researchers used the model to successfully predict about 90% of the fish invasions into the Great Lakes. You can read another version of the report at CBS News, but if you want to read even the abstract of the original article, you'll have to log in (the full text is for paid subscribers only).

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Tipping the Scales

A relatively new scale insect is wreaking havoc in South Florida, according to a story in the Sun-Sentinel. The lobate lac scale (Paratachardina lobata lobata), first seen in 1999, has the ability to live on more than 120 different host plants, many of which are native to Florida. The species, native to India and Sri Lanka, also attacks fruit trees and ornamental shrubs, alarming ecologists and horticulturalists alike.

Thanks to the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers web site for providing a link to this story.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Green Crab Cakes and Ham?

The Food Technology Centre of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island is getting closer to debuting food products using the meat of the invasive European green crab (Carcinus maenas). According to this article, they expect to be selling crab cakes in the southern U.S. by this winter. I'll take a double order please! :-)

Friday, November 08, 2002

Melaleuca Menace

Scientists from the Agricultural Research Service have released a new biological control for the invasive melaleuca tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia) in southern Florida. The insect, Boreioglycaspis melaleucae, was chosen based on the damage it does to melaleuca in their native Australia. Scientists are hoping that the insects will work in concert with the melaleuca leaf weevil (also called the melaleuca snout beetle), Oxyops vitiosa, a biological control first introduced in 1997. You can read additional information about this project from the ARS here. There are several other biological control agents that have been introduced to help slow the spread of melaleuca.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Word Play

Kim Todd has written a piece for grist magazine titled "Botanically Correct." In it, she discusses the need for a better language to describe invasive species, touching on how words like "alien" and "exotic" can be misinterpreted, since they are also used to describe people. Kim is also author of a great book, "Tinkering with Eden."

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Jane's Salvation, Paterson's Curse

40,000 crown weevils (Mogulones larvatus) have been released throughout Southern Australia in order to help manage populations of the invasive weed salvation Jane (Echium plantagineum), also known as Paterson's Curse. According to this article from the Port Lincoln Times, scientists already recognize that it is too late to eradicate the Mediterranean weed, and are hoping instead to control it. There have apparently been six different insects introduced to Australia as a biocontrol for this species.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Fire the Cannons!

What do you do when your bridge is covered with starling droppings (Sturnus vulgaris)? When all else fails, bring in the cannons. At least that's what they're resorting to on I-5 in Seattle, Washington, according to this article in The Seattle Times. The cannons fire loud propane blasts rather than releasing projectiles. Officials are hoping the booms will be enough to scare away the starlings, which roost in far greater numbers than the pigeons that flocked to the bridge in past years.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

The Vale of the Vole shrinks

The water vole (Arvicola terrestris), whose populations are on the decline throughout Britain, is now thought to be extinct in Devon and Cornwall. According to this article from The Independent, the culprit is thought to be the American mink (Mustela vison), whose wild populations began to expand in the late 1950s, several decades after they first began escaping from fur farms. While the mink do prey on water voles, the voles are also threatened by humans that mistake them for rats.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Houston, we have a problem.

Two articles from last week point out what most of us studying invasive species have known for a long time: invasives are a problem, have been for a long time, and we're not doing enough about it. First, this article in The Scientist discusses a recent report published by the General Accounting Office, which concludes that more work needs to be done and makes suggestions about cohesive ways to complete that work. There's also this article from Cleveland's The Plain Dealer (relegated to the sports section because of its fishing-related theme, I suppose), reporting on problems with invasive species in the Great Lakes region and the fact that the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has come out in support of prior reports about the significant threat posed by invasives.