Tuesday, September 30, 2003

More Treading in Water

More news from the aquatic plant front: as reported in the San Antonio Express-News, water trumpet (Cryptocoryne beckettii) is threatening populations of endangered plants in portions of the San Marcos River in central Texas. The initial introduction of the species, which is native to Sri Lanka, is thought to have been via the dumping of the contents of an aquarium, since water trumpet and other species in the genus are used in the aquarium hobby. While known in the wild in Texas for over a decade, water trumpet did not begin its rapid expansion until the late 1990's. The remaining option to protect the river ecosystem now appears to be control, rather than eradication, for as one biologist put it, "It took us a long time to react and now we are paying the price."

Monday, September 29, 2003

Disease Trumps Weed

Officials from all levels of government met in Santa Rosa, California last week to discuss plans to control the invasive aquatic species water primrose (Ludwigia hexapetala) in the Laguna de Santa Rosa. But, according to this article in The Press Democrat, the aquatic weed has become a top priority not because of the fact that it now covers over 300 acres of the Laguna, but because it is prime mosquito habitat, and officials are highly concerned about stopping the spread of West Nile virus (Flavivirus sp.). Mosquito larvae and eggs can escape pesticide sprays from within the flowers and leaves of water primrose plants. The goal of significantly reducing populations before next spring will likely be accomplished with herbicide application. (Bonus points to The Press Democrat for using the scientific name.)

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Cheeseheads and Snakeheads

Possibly signaling the beginning of a new snakehead saga, this article from the Environmental News Network reports on the discovery of a two-foot giant snakehead (Channa micropeltes) in Wisconsin. Most of you reading this will remember the media frenzy that occured over the snakeheads found in a pond in Maryland last year. The Wisconsin fish, found in the Rock River during a routine survey, is suspected to have been dumped by an aquarium hobbyist. Unfortunately the fish was initially misidentified as native, and as a result was released back into the river.

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

Saturday, September 27, 2003


Vermont has suspended the application of lampricide to control sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) in streams surrounding Lake Champlain, according to this article from WCAX news. On the other side of the lake, New York is proceeding with a similar program, but some Vermont state officials are concerned about the chemical composition of the lampricide, 3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol (TFM), which was reformulated this year. Treatment, if it does occur, is now at least one year away. It is unclear whether sea lamprey, which spawn in fresh water, are native to Lake Champlain or the Great Lakes, but these parasitic fish are generally unwelcome.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Got Yer Goat

Taking a few days off. Stay tuned, the ISW will be back Friday! While you wait, ponder this piece from the Sun and Weekly Herald. Are feral cats scapegoats, taking the blame while their tame brethren do all the damage?

Monday, September 22, 2003

Weenie Plant!

Could the invasive kudzu vine (Pueraria lobata) one day be eclipsed by the up-and-coming cogon grass (Imperata cylindrica)? Yes, according to this article in Lakeland, Florida's The Ledger. Researchers say cogon grass encourages hot-burning fires, kills pine seedlings, and has fewer pests and is harder to kill than kudzu. To get a more rigorous scientific stance, The Ledger interviews scientist James Miller from the U.S. Forest Service. "Kudzu's a weenie plant compared to cogon grass," states James. (Okay, James, but has that statement been peer reviewed? :-)

Friday, September 19, 2003

Swan Song Redux

Looks like Maryland's burgeoning mute swan population (Cygnus olor) has gotten a stay of execution, at least for the next couple of years. According to this article from SunSPot.net, the dispute between state wildlife officials and animal rights' organizations went all the way to federal court, where it was decided that all permits to shoot the swans would be revoked. The permits cannot be reissued until the federal government completes an environmental impact study to determine the effects the swans have on habitat and native species. The state is currently looking into alternative methods to reduce the number of swans, most likely by treating eggs with oil to prevent them from hatching.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Reaching the Summit

The New England Invasive Plant Summit is tomorrow through Saturday, in Framingham, MA. Talks from several of the top invasive plant ecologists are expected, from Sarah Reichard to Randy Westbrooks to Richard Mack. If you decide you want to go, you can register on-site. Be sure to stop by my poster display and ask for an Invasive Species Weblog magnet!

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

A Chestnut of a Tale

New York's Wappingers Lake is covered with water chestnut plants (Trapa natans), and it is costing taxpayers, according to this report in the Poughkeepsee Journal. It's also impacting recreational use of the lake, making it almost impossible to traverse certain sections by boat. Wappingers Falls has already spent about $100,000 trying to control the invasive aquatic, but in an attempt to discourage growth of water chestnut, plans are afoot to dredge the lake and make it deeper, a project that would cost an estimated $1 million.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I'm Empressed

Kerry Kellam, a certified arborist, recently wrote a thoughtful piece about the empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa) in the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram. In it, he describes the process of researching this species after a request for more information from a reader (bonus points for using the scientific name!). The empress tree, often touted as fast-growing and resilient, is considered invasive in several parts of the U.S.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Guardians of the Lake

New Hampshire instituted a program this year to aid in efforts to educate the public about invasive aquatic plants. Called the "Lake Host" program, it enlists paid "Guardians of the Lake" to be stationed at boat launch sites across the state, to inspect boats and educate their owners. The hosts are already credited with preventing the introduction of Eurasian water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) in three different lakes. Funded by a federal grant, the program is scheduled to be turned over to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services next year.

Friday, September 12, 2003

"And in this corner, weighing in at over 2000 pounds..."

In an attempt to free California's Stone Lakes Basin from the grip of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife is bringing in "The Shredder." As reported by KCRA, The Shredder, basically a boat with a mulcher attachment, travels through the water shredding everything in its path. While there is hope that this method of control, a welcome alternative to aquatic herbicides, will be effective against water hyacinth, there have already been problems with the thick vegetation and roots of the plants getting caught in the mulcher blades. The solution? They're bringing in "The Terminator", The Shredder's beefy big brother. Be sure to click on the "Video" link on the page to see The Shredder in action.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

The Place To Be

Let's say you're an up-and-coming invasive species, where would the hip place to hang out be? Probably Maryland, temporary home of the infamous northern snakehead (Channa argus) and likely permanent home of the mute swan (Cygnus olor). That's exactly where the emerald ash borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis) has headed as well, according to this article from the Washington Post. The insects, first discovered in the U.S. last year, had previously been found only in Ohio and Michigan. An as of yet unidentified nursery in Maryland received at least one shipment of contaminated ash trees, which will now be destroyed, from another nursery in the state of Michigan (which has banned the sale or transport of ash trees in several counties). Officials are also looking into whether the nursery in question accidentally shipped the contaminated trees to a site in Virginia as well.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

It's the Law(s)!

The Defenders of Wildlife have a great, informative part of their web site, called "Saving Biodiversity: A Status Report on State Laws, Policies and Programs". I found it while browsing the web today. If you scroll down the page (I've linked to Massachusetts as an example), you will see that for each state, under the heading "Exotic Species," are the laws that state has to regulate non-native plants and animals. The column on the left allows you to go to any state's page. A valuable resource that is worth checking out.

Monday, September 08, 2003

New York: The New Tropical Paradise?

Add the lionfish (Pterois volitans) to the list of tropical species that can make it up here in the Northeast U.S. Newsday.com is reporting that the poisonous marine species has been spotted in Shinnecock Bay in New York, and also near Belmar, New Jersey. Actually, these fish have been spotted in the region before, but the fact that there have been repeated sightings, and that the recently caught individuals were juveniles, suggests that perhaps populations are becoming established. Though inital finger pointing was aimed at aquarium hobbyists and the fish trade industry, scientists are also looking at the possibility that lionfish larvae are being unintentionally transported in ballast water.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Hot Off The Presses (alternate title: Shameless Self Promotion)

The following book, sure to be praised by biologists far and wide, and on its way to being an international best seller, was recently published: Plant invasions: ecological threats and management solutions. 2003. edited by Lois Child, J.H. Brock, G. Brundu, K. Prach, P. Pysek, P.M. Wade & M. Williamson. Backhuys Publishers, The Netherlands. (The above was not in any way influenced by the fact that I authored one of the chapters in the book.)

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Hunting for Treasure

As reported in the Anniston Star, dozens of scientists descended on Mobile Bay, Alabama this past week, to search the estuarine waters for signs of non-native species. Brought together by the Alabama-Mississippi Rapid Assessment Team (AMRAT) and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, the scientists took ballast water samples and scraped around in fouling communities, finding several new species never before seen in Alabama. Next stop for the AMRAT is Mississippi Sound.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Cheat Repeats

From Nevada's The Record-Courier comes this article about the problems caused by cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and what's being done about it. Cheatgrass is a dangerous weed because it fuels hot, fast fires that native vegetation can't recover from and that firefighters can barely control. An interesting bit of trivia in the article notes that a clump of the grass can be grazed 12 times in a season and still set seed, an impressive feat. Although cheatgrass is eaten by some grazing animals, it provides less nutrition than other plants, and if eaten late in the season, can puncture the throats of animals with its stiff, pointy seeds.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

EPA Passes the Buck

The EPA has decided to step aside and will not regulate ballast water discharges, according to this article in The Mercury News. The reason given was that the Coast Guard has already taken the lead in regulation. Environmental groups are upset, and some are threatening to sue the EPA, with the goal of getting them to invoke the powerful Clean Water Act in an attempt to stem the flow of countless numbers of non-native aquatic species into U.S. waters. You can read more about what the Coast Guard's doing for ballast water management by clicking here.

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

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Water Weeds of Wonder

Residents of Lunenberg, MA are livid about the infestation of Lake Shirley with Eurasian water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), according to this article in the Sentinel & Enterprise. The article goes on to mention that all but 4 lakes in Massachusetts contain invasive species. Turns out this isn't quite true...yet. What the Mass. Congress of Lake & Pond Associations meant was that out of about 200 lakes managed by the Department of Environmental Management, all but 4 have invasives. They are still collecting data on the 3000 or so lakes and ponds in the state, but so far at least 50% have at least one invasive species present.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Hydrilla found in the Fountain of Youth?

I recently discovered this site from a link in the banner ads that appear at the top of the blog. It's an advertisement encouraging people to buy "Hydrilla Plus," a putative anti-aging herbal supplement. If you click here you'll see that the main ingredient in Hydrilla Plus is Hydrilla verticillata, the invasive, pervasive, aquatic plant that many have grown to hate. I would say the product is doing a great job, as evidenced by the photo of grey-haired Dr. Halvorson, father of seven children and currently over 250 years old! (just kidding)