Saturday, January 31, 2004

The other side of the pond

This is not exactly a story about invasive species, but England's Eastern Daily Press has this article about a study showing the link between the decrease in starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and house sparrow (Passer domesticus) populations and the popularity of gardening and home-improvement television shows. Apparently a lot of people have decided it's a good idea to cover their roof eaves with plastic and cover their garden beds with gravel, and this has translated into fewer nesting places and insects for birds to feed on. It's strange hearing about those particular species, considered pests in much of the U.S., as being red-listed (endangered) in their native habitat.

Thanks to the Conserv@tion website for posting the link to this story.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Muddying the Waters

This article from the Sierra Sun stands out not because it is a detailed, informative piece on the New Zealand mud snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum), but because it never actually names the creature it is talking about! Referring only to "NZMS" and "small brown snail," the article does go on to give a good history of the snail's introduction in the western U.S., and mentions the discoveries of "NZMS" late last year in California's Putah Creek and the Mokelumne River (which a lot of people apparently refer to as the Mokelumme River). There are also tips at the end of the about how anglers can clean their gear to avoid becoming a vector of invasive mollusks. If you're a fly fisher in California, you'll want to pick up a copy of February's issue of California Fly Fisher magazine, which has an article about the mud snail invasion.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Thanks, but No Thanks!

As reported at, this week a legislative panel in Maine unanimously rejected a proposal to introduce grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) to lakes as a control for invasive aquatic plants. The rejection was likely due to testimony at a public hearing last week, where opponents cited the carp's voracious, indiscriminating appetite. Even lake associations that had originally supported the proposed legislation changed their minds once they heard the details. The bill, which was introduced in December 2003, was first mentioned in this ISW entry. (I wonder if the AP reporter chuckled when s/he wrote the part about the bill being "dead in the water"?)

Constant Comment?

The comment system is back up, courtesy of BlogSpeak. Feel free to post opinions, links, etc.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Bird Man of San Francisco

From the San Francisco Chronicle comes this story about a man who went from homeless and unemployed to author and star of a documentary about his life. His claim to fame? He befriended the feral cherry-headed conures (Aratinga erythrogeny) of Telegraph Hill. About ten years ago, Mark Bittner began feeding, naming, and caring for many of the birds, and his influence was such that when he had to take a year-long break from feeding the birds five years ago, the city was in an uproar, worried that the flock would starve. Mark set up The Parrot Pages website to post information about the flock, and you can also get information about the movie there as well. This web page from also has a story about Mark, including a photo of him and some brilliant parrot photos. The conures of San Francisco seem to be much loved, unlike the ones in Hawaii mentioned in a previous ISW post.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Monkeying Around

Why are there velvet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops) in Broward County, Florida? No one is quite sure, though there are various rumors involving escape from a research lab or a roadside tourist attraction. There are two troops (over 100 monkeys) that have established breeding populations at Dania Beach since they first appeared back in the 1950s. According to this article from the St. Petersburg Times, the monkeys have many fans that are concerned about the impact that an impending condominium development will have on the primates. Apparently there's little concern about the potential environmental impact of these "opportunistic feeders."

Monday, January 26, 2004

Hungry Hungry Hippos?

South Africa's Rondevlei Nature Reserve has what is perhaps a new warrior in the fight against invasive species: the Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius). As reported by Yahoo! News, a pair of hippos, named Brutus and Cleo, will be joined by two other female hippos (male hippos need a harem to keep them from killing their offspring) at the reserve. The hippos, brought to the reserve by the WWF as a way of controlling non-native wetland plants, are being reintroduced to protected lands across Africa, after being nearly exterminated over the past century.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Tasmanian Devils

From The Sunday Tasmanian comes this article describing the many marine invaders causing problems in the ports of Tasmania. Among them are the Northern Pacific seastar (Asterias amurensis), which is damaging commercial stocks of native bivalves, and Japanese kelp (Undaria pinnatifida), a seaweed that thrives on disturbance caused by native species. Bonus points to the Sunday Tasmanian for using scientific names.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

You Make the Call

In one corner, we have Richard Nunnally, who writes a gardening column for Virginia's Richmond Times-Dispatch. He recommends crown vetch (Coronilla varia) to a reader landscaping "several hundred feet of shady, exposed road banks." Mr. Nunnally notes that since the species can be invasive, it "isn't a good choice adjacent to manicured landscape beds." You can even buy seed to grow crown vetch, which the American Seed Trade Association called "an economically indispensable crop," from a number of vendors.

In the other corner (.pdf file), we have the Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation, which categorizes crown vetch as invasive. In response to a request from the American Seed Trade Association, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation reevaluated 11 species on the List of Invasive Alien Plant Species in Virginia, including crown vetch. Crown vetch, along with 9 of the other 11 species, is still on the list (.pdf file) under "Occasionally Invasive Species."

Friday, January 23, 2004

Colonial Tunicate

In response to the discovery last November of an invasive tunicate on the ocean bottom in Georges Bank, the USGS has put together a Didemnum vexillum web page. The goal of the website is to be a clearinghouse for current, detailed information about this tunicate, a marine invertebrate. Scientists are encouraged to contact the webmaster with details of related research projects so that they can be posted on the site.

Update 10/2004: The sea squirt species has been reclassified as Didemnum lahillei.

Thursday, January 22, 2004


Animal geneticists from the Agricultural Research Service are attempting to unravel the mystery behind why some sheep have such a strong preference for grazing on leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula). As reported by the ARS News, the goal is to be able to breed herds of sheep who seek out the invasive weed, known to be unpalatable and toxic to other grazing animals.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Get Bent!

Monsanto and Scotts are petitioning the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to deregulate a genetically engineered cultivar of creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera). The grass has been engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. While often used as a turfgrass and for erosion control, creeping bentgrass is a non-native species considered a weed in many areas, and known to hybridize with many native and non-native Agrostis species in the U.S. APHIS, which has already done a preliminary risk assessment (.pdf file), is approaching this request for deregulation cautiously, and asking people to comment on the proposal by March 5th. This is Docket # 03-101-1 in the Federal Register, with a citation of 69 FR 315-317. After the comment period is closed, APHIS will publish a summary document and decide whether or not to approve the petition.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Squirreled Away?

Officials in England are so concerned about dwindling populations of red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), they are considering euthanizing grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis). As reported by BBC News, Lake District National Park is the last stand of the endangered reds, who have been outcompeted and exposed to disease by the American greys. You can read about a previous unsuccessful attempt to control grey squirrel populations here.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Calling All Yachtsmen

The International Sailing Federation has posted an article on their website about proposed guidelines for ballast water exchange. Their hope is to get approval for these guidelines, which are designed for ships less than 50 meters in length, from the International Maritime Organization. They are currently seeking comments from yacht owners and builders, asking that they be submitted before an IMO meeting on February 9th. Links to the guidelines and associated documents can be found at the bottom of the page.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

I don't buy that

From the Protect Your Waters website comes this blurb about a market, near Chicago, Illinois, that is selling live big head carp (Aristichthys nobilis), along with other less invasive items such as plantains. From that page you can click on a link to see the ad for yourself (.pdf file). Unfortunately, Chicago is not the only place in the Great Lakes neighborhood where you can buy live big heads - see this previous ISW post to read about a similar situation in Ottawa.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Beach Bummer

The Kihei Community Association, sick of dealing with huge mounds of algae covering the Waipuilani Beach Reserve in Maui, Hawaii, has just received a $250,000 EPA grant to develop an effective seaweed control. As reported in The Honolulu Advertiser, the beach is having a particular problem with Hypnea musciformis, a non-native seaweed that is thought to have been introduced in a failed attempt at cultivation back in the 1970s. The Maui County government has purchased a modified potato-digging machine, known as a "beach master," and will also use some of the grant money to pay for dump trucks to haul the seaweed away. The mechanical control has been successful, but scientists are also paying attention to elevated nutrient levels in the water, as the potential cause of the massive increase in seaweed growth.

Thursday, January 15, 2004


From The Straits Times comes this story about the primary forests of Singapore. Researchers have shown that the tiny tracts of land, all that remains of the old-growth, have remained surprisingly resilient to non-native plants, perhaps because of the limited light under the dense forest canopy. The only significant invader so far has been Koster's curse (Clidemia hirta), but scientists note that it is definitely not thriving.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Talks 'til you're blue in the face

Whether you are charged with caring for invasive-infested land, or preparing your invasive species thesis project, you'll want to check out the USDA's Invasive Species Conference Calendar. The list is long, with 3-4 conferences scheduled every month through 2004, and can be searched by year or by location. If you would like to publicize your own conference, there is an email link at the top of their page.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

How do ya like them apples?

In a classic example of disturbance-induced invasion, a stretch of road in Brooksville, Florida has become infested with tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum), after construction workers widened the road last year. According to this article in the St. Petersburg Times, a nearby homeowner familiar with the species saw populations explode shortly after the construction project was completed. Officials in Hernando County are unsure of whether the existing seed bank was just reacting to disturbance, or whether the soil brought in for the project was contaminated. They are responding to the problem by sending out crews to pull the weeds and spray along the road with herbicide.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Waters of Wisconsin

If you are battling invasive aquatic species in Wisconsin, you have until February 1st to apply for your share of $500,000 in state funds to assist the fight. As reported by the Daily Globe, local governments can apply for the funds to cover up to 50 percent of the cost of their projects. The mission of the Aquatic Invasives Species Prevention and Control Grants (link to .pdf file) is to support projects that aim to prevent new introductions; those that focus on the management of existing invasives are not eligible.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

New in the Literature

Recently published journal articles:

Saturday, January 10, 2004

I'll have mine Skipjack's style, please.

Trout is great to eat, but not so good in Australia, where they're stocking lakes and rivers with American trout species, at the expense of native flora and fauna. As reported by The Australian, a group called Native Fish Australia is asking the Aussie government to limit stocking of non-native fish species, at the very least for bodies of water that are home to rare or endangered species. One interviewee noted that environmentalists have taken to referring to the trout as "spotted carp." The government is now performing an environmental review to determine whether stocking procedures should be changed.

Friday, January 09, 2004

The Cost of Eradication

The Mercer Island Reporter has this article about a recent study of the island's invasive plants. The survey of the island found that it is home to 12 of the 91 noxious weed species listed by King County. Invasives now cover over 200 acres, with English ivy (Hedera helix) and Himalayan blackberry (Rubus discolor) having the biggest impact. Parks and Recreation staff on Mercer Island, which is part of Washington state, also noted other species, such as English holly (Ilex aquifolium) and cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), that are not as common and would likely be easier to eradicate. Complete removal of all of the listed invasives would cost an estimated $50 million; this likely includes some restoration.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

The Chicken Hunter

There are too many feral chickens (Gallus gallus) in Key West, Florida, according to this article from The Miami Herald. So many, in fact, that the city has hired someone to remove about half of the 2000 hens and roosters that wander the streets, making nuisances of themselves by destroying gardens and crowing at all hours of the day and night. The chickens, while not native, are not having much of an impact on the natural habitat (as I've been informed by more than one person, Key West has virtually no hatural habitat). Whether you're a fan of chickens or a hater of fowl, you'll want to check out the Key West Chickens website.

Update: An anonymous reader has sent along this thought-provoking description of the feral chicken situation in Key West, and has kindly allowed me to post it:

I saw your inquiry about the chickens in Key West. Believe me, it is not a environmental issue, Key West is almost entirely paved and has little left nature to protect. The residential neighborhoods in Key West are tightly packed with homes just 10 or 20 feet apart, and sometimes closer than that. you really get to know your neighbors - and their pets. As far as chickens go, the typical majority of residents have remained silent, though I suspect that most of them find the birds a mixed blessing: sometimes fun to watch, but sometimes messy, occasionally destructive (especially in newly planted gardens), and of course sometimes noisy. They fight, almost like cats (noisy and sometimes bloody), and I have found more than one mortally wounded or blinded rooster dying a slow death under my landscape shrubs as a result of territorial disputes. Worst of all, they are prone to keeping unfortunate hours. Speaking from experience, there are few things as aggravating as being repeatedly woken by one or more roosters crowing off and on through the night and hours before you need to be up, when your neighbor, who lives shut up inside an air-conditioned and relatively sound-proof home, feeds the birds but denies ownership responsibility. The roosters at least have no concept of time, and every porch light or bathroom window that lights up after the dark apparently can be mistaken for a rising sun. Cock-a-doodle-do, indeed. A rising moon causes the same effect and a full moon can keep them going all night. Well-acclimated Keys residents, and those who cannot, for health reasons, deal with air-conditioning, prefer to (or need to) sleep with the windows open and rely on neighbors remaining resonably quiet between 11PM and 6AM. However, even afternoon naps are not safe from these compulsive feathered alarm clocks. The real issue eventually boils down to property rights and zoning laws. Chickens are ruled by Monroe County and Key West city ordinances as "farm animals" and "prohibited in residential-zoned neighborhoods." Therefore, their boosters cannot legally (or practically) confine the birds to their own property, as that would establish ownership of animals prohibited by the zoning law. Instead they deny ownership but put out grain and water, and even replace birds that are removed. But, their chickens have the run of the neighborhood (imposing on the silent majority), causing property damage, leaving eggs (the numbers are shocking) to rot and stink in hidden corners, and even causing a car accident now and then. And of course, waking folks up long before dawn. As with every issue, there are over-the-top extremists on both sides: anti-chicken zealots have resorted to poisoned grain, and chicken boosters smuggle in new chickens to replace those that die or that the city has removed (at tax-payers' expense). Hope I have provided so enlightenment, or at least something to think about.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004


The Australian has a piece about the current campaign by the Environmental Weeds Action Network (EWAN), to educate gardeners about the invasiveness of the Arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica). The South African species, a common fixture in gardens and flower arrangements here in the U.S., has infested miles of riparian ecosystems in Perth (EWAN has also invested a lot of time pulling the darn things out out). Arum lily is illegal to plant in agricultural areas of Australia, because it is toxic to livestock, but continues to be sold elsewhere in the country.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Oldie but Goodie

Seems like there's been a lot of carp news lately, but trouble has been brewing on the carp front for several years now, as evidenced by this story from the June 2001 issue of Fly, Rod & Reel. In it, Ted Williams describes the ugly politics that came into play when the head of MICRA, an organization of state departments in the Missouri River Basin, spoke out about the fact that the black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) being raised by fish farmers in the region were dangerous potential invaders. MICRA got the federal government to consider banning the black carp back in 2002, but angered a powerful fisheries industry in the process. The result? A good man lost his job, and an NGO lost its funding. There are still no carp species on the Lacey Act's List of Injurious Wildlife Species, though the black carp issue, was recently reopened this past summer.

Monday, January 05, 2004


The Girl Scouts of Penn's Woods have come up with a unique spin on a project to save Pennsylvania's hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis), according to this article from NEPA Today. Send them $3 and you can adopt a ladybird beetle (Pseudoscymnus tsugae), the only natural predator of the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae). The Adopt-A-Beetle program will send you an adoption card and a picture of a ladybird beetle that can be decorated, then sent back to be posted on the "wall of beetle heroes." You can purchase the kits at the address given in the article, or by calling 1 (800) 432-4672. The troop is hoping to raise enough money to purchase and release 5000 beetles. Without predators, the spread of the woolly adelgid will comtinue unchecked, and it only takes seven years for them to kill an adult hemlock tree.

New Year, New Features

The ISW had been updated:

  • Now with 3 columns, so I can stuff even more information on one web page!
  • Need to keep up on invasive species issues? Register to receive an email whenever this blog is updated, by clicking on the "Bot-A-Blog" link at the bottom of the first column.
  • Learn about the history of the ISW by clicking on the "About" link in the lefthand column (Added 1/7/04).
  • Even though the commenting feature was just recently installed, it is now active for all 21 months of posts. Feel free to comment away, link to updates, etc.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Legislators as Bucket Biologists? has a story about the introduction of a bill by two Maine state representatives that aims to test whether grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) might be a good way to combat invasive aquatic weeds. Those who have experienced the devastation caused by hungry Asian carp might take issue with the article's description of the fish as "gentle basking fish from China." Maine's state biologists are rightfully wary of the new legislation, claiming that they've already investigated the issue and that grass carp are too much of a risk.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

It's Something in the Water

It's just been one problem after another for New Zealand's Lake Omapere, according to this article from The New Zealand Herald. Back in 2000, populations of oxygen weed (an American invasive, either Egeria densa or Elodea canadensis) were so large that they were smothering anything trying to grow at the bottom of the lake. To combat the weed's spread, officials released over 40,000 grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), known to many as an invasive fish species. Oxygen weed levels have dropped, but the decline appears to be the result of a huge algal bloom across the lake surface. Now the algae-rich lake water is contaminating local rivers, and officials are warning people to avoid even coming into contact with it. The government has dedicated more funding towards studying the problem, hopefully from a nutrient-level standpoint.

Thanks to S. Pagad for sending in the link to this story.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Beetle Barely

The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), a relatively recent invader here in the U.S., has attracted a lot of attention. Now it even has its very own insecticide: BotaniGard. Produced by the Michigan-based Emerald BioAgriculture Corp, BotaniGard contains the fungus Beauveria bassiana. This fungus has been shown to be quite successful at killing adult beetles when sprayed on tree trunks prior to beetle emergence. You can read all about the discovery of the fungus and the history of the company that produces BotaniGard in this article from The Detroit News.

Thanks to the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers website for posting a link to the article.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Recently Published

From the December issues of the scientific journals: