Friday, February 28, 2003

You don't know Jackrabbits

Normally, rabbits wouldn't pose a threat to an airplane, but at Miami International Airport, that is exactly what's happening. According to this article from the Sarasota Herald Tribune, the airport is populated by hundreds of jackrabbits (Lepus californicus), which are not native to southern Florida, that live in the grassy areas between runways. Problems have arisen because the jackrabbits are attracting turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) to the area, which can be very dangerous if a bird collides with a plane or gets sucked into an engine. Airport officials are working with the animal rights group PETA to try to solve the problem, but the bottom line is that if they can't scare the vultures away, the jackrabbits will have to go...and it won't be pretty.

Thursday, February 27, 2003


Australians living in the northern part of the continent are bracing themselves for the arrival of yellow crazy ants (Anoplolepis gracilipes), a species whose common name makes them sound pretty scary. According to this article from the Sydney Morning Herald, the ants have been found at more than 60 sites, and may have been introduced at an old American military base by ships traveling from southeast Asia. The ants are considered deadly, swarming over anything that gets in their way and spraying fiery formic acid on their enemies. Officials are hoping to eradicate the creatures, with a poison bait program already in place. The insects have been known on Christmas Island, off the northwest coast of Australia, for over 70 years, but they did not visibly impact the environment there until the 1990s.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003


Palm Beach County has taken yet another step back from their strict invasive plant policy (See previous blog entries here & here), as reported in the Sun-Sentinel. Under pressure from homeowners, the county commission voted Tuesday to exempt properties developed prior to 1986 from the law, which calls for the removal of nine invasive plant species. If those homes happen to be near an environmentally sensitive area, the plants do have to be removed, but the county will pay for it. For another take on the story, see this article from the Palm Beach Post.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Dousing the Flames

Today was the second and final day of Wyoming's Cheatgrass Awareness Conference, which featured presentations by a number of state and regional groups. As described in this press release posted at Yahoo!, results from a study by BASF Corporation and Synergy Resource Solutions indicate that the severity of cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) wildfires can be significantly reduced by applying an herbicide that targets annual plants. The herbicide tested in the study, known as Plateau, decreased the biomass ("fuel") available to burn, reducing flame height as well as the ability of the fire to spread. This type of proactive management should make the fires easier to deal with when they do occur.

Monday, February 24, 2003

My Spanish Inquisition

There is a new site dedicated to disseminating information about invasive plants in Spain: Alien Plants Ecology in Spain. The content is in English, and you'll note that the three species featured on the front page are all native to the New World. The site seems to be running a bit sluggish right now, but if you are patient, you will be rewarded with interesting content, including a .pdf list of invasive plants.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to the site.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

It's the Law

Legal problems in Hawaii: according to this article from the Honolulu Advertiser, Hawaii lacks the authority to ban the sale of Salvinia molesta (kariba weed) within the state, because it was originally introduced there legally. This is especially frustrating since the invasive aquatic weed is considered so dangerous to ecosystems, it is one of the few federally banned noxious weeds. Unfortunately the federal ban cover only interstate transport. The state has stated looking into other legislation that would ban its sale and spread, but while some aquariums and nurseries in that state continue to sell salvinia, others are already voluntarily giving it up.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Snakeskin Golf Club Bag

In their quest to keep snakes out of Hawaii, officials in Maui are on the lookout for a 3 to 6 foot long snake. According to this story from the Honolulu Advertiser, part of a freshly shed snake skin was found on a cart at a golf course. Unfortunately, extensive searches by humans and a specialized search dog have turned up nothing, and the species of snake is unknown.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Crayfish Clones

The Marmorkrebs crayfish is currently making news in the scientific world as the first known self-cloning crayfish. Thought to be a close relative of the North American Procambarus fallax, the crayfish can reproduce by parthenogenesis, creating offspring without sexual reproduction. The Marmorkrebs is a popular aquarium pet in Germany, and the fact that it can clone itself makes it a potential threat to ecosystems even if only a single individual escapes into the wild. You can read the original press release here, and if you have a subscription to the journal Nature, there is a link to the research article at the bottom. While there is concern that this crayfish will carry the same deadly fungus as do other North American species, there is also building curiousity about the potential of Marmorkrebs as a research tool.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Coral Reports

Chances are good that you weren't in Indonesia in October 2000, so you missed out on the "Coral Reef Nonindigenous and Invasive species" symposium that was held in Bali. Luckily, the University of Hawaii Press has given the symposium organizers permission to post free versions of the papers from that mini-symposium. You can download them as .pdf files by going here, or you can read the abstracts from the papers, which were published in vol. 56, issues 2 and 3, of the journal Pacific Science. Topics range from marine bioinvasions in Hawaii and Australia to organism-specific articles about non-native ascidians (sea squirts) and barnacles.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Up and Coming

crown vetch in bloom

New to the Nature Conservancy's weed management library is the Element Stewardship Abstract for crown vetch (Coronilla varia). This legume, which I'll admit is one of my favorite non-native plants, has definitely become more common here in eastern Massachusetts over the past several years.

Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! group ma-eppc for posting information about the ESA.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Quenching their thirst

As reported by The Denver Post, a state representative in Colorado has introduced a bill that will grant $1 million to Mesa State College to support their efforts to eradicate invasive tamarisk trees (Tamarix spp.) from the state. The bill is part of a drought-relief program, with tamarisk targeted due to its extremely high water demand and tendency to inhabit riparian ecosystems. A grassroots organization, the Tamarisk Coalition, will assist with the project, which will involve local, state and federal agencies as well.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Conservation of Paper

Now that the issue has actually come out, here's a pointer to a January press release describing the special section on invasive species in this month's Conservation Biology journal. The issue features six articles on topics from population biology of invasives to the effect of international trade on species introductions. You can go here to read the abstracts, but to read the full text, you or your research institutions will need a subscription. I don't get this whole "put the press release out before the thing you're talking about is available" mentality (see previous post on the UCS report), but I'm no publicity expert.

Friday, February 14, 2003


The Agricultural Research Service has a fire ant research team stationed in Florida, searching for new ways to control the dangerous red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). According to this article from the ARS Newlink, there are at least two biocontrols that show potential, a parasite ant (Solenopsis daguerrei) and a pathogen (Thelohania solenopsae). More information about current fire ant research can be found here.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Little Pet Shop of Horrors?

If you are in the New England area, and would like to know more about aquatic invasive species in the pet trade, be sure to register for this meeting, to be held March 6 and 7th (same topics each day) at the New England Aquarium. Sponsored by the Northeast Aquatic Nuisance Species Panel, the discussion will cover such topics as the potential results of releasing organisms from an aquarium into the environment, and concerns of the pet industry regarding invasive aquatic species issues.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

More on Messing with Texas

Last week I posted about the Union of Concerned Scientists' report on invasive species in the state of Texas. You can now download your own copy, in .pdf format, by going here. Reports on Alaska and West Virginia have been completed and hopefully will be made available some time in the near future.

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).

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.