Saturday, December 31, 2005

Invasive Species Mashup

Weekend Photoblogging

Invasive Species Mashup
Originally uploaded by urtica.

At the edge of an already disturbed salt marsh in Quincy, MA, the non-native vines threaten to take over. Here, a Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) vine has wound its way around the bare trunks of the staghorn sumac (Rhus hirta).

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Catfish and The Manatee Were swimming close at hand

The Daytona Beach News-Journal is reporting that suckermouth sailfin catfish (the exact species is unclear, though it is likely Hypostomus plecostomus or a relative) have invaded Blue Spring State Park in Florida, and the manatees there are not happy about it. Seems the catfish are physically harassing the manatees by eating the algae that grows on their skin. The manatees have responded by moving their local hangout further towards the mouth of the river adjacent to Blue Spring. The catfish, native to Brazil, are thought to be aquarium escapees. The West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus) that come to Blue Spring every season are federally listed endangered species.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Routes and Radicals

Researchers from Michigan have put together a controversial cost/benefit analysis for invasive species management in the Great Lakes, according to this story from the Duluth News Tribune. In the report, Taylor and Roach conclude that it would cost a lot less to completely close off the St. Lawrence Seaway to saltwater traffic than it currently costs to control invasive species in the Great Lakes system. Perhaps one of the reasons behind the criticism of the report is that the costs would be shifted from the utilities and government agencies that currently bear the brunt of it onto the shippers themselves. You can grab the entire report, including peer reviews, here (via Dave's Blog). It will be interesting to see if this radical option is given any serious consideration by the stakeholders involved in this issue.

Bonus points to the Duluth News Tribune for making ships sound cute by referring to them as "salties" :-).

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Florida Gets Some Racing Stripes

Who's the cool new fly in town? If you're in Florida, it must be Zaprionus indianus, a Drosophilid (fruit fly) first discovered back in July. Z. indianus (known as Z. Indy to close friends and congeners) has two sleek white racing stripes running from its eyes down to its wing base, making it one of the coolest-looking African fruit flies you'll ever see. Likes: figs, guava and reproducing multiple times per year. Dislikes: insecticides and fruit with the skin still intact. Scientists think the fly made its way into North America via Brazil and expect that it will continue to expand its range (next stop California?).

Thanks to Bob C. for sending in a note about this story.

Monday, December 26, 2005

New in the Literature

What better way to spend your time off this week than to check out some...

Recently published journal articles:

General Plants Animals Modeling

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Weekend Blog Blogging

Last week the 10,000 Birds weblog announced a contest where the winners each get a copy of the movie "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill." To win, you must come up with either a photograph, an essay or a poem depicting a positive aspect of an invasive bird species. No cheating by talking about the birds in their native habitat either! My guess is you probably have to more creative than talking about how cute they are too.

A Little Holiday Indulgence

I've been tagged with a meme by wayne over at the Niches weblog, and since it's Christmas and Hanukah and the internet is a pretty dead place, I thought I would take some time out to answer...

Seven Things To Do Before I Die (the realistic version)

  • Visit Japan (and see Japanese knotweed in its native habitat!)
  • Visit Hawaii (Oh the invasives I would see!!!!)
  • Get /.'d or boing-boinged
  • Write a book
  • Ride in a hot air balloon
  • Vote for a candidate, for any office, who actually wins
  • Dress up in one of those furry animal costumes

Seven Things I Cannot Do

  • Kill a bug without crying a little bit
  • Drink coffee (bleah!)
  • Relax on the subway (not anymore)
  • Let someone "borrow" my user name/password
  • Let someone copy one of my cds
  • Understand any of the reasons people are against gay marriage
  • Pass along chain emails, even this meme ;-)

Seven Four Things That Attract Me to...Blogging

  • What I learn when researching posts
  • The feedback
  • The referrer logs
  • Designing the web pages

Seven Things I Say Most Often

No one wants to hear these, they all involve profanity, stupid things my parrot and I say to each other, or some combination of the two.

Seven Books That I Love

I answered a similar question in a meme six months ago, so I'll just point everyone there.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging. Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Carpe Diem I!

Weekend Photoblogging

Carpe Diem I!
Originally uploaded by urtica.

What exactly is a "big head buffalo"? I cannot read Chinese, so I'm not sure. And darnit, they seem to have forgotten to put the Latin name on the sign :-). I believe these are carp, commonly found in Asian markets like this one, and also invaders of rivers and lakes in the U.S.

Carpe Diem II!
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Hmm..."Golden Buffalo Carp." Search Google for it and you'll get zero hits (until the Google bots find this :-)). To my uneducated eye, these don't seem any different from the "Big Head Buffalo" in the adjacent tank.

In New York, fish markets are required to "euthanize" bighead carp before handing them over to the buyer, so that there is no chance that the fish will be released into the wild.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Brome is Where the Heart is

Slender false brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) is trying to establish a stronghold in California, but an agency is willing to spend over one million dollars to prevent that from happening. As reported by the San Mateo County Times, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, which owns the property where the state's only known location of the invasive grass exists, is hoping to eradicate it within the next ten years. It is still unclear how the grass was introduced and whether it is related genetically to the populations that have invaded parts of Oregon.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Common Property

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation has this story about a recent ruling regarding the emerald ash borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis). Seems two couples from Hancock County were protesting the Ohio Department of Agriculture's desire to remove ash trees from their property. A judge ruled that the project be allowed to continue, saying that Ohio's plant pest law is constitutional. Hancock County is one of several counties in Ohio where ash tree removal is currently underway, in order to contain the spread of the emerald ash borer. A similar case involving a Van Buren man was settled similarly late last year. Meanwhile, ten people were fined last week after they were caught transporting firewood or logs from ash trees outside of the ash borer quarantine area.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

To Say Something of the Dogs

The Pioneer Press is reporting that a Minnesota farmer who discovered more than a dozen black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) on his property last summer has dealt with the situation - by poisoning them all. Though they were once considered for listing as an endangered species in their native range in the western U.S., prairie dogs are not native to Minnesota, and are not protected by that state. Though it was unclear whether the colony of rodents would be able to survive in the long-term, the farmer was concerned with the danger posed to his horses that could be caused by all the digging, and decided to eradicate the animals while populations were still manageable.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What the Hull?

Interesting article in the Oregonian about a pathway for invasive species that most people probably haven't given much thought to: ship salvaging operations. A fleet of National Defense Reserve ships, currently located in San Francisco Bay, has been ordered to be scrapped by the end of 2006. A company wants to set up a scrap-and-salvage operation in Oregon's Yaquina Bay, but there is concern that the hulls of these old ships are fouled (in some cases with growths as much as 4 inches thick) and could be a vector for invasive marine species. Scientists want to do sampling before the ships are moved from San Francisco, but companies are balking at the cost of such testing.

San Francisco Bay has been well-studied by invasion biologists, and is thought to be one of the most invaded ecosystems in the world. Andrew Cohen, director of biological invasions for the San Francisco Estuary Institute, sums it up well at the end of the article: "If I were a citizen up there [Oregon], I would absolutely want to know what is on the hulls of those ships and what is in the bilges."

Minus 10 points to Oregon Live for forcing users to input their zip code and then covering the page with a floating ad!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sue you, Sue me

It didn't make big news when it happened back in September, but according to this press release four US states, fed up with what they consider to be an inadequate response from the federal government to the growing problem of non-native insect introductions, filed suit against the USDA. California, Connecticut, Illinois and New York have joined together to sue, charging that the current methods used to treat wood packaging for imported goods are not effective (heat application) and/or are dangerous (methyl bromide). They want the USDA to look into alternative methods of preventing new invasive insects from entering the country, and claim that federal law requires that the USDA do so. You can read the full claim, which was filed in New York District Court, here (pdf).

Thanks to John R. from Don Watcher for sending in a link to this story.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Weekend Blog Blogging

What is the "Chuck Haugen Conservation Fund" and why are they blogging? Well, the CHCF is an organization that works to conserve the ecosystems of Monterey Bay, California. You might not expect a non-profit organization to start a weblog, but they did, and it fits pretty well. It's been live for less than a month, and already there is a post about the invasiveness of yellow bush lupine (Lupinus arboreus) and a photo of their Cape Ivy Weed Warriors. Definitely worth a visit, especially if you live nearby.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

In Fruit

Weekend Photoblogging

In Fruit
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Burning bush (Euonymus alatus), one of over 140 invasive plants on the new official Massachusetts "banned" list. Since this species yields many popular ornamental cultivars, the ban on its importation will be delayed until July 2006, and it can be propagated until January 2009.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Wicked Cool

Back in September of this year, the ISW reported that the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources was considering banning a list of more than 140 invasive plant species. As of today, after a period of public comments, the DAR has officially enacted the ban, which will go into effect on January 1, 2006 (with 14 ornamental species receiving either a one or three year extension). You can view the official list here. To answer the question raised in the September ISW post, until a good way of assessing the invasiveness of cultivars and varieties is found, they will be considered invasive if the parent plant is invasive (whew!).

This may push Massachusetts right to the front of the line with regards to invasive plant regulations, at least in New England. If your state has done better, I'd be interested to hear about it - post in the comments below.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Delinquency of a Mynah

This article from the Mail & Guardian discusses the ongoing invasion of South Africa by the Indian mynah bird (Acridotheres tristis). The problem has become so bad that BirdLife South Africa, the nation's ornithological society, is considering poisoning them in an effort to get populations under control. One concern with the plan is that native starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) will become accidental victims - odd to hear as a resident of the US, where starlings are the nasty ones being targeted.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tangled Bank is Here!

A new issue of the Tangled Bank has just debuted over at Rural Rambles. Check it out for the latest in science blogging!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Reeding is Fundamental

As reported by Sign On San Diego, this week workers began clearing a swarth of giant reed (Arundo donax) that covers more than five miles of the San Luis Rey riverbed. Normally this type of removal project wouldn't be that newsworthy, but this project was stalled for more than 10 years! The reeds are so dense and populous that they act as a dam, and are considered an enormous flood hazard. Luckily, the permit hurdles and other barriers of bureaucracy were overcome before there was an actual flood. About $1.3 million has been allocated to the project so far, for the cleanup and an environmental impact report (there are two endangered bird species in the area). The Army Corps is also working on a flood control plan in the hopes of avoiding future problems. It was estimated that if a disaster had occurred it would have cost California $180 million in damages.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tree Topper

Each year Zimbabwe crowns a new "Tree of the Year" as part of National Tree Planting Day. According to this report from the Sunday News, this year's winner is a Caribbean tree known as the Barbados nut (Jatropha curcas). How does one get to be in the running for Tree of the Year? Being a source of biodiesel helps for sure - being an invasive species doesn't seem to count against you either. The Tree of the Year for 2003 was buffalo thorn (Ziziphus mauritiana), an invasive native to Asia.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to the report. And minus two points to the Sunday News for misspelling the scientific name of the plant...twice.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Weekend Blog Blogging

Yee Haw! It's time for the monk parakeet roundup! Don't worry, animal lovers, this is a metaphorical roundup: blog posts about monk parakeets from the past week, a follow-up to coverage of the controversy in Connecticut.

  • Sphere has got a brief summary with some good links.
  • Conservative Culture seems to be decidedly pro-human...or anti-parrot.
  • has a photo essay of monk parakeets in New York, with a flock of gorgeous photos of charismatic Quakers.
  • If you scroll way, way, way down this page from Our new life in Andalucia Spain Big Blog, you'll see photos of monk Spain!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Yam-leaved Clematis

Weekend Photoblogging

Yam-leaved Clematis
Originally uploaded by urtica.

A pretty flower from yam-leaved clematis (Clematis terniflora), a fairly aggressive invader on parts of Nantucket. A local botanist took me on a tour of the island, showing me where all the invasive plants like to hang out. When I saw this plant, I realized that some seedlings I had photographed on Nantucket in 2004 (see photo below) were the same species. The seedlings were growing at a different part of the island - that doesn't bode well for the future.

Yam-leaved Leaves of Yam-leaved Clematis

Yam-leaved Leaves of Yam-leaved Clematis
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Have Yourself An Artificial Christmas

Faithful ISW readers may remember last year's posts (1, 2) about longhorn beetles (Callidiellum spp.) found in the trunks of artificial Christmas trees imported into the US from China. Assuming they were all properly recalled, the crisis seems to have been averted this year - turns out the US banned the import of wooden craft items from China starting this past April. The article notes that the ban "...will remain in place until Chinese exporters adopt other measures to ensure that no live insects remain in the wood." APHIS has published a FAQ about the ban. Though it appears to have been intended as temporary, there are no signs indicating that it will be lifted anytime soon. You can still find fake Christmas trees with real wood trunks for sale this season, but I am not sure where they are manufactured.

Tip of the virtual hat to dbpitt for inspiring this post.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ask and They Shall Reprieve

According to this report from NBC 30, the animal rights' group Friends of Animals has withdrawn its request to place a temporary restraining order that would have stopped the euthanization of monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) following the removal of their utility pole nests in Connecticut. This development occurred after United Illuminating Co. stated that they are done removing birds - for this season. UI has also pledged not to try to catch any of the birds that eluded capture, though it is unclear whether the species can survive a New England winter without a nice warm nest. Friends of Animals does still plan on going ahead with a lawsuit, expected to be filed in January, that would stop UI from taking apart the nests.

Meanwhile, a report in the Connecticut Post claims that the cost for capture and euthanization was almost $700 for each parrot, and Friends of Animals is broadcasting the article on their own website. But part of the reason for this has to be that UI has agreed not to go after escaped birds - if they had managed to capture the 400 birds that are estimated to have escaped, the cost per parrot would have been as much as much 66% lower.

Interested Parrotheads may want to check out this older ISW post about the Connecticut brouhaha.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Give Me The Poop!

File this under "Jobs, Least Wanted": researchers from Dominican University of California and the National Park Service are studying the potential spread of invasive plants via - you guessed it - horse poop. According to this article from msnbc, the study involves collecting horse feces, extracting any seeds from it, and planting the seeds to test for geminability and growth. The study follows concern from park officials that horses in the parks have been contributing to the spread of some invaders. Really though, it is the pathway of introduction [horse owners] that is likely most important here, rather than the pathway of spread [the horses]). The researchers hope to be address these issues and also encourage the production of ecologically safer feed and hay. No noxious weed species have yet been found, and so far only one invasive species has been observed. For more information, you can access the original press release here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Call me cynical, but am I the only one who is wondering if maybe this supposedly new mammal species in Borneo is actually a non-native introduction? I have yet to see this angle addressed in any of the articles out there, yet there is this interesting quote:

"The photos look most like a lemur," he told the BBC News website. "But there certainly shouldn't be lemurs in Borneo."
- Nick Isaac, Institute of Zoology in London

There certainly shouldn't be Burmese pythons slithering around Florida either, yet it happens. IANALE (I Am Not a Lemur Expert), but I know that people do keep them as pets, and people do let their pets escape occasionally.

P.S. - I'll be quick to post an update if it turns out I am wrong.

Update: This AP article refers to the creature as a "ferret-badger" and has an artist's rendering. I'm still skeptical.

Update 2: Interesting argument over at Cryptomundo that the critter in question is actually the rediscovery of a civet thought to be extinct. With that thought, this topic continues its slide back into the endangered species realm and away from the invasive one. But I am happy to have joined in on the speculation, if only because it has brought the ISW its unofficial new mammal expert, dbpitt (see comments below). Thanks db!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Modern English

Last month England released a new report detailing a country-wide audit of non-native plants, animals, fungi and microbes. As noted by NFU Countryside, the report concludes that there are more than 2700 introduced species and hybrids in England, the majority of which (73%) are plants. Of the 2700, about 1400 species are considered to be established enough to warrant concern, and a mere 19 were listed as "having strongly negative environmental impacts." You can download the full report (.pdf), which includes a detailed description of the criteria and categorizations used, from English Nature. I commend the authors for their tremendous effort, though I am a bit disappointed that their pathway analysis assumes only a single vector of introduction for each species.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting about the report.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Weekend Blog Blogging

This weekend the ISW finds itself at Janine Lim's "Videoconferencing Out on a Lim" blog. A couple of weeks ago, Janine helped facilitate a nationwide meeting of high school students to discuss invasive species issues. Each of the six classrooms participating gave a presentation about a different invader, followed by a question and answer session for all. An excellent melding of technology and biology!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Weekend Photoblogging

Weekend Photoblogging

Vine with Me
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Not much green left to look at on the Massachusetts landscape these days...except for this annoying Japanese honeysuckle vine (Lonicera japonica). Not as common in the upper parts of the salt marsh as its congeners, the shrub honeysuckles, but unwelcome all the same.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Breeding Edge

An official at Australia's Invasive CRC announced that the organization has given up on their research to develop birth control for European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), according to this report from ABC Science Online. The program was never very successful, in part because of resistance in the agricultural industry to idea of a vaccine that uses a genetically modified virus to impart sterility. The focus of the Invasive CRC now turns to the more traditional method of population control via baiting, and they will also be taking a closer look at success and failures of the rabbit calcivirus.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Operation Ivy

Interesting article from the Seattle Post Intelligencer about problems in the Pacific Northwest with invasive ivy plants (Hedera spp.). I'm not saying "English ivy" (Hedera helix) anymore, because it sounds like researchers at the University of Washington have finally got proof that the majority of wild ivy vines are actually Irish ivy (Hedera hibernica), a species once considered to be a variety of its English cousin. As the article notes, this is going to make it a lot more complicated to try to regulate the spread of ivy in the wild, since the horticulture industry sells hundreds of different ivy cultivars, few of which have been closely investigated for invasiveness. The results of the study are expected to be published in early 2006 in the journal Biological Invasions.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Unplanned Parrothood

The ISW is just a bevy of controversy these days. First eagle owls "re"appear in the UK, then the much-hated sea lamprey is declared a native in Lake Champlain. Now we've got people ready to go to jail to protect the incredibly-cute-but-just-might-be-invasive monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus, also known as Quaker parrots) that have moved into Connecticut. As reported by the Boston Globe, a Connecticut power company has refused to stop dismantling nests that the parakeets built on top of utility poles, claiming that the nests are a danger and a fire hazard. Because the South American native are officially birda-non-grata in Connecticut, the power company must turn over any keets they catch to the USDA for euthanization. A local expert points out in the article that the state already tried and failed to eradicate the monk parakeets when they first became a problem...thirty years ago.

For more information:

  • Two excellent ISW guest posts from Jason at Borneo Chela: 1, 2.
  • The Stop Killing the Parrots website may be the epicenter of all pro-monk parakeet activity.
  • The Brooklyn Parrots website is also keeping up on the Connecticut monk parakeet situation, and of course has many other stories about the populations in New York.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Native or Not: You Make the Call

Close on the heels of the eagle owl's return to England, the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) has been officially named a Vermont Native. As reported by the Burlington Free Press, researchers have used molecular tools to conclude that the fish have called Lake Champlain home for at least 11,000 years, after migrating up the St. Lawrence River from the Atlantic Ocean. I wonder what the New York side of the lake thinks about this :-).

Monday, November 28, 2005

Eagle Owl Cheery?

BBC News is reporting that the Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo) is [possibly once again] in the wilds of the UK, likely emigrating from expanding populations in Europe. The annoucement is not without controversy, as there has been some debate as to whether or not the owl should be considered native to the British Isles. That's not keeping BBC Two from showing "Natural World - Return of the Eagle Owl." Some welcome the beautiful birds, known as the largest owls in the world, while others are more skeptical. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has their say on the matter here, noting that conservationists should keep in mind that eagle owls may negatively impact native UK wildlife.

Feeling strongly about the rights of the eagle owl to settle in the UK? Try reading this post again, replacing every instance of "eagle owl" with "stinging mucus wasp."

Tip of the virtual hat to Roger B. for sending in a link to the story, and minus two points each to the BBC and the RSPB for not mentioning the scientific name of the bird.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Weekend Blog Blogging

Over at Bootstrap Analysis last week, there was an interesting post titled "sudden oak death = fewer birds." It's about the effects of the sudden oak death pathogen (Phytophthora ramorum) on birds that rely on oak trees for food and shelter.

The Inside Dope blogged about "Jacobs rides to the rescue on Asian carp eradication," which features a critique of the proposed plan to fund the creation of a market for processed carp in Illinois (blogged at the ISW earlier this month). It also features an image of a man riding a carp. Weird.

The Taming of the Band-Aid posted a photo of a peacock, but it's not in a zoo - it's perched on what looks like a concrete cylinder, somewhere in the wilds of Florida.

Update: thingfish23 of Taming of the Band-Aid responds:

I photographed that peacock in mid-November. Hurricane Wilma destroyed the fence that was keeping it (and the two other peacocks that live there - another male and a female) on the property. I have seen them in the street many times since the storm.
Read the comments under this post for more.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Weekend ImageBlogging

Some new gear recently debuted in the Invasive Species Weblog store, including:

Japanese knotweed beer stein Japanese knotweed tote bag

If you're planning on buying some stuff for your favorite weed geek, or anything else at Cafepress, be sure to use the FREESHIP code for orders over $50US.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Honey, I Shrunk the Hive

The Australian reports that a new beetle from Southern Africa is decimating honeybee colonies across Australia. The small hive beetle (Aethina tumida, also known as SHB) damage hives and contaminate honey with their feces. The SHB is a fairly recent invader, first detected outside its native range in the late 1990s, and discovered in Australia in 2002. Note that the bees being affected worldwide are typically introduced species themselves - some strain of the European honeybee, Apis mellifera. The beetles do not seem to be impacting native Australian bees, and the same appears to be true in North Ameerica, where most native bee species do not form colonies.

Bonus points to The Australian for including the beetle's scientific name. And thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to this story.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

You got Your Zebra Mussels in my Peanut Butter!

Is it a new candy sensation? Thank goodness no! It's actually a rather sinister story reported in the Billings Gazette. Recently someone left a large peanut butter jar filled with water and mussels in front of the offices of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. Testing revealed that the water contained several stages of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), and likely came from a source where there are well-established, breeding populations of the mussels. The odd thing is that Montana doesn't have any known infestations of that species - the closest site is in North Dakota. No one has any idea why someone would bring the jar to Montana and leave it where they did, but the sample is currently being searched for fingerprints or other information that will help uncover the mystery.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Oh Yes Weed ID!

The Free New Mexican has this story about a new online weed identification resource developed at New Mexico State University. The Weed Identification Tool contains data for over 100 weeds, many of them non-native. Users trying to identify a plant sample choose a growth form (tree, grass, etc.) and then select from a list of characters to narrow down the search. It's a neat tool for even the most basic user, and is chock full of decent photographs.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Details in the Devils

The results are in, and according to this story at CBC Manitoba, North Dakota's Devils Lake is free of twelve species of invasive plant and fish that biologists were testing it for. That's the good news for Canada's Lake Winnipeg, the recipient of water flowing from Devils Lake into the Sheyenne River. The bad news is that tests did uncover several species of algae and fish parasites. Now the US and Canada get to argue about who's paying for the filtration system between the two bodies of water. (insert requisite Celine Dion joke here) (insert requisite Jon Stewart/Kids in the Hall retort here). To read the full report, which includes a list of the species surveyed, click here (pdf). For a detailed pathogen survey, click here (pdf).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Now *that's* some Giant Knotweed

Weekend Photoblogging

Now *that's* some Giant Knotweed
Originally uploaded by urtica.

The Giant and Japanese knotweed were running rampant in Seattle when I was there back in 2004.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Small Fish, Big Pond

Environmental Science & Technology Online has this interesting report about a study of food web dynamics and pollution in Lake Michigan. Calumet Harbor is a part of the lake that is dominated by zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) and round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus). Juvenile round gobies love to eat fish eggs as well as crustaceans that live in the lake sediment. Unfortunately, the crustaceans are feeding on the waste of the zebra mussels, and this waste and fish eggs are two of the links in the food chain where PCBs accumulate in high concentrations.

Testing showed that the young gobies have much higher levels of PCBs than the adult gobies or the smallmouth bass that also live in the lake, a detour off the typical path of biomagnification that suggests a change is needed in the policy of recommending that people eat smaller fish to avoid exposure to toxins.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Baltic Avenue

Today is the official debut of the NOBANIS Gateway, from the North European and Baltic Network on Invasive Alien Species. A true regional effort, NOBANIS features a searchable database of several thousand species, with distributional data covering Scandinavia and parts of Northern Europe. It is great to see Europe adding their own invasive species product to what is available online. With countries each entering their own data, there are bound to be a few taxonomic glitches, as I found when I searched for Fallopia japonica and got separate records for var. japonica and ssp. japonica. But this is a solid resource that will only improve over time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


This press release from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign describes a recently published study by Suarez et al. concerning the establishment of non-native ants in the US. From about 6 decades of port records, the authors estimated that over 230 species of ants were introduced to the continental US, and of these, 28 species (12%) have become established. Nesting preferences seem to be one of the deciding factors in the ants' success or failure: species that were less picky about their habitat were more likely to become expatriates. Be sure to click on the thumbnails in the press release so you can see the beautiful, full-size macro shots of the ants.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Over the Edge

The Environment News Service has this story about the impacts of invasive plants on Australian rainforest. A study revealed that habitat previously considered to be undisturbed was actually home to such invasives as coffee (Coffea arabica), guava (Psidium guajava), and mango (Mangifera indica). Yes, that's right, some agricultural crops are actually good weeds too. One biologist is hoping that studying the characteristics of the rainforest invaders will reveal clues about what makes them successful, allowing conservationists to target new non-natives before they become a problem.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Abstinence Makes the Vine Grow Longer

Weekend Photoblogging

Abstinence Makes the Vine Grow Longer
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Two words to describe why it doesn't make sense to discount a plant as "non-invasive" just because it doesn't produce seed: Vegetative Reproduction. This new clone of fiveleaf akebia (Akebia quinata), also known as "chocolate vine," has started its new life about three feet below a small patch of its parent plant. There are many new clones along the bottom of this cement wall, and none of them were planted.

I can easily imagine this species spreading from clippings in yard waste. And hey, this is on Nantucket - a big wind could easily break off new pieces and spread them over the island. So who needs seed?

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Alewife Train

Where I come from the alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) is a native fish, spending most of its life in the Atlantic Ocean and stopping by the local rivers only to spawn. But not too far away, in Lake Champlain, these river herrings are considered invaders. As reported by CNews, biologists now believe that the alewife has established breeding populations in the lake, where the fish have adapted to live their entire lives in freshwater. It is likely that the alewife was introduced to Lake Champlain through its use as bait to catch other fish.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


The ISW likes to bring you invasive species news from around the world. Unfortunately, a language barrier exists that can make it hard for English-speaking readers to appreciate some of this news. As a public service, the ISW is please to bring you this piece of invasive species public outreach from Japan, with translations provided via mouseover:

For the original 3-fold leaflet, provided by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, go here (.pdf).

Update: For those of you that are oh-so-curious, here is the actual translation of the pamphlet, courtesy of The Almighty Babel Fish and the ISW:

Three Adverse Effects of Introduced Species:

1) They can influence the Japanese Ecosystem

  • They will eat native things
  • They will hybridize with native species that are close relatives
  • They will compete with natives for food (Food may be "resources" - I am not sure if the seedling is sad because it is the only one or because it is being shaded out, but I suspect the former)

2) They can cause harm to human health

  • They will poison or bite people

3) They can influence agriculture, forestry, and the fishing industry

  • They will eat crops and fish

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Otter Pops

How sad is this? People in Eugene Oregon are so used to not seeing river otters (Lutra canadensis) in their wetlands, they though recent sightings must have been nutria (Myocastor coypus). Luckily, as reported by the Corvalis Gazette-Times, it turns out that river otters really have returned to the Amazon Creek, possibly due to recent restoration efforts in Eugene's wetland habitats. Even better news: one was spotted eating a baby nutria ;-).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Flash Bulbuls

Back in September, the ISW posted about New Zealand's hunt for a pair of red-vented bulbuls (Pycnonotus cafer). Apparently the alien birds are still on the loose, because is reporting that the hunt is still on. Biosecurity NZ wants the public to help track the birds down by reporting any sightings, in the hopes that it will help them identify the birds' local haunts.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Fish Food

According to this press release from the governor of Illinois, the state is planning on eating its way out of an Asian carp invasion. A company called Carp Protein Products LTD has received funding to study whether it is feasible to develop a market for food products made from the carp, which have been present in the Illinois River since the 1990s. The press release makes it sound like the survey has already been completed, so perhaps the $100K will go towards actual product development. "Fish product extract"...Mmmm!!!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Weekend Blog Blogging

This week's featured blog post is over at Urban Dragon Hunters: "Karner Blue threatened by invasive species?" Click through to read about how the invasive crown vetch may indirectly lead to the decline of the rare Karner blue butterfly. As a bonus, you get to see a beautiful butterfly photo :-). Bonus points to UDH for using scientific names.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Devil nut

Weekend Photoblogging

Devil nut
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Invader or not? The water caltrop (Trapa bicornis) seems to have the potential to grow in the U.S., but somehow it has been surpassed greatly by its congener, T. natans, the water chestnut. A bit of Googling reveals little information about this species' invasive potential. But if I can purchase these nutlets from the local Asian markets and just plop them in water to get new plants, how far away are we from having these show up in a local pond or creek?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Praising Arizona

The Nature Conservancy recently put out this press release about Arizona's new invasive plant list. There are 71 species on the list [.pdf], which was assembled using extensive (and publicly available [.pdf]) criteria and input from the Arizona Wildland Invasive Plant Working Group, made up of more than 25 different organizations. The press release and web site are both quick to point out that the list is meant to be advisory, and has no legal status. It will be interesting to see if the landscaping and horticultural industries step up to the plate with regards to the species on the list that are currently available for purchase and planting.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tangled Bank is Here!

A new issue of the Tangled Bank is here, hosted by Dr. Charles. Check it out! This time the ISW is in the "Political" section - it always seems hard to categorize my posts.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Weed Wipeout!

Weed Wipeout logo
Perhaps the coolest thing ever to hit invasive species awareness, Weed Wipeout is an online, Flash-based video game where you play a Australian farmer trying to rid your land of nasty invasive plants. You start by stocking up on supplies: limited by the money in your pocket, you can choose from a variety of control methods, from herbicide to controlled burning. To score high, you need to apply the right control methods to each invasive plant. I made it through the first round with only a low-level threat left (darn Paterson's curse!), but I felt like I was a little heavy-handed with the herbicide :-).

Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! group ma-eppc for posting about the Weed Wipeout game.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Tasty Snack That Smiles Right Back...*

The Cape Times is reporting that someone found a whole slew of goldfish (Carassius auratus) in a stream in South Africa's Table Mountain National Park. There are at least 100 of them, and no one seems to know how they got there. Biologists seem conflicted about the seriousness of the situation, with one claiming the bright red fish would soon be food for predators, and another worrying that they could form breeding populations. Luckily, a decision has been made: the fish are being removed from the stream on this very day. Bonus points to the Cape Times for using the fish's scientific name.

*(until you bite their heads off!)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Weekend Blog Blogging

For this first in a weekly series of bloggers posting about invasive species, the ISW points you to "A Botanist's Big Apple" for the recent post " Will the real Aralia elata please stand up?." Go there to read the interesting story of two botanists' hunt for the elusive devil's walking stick (Aralia spinosa) in New York. Seems like all they're finding is a non-native congener, the Japanese angelica tree (A. elata)...or is it really that simple? You'll have to click through to find out.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Weekend Photoblogging

The Mighty Phrag
Originally uploaded by urtica.

The Phragmites (Phragmites australis) along the bike path that leads through the Neponset River Watershed in Dorchester was looking particularly hearty last week.

Friday, October 28, 2005

New Jersey Battles Their New Beetle Overlords

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection annouced that they have begun a reforestation plan in an effort to replace the more than 5000 trees that had to be removed due to Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) infestations. When they're done, they'll have planted about 1500 saplings, a mix of native (yay!) and non-native species. The work is part of a federally funded $1.6 million project. Meanwhile, the removal of infected trees continues.

Thanks to Val C. over at Flying Fur for sending in the press release.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Canada Welcomes Their New Beetle Overlords

As the U.S. continues to fight the spread of the emerald ash borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis), this Canadian Press article indicates that Canada has decided to accept the invasion as inevitable. The article notes that:

"The Canadian government's official position is that the technology and efforts available cannot stop the ash borer's march..."
Whether that is a realistic assessment or not, it's certainly going to make things more difficult for states like Ohio and Michigan, both struggling to keep the emerald ash borer in check, and both sharing borders with Canada. You can read more about the U.S. ash borer invasion in previous ISW posts.

Thanks to John R. from Don Watcher for sending in a link to this story.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

New Oyster Cult

Apparently patience is not a virtue, at least if you are on the Virginia Seafood Council. According to this article from the Virginia Pilot, the VFC, fed up with declining harvests of native Bay oysters (Crassostrea virginica), has asked the state Marine Resources Commission to approve the release of Asian oysters (Crassostrea ariakensis) into the Chesapeake Bay. Biologists are urging the state to wait until the completion a 3-year federal study of the possible impacts of the introduction before making a decision. Politics is probably playing a strong role here, with the state upset that the federal government is trying to regulate their waters, and the Army Corps of Engineers supporting a native oyster restoration project.

Interested readers may want to check out previous ISW posts about Asian oysters: 1, 2.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Alien Death March

South Africa's Working for Water program is close to launching production of their new "eco-friendly" coffins, made using the wood of invasive plants, according to this story from IOL. The idea behind this is that the invasive trees and shrubs need to be cleared anyway, and building coffins from the wood will provide employment for former prison inmates. The project was awarded funding following a contest held by the World Bank Development Marketplace that received more than 2500 proposals.

I can't seem to find a list of what species are being used to make the coffins, but I assume certain species must provide more suitable wood than others. And in case you still had a happy thought in your head, keep in mind that there is a reason South Africa has such a demand for cheap coffins - the country is being overwhelmed by HIV and AIDS-related deaths.

Update:Download your own morbid coffin poster here (.pdf).

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Snail Tale

Jackson County News is reporting that the New Zealand mud snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) has been discovered in the Deschutes River in Oregon, indicating that the snail has continued its spread through that state. Perhaps more interesting, though, is that one of the occurrences was discovered because of the outreach being done by researchers at Portland State University. A ranger's aide who received one of the PSU ID cards quickly pulled out his card when he spotted snails on a boat at Deschutes River State Park. After a closer inspection he called the number on the card, and scientists later confirmed his id. This sighting is even more impressive given how tiny and inconspicuous the snails are.

Bonus points to the author of the article for using the snail's scientific name.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Weekend Photoblogging

Weekend Photoblogging

Autumn olive in fruit
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Sometimes bad things can be very nice to look at - and to eat. I know it's truly fall when people start finding their way to the ISW while searching for recipes that use the fruits of the autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata).

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Wascally Wabbits

Two years ago, in an attempt to protect rare seabirds, workers culled 40,000 Norway rats and black rats (Rattus norvegicus and Rattus rattus) on the UK's Lundy Island. No happy ending here though - as reported by The Times, removing the rats has led to a population explosion among the island's rabbits. With virtually no predators left to keep them in check, the rabbits are multiplying like crazy. Lundy Island's vegetation is suffering, with parts of the island now so bare that the soil is eroding. Fencing in areas and culling (of rabbits) has been somewhat helpful, but the island's warden admits that things have become "complicated." Animal rights' groups are claiming the rabbit problem is evidence that the island should have been left alone, but keep in mind that the rabbits themselves were also introduced. Maybe the island would be better off without them as well.

Tip o' the virtual hat to Habitat for posting about this story.

Friday, October 21, 2005

New in the Literature

Recently published journal articles:

Plants Animals Theory/Modeling

Thursday, October 20, 2005


The Great Lakes Radio Consortium posted this story about the recovery of the endangered Lake Erie water snake (Nerodia sipedon insularum). Researchers have found that invasive round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus) inhabiting in the lake have had a somewhat surprising impact on the aquatic reptiles. The snakes are rounded up at a yearly "Nerodeo" where scientists take measurements and check stomach contents. While the snakes' meals consisted mainly of native species of fish and amphibians during the 1980s and 1990s, today that has changed radically: their diet is now 90% round goby. The snakes are apparently better off for it too, growing faster than before on a prey that is currently quite abundant. Be sure to click on the "Listen" link to hear the full audio report.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


National Geographic News has an interesting story about the early detection and not-so-rapid response to a rat invasion. To test how they would deal with the introduction of rats on an island, researchers released a single Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) on New Zealand's Motuhoropapa Island. Then they tried to recapture it. And tried. And kept trying, for more than 10 weeks.

It was a lot harder to capture that single rat than they'd imagined, even with the rat wearing a radio tag. Part of the reason was that the rat wasn't on Motuhoropapa Island anymore - it swam to Otata Island, which was 400 meters away! The researchers have concluded that traditional management methods, like trapping and the use of dogs, are likely not the best response to rat introductions. The results of the study will be published in the next issue of the journal Nature (link forthcoming).

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

All your base are belong to us

A report out from the National Wildlife Federation titled "Under Siege: Invasive Species on Military Bases" highlights the economic burden that invasive species have placed upon the US Department of Defense. Among the conclusions of the study are that invaders reduce the land available for military training, destroy equipment (thorns!) and provide hiding places for criminals (okay, maybe they're stretching it a bit there). Seems like some of their conclusions are more anti-nature than anti-invader, but decide for can read the NWF's press release, or check out the full report (.pdf).

Monday, October 17, 2005

Turkey and Stuffing

This one's for you, Anonymous :)

I gladly skipped over doing a post last week about the exploding python, mainly because that story was already getting a heck of a lot of press coverage. Nothing gets America's attention like an animal interest story, especially when said animals blow up.

However in the wake of what is now a trio of Floridian python travesties I feel the ISW can no longer ignore what may be a sign of the Apocalypse: snakes are indeed taking over the Sunshine State (insert your favorite political joke here). South Florida's NBC6 News has text and excellent photos of two new events. First we have last week's story of a woman who lost her Siamese cat to a 12-foot Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus). Check out the "Python vs. Cat" link to see the x-rays! Later that same week, a homeowner went out to his turkey pen to find an African rock python (Python sebae)...and no turkey. The snake was so fat after its meal that it couldn't get out of the pen.

Let me know when it starts raining toads.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fast and Loosestrife

Not content to live a boring life in the continental US, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) has finally made it into the wilds of Alaska. According to this story from the Anchorage Daily News, the famous purple-flowered weed has been seen growing along a creek in Anchorage. Alaskan scientists have started an awareness campaign to educate stakeholders about the plant, and then they are going to do something very smart: they're going to go dig the wild plants up. The next step, to convince people to stop planting it, will likely be a bit more difficult.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Zombie Fashions

OK, it's Saturday night, could there really be so many science geeks parked in front of their computers that the ISW is getting pinged every 10 seconds? Have we got a zombie army on the loose, or did some bigwig link to me? The referrer logs mostly say "unknown" so I'm at a loss here.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Tamarisk Assessment

You probably missed it, but today marks the end of the 2005 Tamarisk Symposium. Among the highlights, according to this article from The Daily Sentinel, were claims by scientists that eradicating tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) will not be the cure-all for the water woes of the western U.S.

One of the main reasons tamarisk gets so much attention is the claim that the shrub's high water demand will hurt those who depend on the Colorado River as their water source. Preliminary results of a study to be released later this year indicate that replacing tamarisk with native trees led to no measurable water savings. However, areas with native grasses and shrubs did use 30-60% less water. As usual, the situation is much more complicated than can be explained by a single invasive species.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Welcome to the Club

The recent discovery of two different non-native aquatic species in New Zealand waters has apparently thrown biosecurity officials for a loop. First came reports that the invasive alga known as didymo (Didymosphenia geminata, also known affectionately as "rock snot") was discovered in rivers at the northern part of the South Island. The ISW first reported about rock snot back in December 2004, when it was first discovered at the island's southern tip. Biosecurity New Zealand thinks the alga was introduced at least three years ago, and while they are instructing boaters on the best way to clean their equipment, they admit that the chances of eradicating didymo are small.

Now there are reports that New Zealand must contend with a new marine invader as well. According to this October 6th story from the National Business Review, an invertebrate known as the clubbed tunicate (Styela clava) has been found in two different harbors on the North Island (Note: the article mistakenly links to a US report about Didemnum, a completely different genus of sea squirt). A recent report from states that the tunicate has also been found on a boat at Picton, which is on the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island. Scientists are now scrambling to assess the extent of the invertebrate's spread. The TVNZ page has links to video clips of news reports that are critical of the government's response to the crises, following the revelation that BZN knew about the presence of the tunicates for a month before they reported it to the public.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Lyme Dis-ease

The state of Michigan is suffering from an outbreak of Lyme - but it's not what you think. The Muskegon Chronicle reports that local naturalists have observed Lyme grass (Leymus arenarius, also known under the genus Elymus) naturalized in sand dune habitats along Lake Michigan. The grass is spreading but not yet out of control, which could make now a good time to try to eradicate the species from the dunes...assuming that there are no active pathways that could reintroduce it. The fact that Lyme grass continues to be a popular ornamental species could pose a problem for those hoping to exterminate it from natural areas.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Whirly Gig

A fish hatchery owner from Colorado just admitted to stocking rivers in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico with trout that were infected with whirling disease (Myxobolus cerebralis), according to this report at ABC News. The infected fish were released on more than 100 occasions, from 1997 through 2003. The punishment for pleading guilty in federal court to seven counts of "knowingly selling, transporting and stocking wildlife illegally"? The hatchery owner is now banned from doing business in New Mexico, and must pay $30,000. He can still stock bodies of water in Colorado (I presume this hinges on his fish being disease-free). Scientists are unsure what impact the parasite-infested fish will have on wild trout, though they note that native fish likely have little or no resistance to this newly introduced parasite. I say the fine should have included the cost of an environmental impact assessment and remediating any negative impacts on the trout.

Tip of the virtual hat to the Protect Your Waters website for posting about this story.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Greenhouse Effect

From the Agricultural Research Service's weekly news report comes this story about the arrival of the Old World hunter fly (Coenosia attenuata) here in the U.S. The fly was first discovered in New York back in 1999, but no one is quite sure how the species got here. As its name indicates, the Old World hunter fly is a predator, dining upon a variety of other fly species, as well as leaf miners and leafhoppers. Interestingly, some scientists are taking the "glass half full" point of view here, looking at the fly as a potential biological control for greenhouse pests. I want to know what else this thing is eating.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Weed Killaz

There is an interesting post over at Treehugger (previously known to me only as a place to find cool eco-friendly stuff to buy) about one weed's anti-fungal capabilities. Turns out that extracts from ground up and dried Giant knotweed (Fallopia sachalinensis, Polygonum sachalinense, Reynoutria sachalinensis, etc.) have been found to very effective at preventing a variety of fungal infections, including the insidious powdery mildew. Which means, of course, that a company has come along that would like to spray it all over everything (Read the EPA docs here). The product, Milsana® Bioprotectant Concentrate, has been under development for quite a few years, but while I found this label (.pdf), I can't seem to find any place to buy it - perhaps it is intended for commercial use only.

Thanks to Al over at Urban Wilderness for sending in a link to this story.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Conservation of Ash

From the UBC Botanical Garden weblog comes this alert about the fragile state of America's ash trees. Scientists have come together in an effort to save the genus Fraxinus, whose native populations are in danger due to the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). Their goal is to collect seeds and store this genetic material for use in case the EAB causes massive destruction of North American ash populations. Makes sense, since of late the only recourse for dealing with infested trees is to burn them along with all of their neighbors.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Espécies invasoras

The population of the United States skews strongly Americentric (and by Americentric I mean "North America where the U.S. is and occasionally something along the borders with Canada or Mexico"). While those of you in the U.S. might not hear much world news on your local 11pm TV news, you can rest assured that the ISW is constantly scouring the internet to provide you with a global education about invasive species.

With that in mind, check out this article from the Environment News Service, about invasive species in Brazil. It talks about several problem invasives in that country and briefly mentions the work of the Horus Institute. The ISW first posted about the Horus Institute back in January - it's nice to see it finally getting more international press coverage. And if Portuguese and Spanish are more your style than boring old English, check out this page of multinational invasive species resources, including a tri-lingual thesaurus.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Fun with Google

The Invasive Species Weblog is constantly teetering on the edge of achieving the fame and fortune that is the reward for making it onto the front page of the Google search for "invasive species." Sometimes the ISW is in 10th place but it is much more likley to be bouncing around on the lowly second page, between 11 and 12. I cannot help but hope to one day find favor with the Gods of Pagerank and achieve maximum Googleness. Being #4 on Yahoo! and #9 on MSN just doesn't cut it.

Previous "Fun with Google" from Dec. 2004.