Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Molluscan Mess

Looks like advocates of treating Lake Cochituate with herbicides have hit another roadblock. The Massachusetts lake has been teeming with Eurasian water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) for years. Previous plans to dose the lake were met with concern from nearby residents who questioned the potential affects on a nearby water supply. Now the Metrowest Daily News is reporting that a consultant has been hired to make sure the lake is not habitat for the endangered snail known as the mossy valvata (Valvata sincera). I don't think there have been any sightings of the snail at the lake - this seems more like an issue that was raised because of people protesting the herbicide use. Application of the chemical in question, fluoridone, would be toxic to mollusk species.

Bonus points to the Metrowest Daily News for using the snail's scientific name.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

*Insert Limerick Here*

Posting will be sporadic until Tuesday as I am heading to Nantucket, where I will speak at the Landscaping and Horticulture symposium, do some botanizing and entomologizing (is that a word?), and hopefully avoid contracting any tick- or mosquito-borne illnesses.

In the meantime, please take a moment to head over to the "bootstrap analysis" weblog, where there is a great post about non-native earthworms and their interaction with non-native buckthorns.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tangled Bank is here!

A new edition of the Tangled Bank just went live over at Cognitive Daily, and somehow I made it to the top of the list! Must be because all that debate over the existence of the FSM got segregated into a whole different blog.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hawaii Gets Bugged

I could probably fill the entire Invasive Species Weblog just using posts about Hawaii. The islands are constantly being bombarded with new pests, but perhaps more importantly, the topic gets a lot of media attention there.

Back in May, someone discovered the Erythrina gall wasp (Quadrastichus erythrinae) in Honolulu - the Honolulu Advertiser has the story and a photo of the freaky effect they're having on their chosen host plants, including the native wiliwili (Erythrina sandwicensis). The newspaper also has a follow-up story here with a photo of the wasp.

Then in July, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture discovered the hibiscus psyllid, Mesohomotoma hibisci, on the island of Oahu (link has photo of species top right). It's the first ever occurrence of this species of this East Asian jumping plant louse anywhere in the U.S. That story doesn't seem to have made the news yet though.

Additional information for this post contributed by the USDA-ARS-Systematic Entomology Laboratory.

Monday, August 22, 2005

And so it Spreads

Cobscook Bay in Maine has got the cooties - literally. SFGate is reporting that a recent survey of the waters there confirmed that the bay is now home to the slimy blobs known as Didemnum, a genus of sea squirts whose taxonomy has been rather tough to determine. One biologist is surmising that the colonial tunicates arrived in the nearby Damariscotta River via the imported Japanese oysters that were once being farmed there. Cobscook Bay is the northernmost sighting of this creature so far on the east coast of North America.

Found via the Protect Your Waters website.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Whose Timeline is it Anyway?

How do you decide whether someting is native or not native? A common cutoff used by ecologists in the U.S. has always been the arrival of Columbus. The 16th century benchmark is also used in Europe, but in a slightly different way: archaeophytes are species introduced before the year 1500, neophytes are those introduced after.

Now some scientists are going even further back in time to place their benchmark. It has been 13,000 years since large predators and herbivores (mega-megafauna?) roamed North America. So long ago that it is impossible for most humans to imagine, but the scientists have determined this to be the time at which we had the right mix of species. Unfortunately, many of these species are extinct, so the proposal is to "re-wild" the continent with their African and Asian counterparts. Read a summary from Scientific American, or read the full commentary from Donlan et al. in the journal Nature.

Could introducing top-level predators like lions and cheetahs, and large herbivores like camels and tortoises, really restore the health of American ecosystems? None of you reading this will be around long enough to find out. The real questions you should be thinking about are:

  1. How do we determine the "health" of an ecosystem?
  2. How do scientists currently rate the health of ecosystems where these mega-megafauna currently live?
  3. What is the risk of re-wilding introducing a new pathogen that will negatively impact native species? The Nature commentary notes this is a real risk that must be evaluated before proceeding. It also notes that there are already over 75,000 large introduced mammals (most from Africa) currently residing at ranches in Texas!
  4. Where does this stop? Should Friends for Floyd get their way and "re-"introduce pink flamingos to Utah? Should we start reforesting land according to what species are found in pollen cores? What about the dinosaurs? When the heck are we going to start cloning dinosaurs???
I don't have the answers here - feel free to comment if you think you do.

P.S. - Faithful readers, you can now stop emailing me about blogging this story. I tried to ignore it, but y'all wouldn't let me :-).

Friday, August 19, 2005

Trouble at the OK Coral

The Human Flower Project (how cool is that name?) has posted about the trouble brewing in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, the Gulf of Mexico's only true coral reef. Seems that among the young corals settling on nearby oil and gas platforms is the Pacific orange cup coral (Tubastrea coccinea). A recent study determined that the Flower Garden Banks reef is quite healthy, and showed no signs of orange coral cup invasion, but researchers are sure to be keeping a close eye on the habitat as well as nearby fouling communities.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Prawn Addiction

Mud shrimp (Upogebia pugettensis) on the west coast of the US and Canada have gone and gotten themselves a brand-new parasite - not good news for the continued success of the shrimp. According to this story at OSU News, researchers at Oregon State University estimate that the recently discovered Griffen's isopod (Orthione griffenis) has infected as much as 80% of breeding-sized shrimp. One side effect of the parasite is that the shrimp have pretty much stopped reproducing. No one is sure where the isopod originated from, but the fact that it is so large suggests that if it were native, biologists would have discovered it long ago.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Gone to Pot

This is a Public Service Announcement from your friendly neighborhood Invasive Species Weblog:

The ISW has viewed the new Showtime series "Weeds" and is sorry to report that it has nothing whatsoever to do with invasive species. It is, however, quite good.
We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Just Eat It...

...That's pretty much what some nurseries are going to have to do as invasive plants that they sell are placed on "banned" lists. As reported by the Concord Monitor, New Hampshire nurseries are already having a hard time getting rid of their Norway maple (Acer platanoides) stock, as the public gets educated about what will be illegal to sell or propagate by 2007. Even nurseries in neighboring states are hesitating to take the plants, worried that their own states will implement similar bans.

It would have been good for the state to implement an invasives "buyback" program to help out the nurseries, but that seems unlikely as a state worker estimates that at least half of them are still buying or actively cultivating the soon-to-be-banned plants (also on the prohibited list: burning bush (Euonymus alatus) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii).)! Let's hope we don't see these three species selling at rock bottom prices next summer.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Tamarisky Business

Tony over at milkriverblog posted this piece about the beetles being released in Texas to control the invasive saltcedar (tamarisk, Tamarix spp.). He became familiar with saltcedars when studying a bird that uses the shrubs as nesting material. Included in his post is a good article about the biocontrol project from the San Antonio Express-News. In their effort to establish breeding populations of the saltcedar leaf beetles (Diorhabda elongata), biologists are sampling from all over the geographic range of the species, from Crete to Western China. Hopefully when these gene pools start to mix we won't find ourselves with something that develops a voracious appetite for something unexpected. As the article notes, Mexico is already worried, since they've been planting athel (Tamarix aphylla) in the northern part of the country (um...guys...time to try out a new windbreak).

Friday, August 12, 2005

Would you like to take a Seaweed Survey?

According to this story over at the Seattle Times, scientists from NOAA are taking science educators out on a Hawaiian island cruise. It may sound frivolous, but while they're out there they will be taking part in a study to estimate the spread of the marine algae Hypnea musciformis (hookweed) throughout Hawaii's coastal waters. Hookweed is a Caribbean species that was introduced to the islands back in the 1970s. Scientists fear they are about to miss their chance at successful management of the species, which has now spread to all but two of the islands.

Bonus points to the author of this article for including the seaweed's scientific name.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Kings of Queens

The northern snakehead (Channa argus) has been found in the wild in New York, according to this story from the Queens Chronicle. So far this summer, state workers have found at least five of the famous fish in lakes in Flushing Meadows Park. So, come on, fess up, who dumped them there?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Tangled Bank is Here!

A new issue of the Tangled Bank was born in the wee hours of this fine (err, hot and muggy) morning. Check it out over at Creek Running North.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Gone Fishin'

News 10 Now has an article and video about burgeoning populations of round gobies (Neogobious melanostomus) in the St. Lawrence River. There are so many gobies around New York's section of the river that at a recent game fishing competition, less than 50% of the teams caught their goal: walleyes (Stizostedion vitreum). The other teams caught nothing but gobies. Scientists are worried that fishermen might be spreading the gobies around from their bait buckets.

Monday, August 08, 2005


The National Wildlife Federation recently posted this online version of an article in the most recent issue of their magazine National Wildlife. The article, "Good Bugs Gone Bad," is about insects that were introduced as biological controls but went on to influence the environment in unexpected ways. Ravenous non-native ladybugs get some major press here, and there are also interesting blurbs about other threats to native insects and native plants.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Interesting story in The Ledger Online about the channeled apple snails Pomacea canaliculata that have invaded Lake Mirror in Florida. So many egg cases are now attached to the lake's historic Promenade walkway, city workers are going to begin scraping them off to get rid of them. They'll also be counting them as a way of assessing the extent of the invasion. The snails, which can grow to the size of a person's fist, have been in the lake for at least four years. No one knows why the egg masses have been noticeably more numerous this season.

Maybe somebody who knows the area can tell what kind of weddings they're having down there to give the author of the article such crazy imagery :-).

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Watching TV is Fundamental

The University of Washington television station (UWTV) is broadcasting a two-part program from the Denman Forestry Issues Series titled "Invasive Species in Pacific Northwest Ecosystems." It features invasive species talks from several different ecologists in the area. Luckily, you don't have to be on campus to see the show - UWTV has online versions of both Part 1 and Part 2 that you can watch in several different formats.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Reading is Fundamental

Attention Boston-area invasive species aficionados: Alan Burdick dropped me a line to let me know that he'll be doing a reading from his new book, "Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion" at Brookline Booksmith on August 9th (next Tuesday) at 7pm. This officially makes Brookline Booksmith one of the coolest book stores in the state, IMHO, second only to the New England Mobile Book Fair :-).

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I Want to Perch on Scorsese's Head!, a website devoted to "Facts, lore, audio files, books, photos, and other information about Brooklyn's flocks of wild monk parrots," just posted this really cute photo comic depicting a fight between a pigeon and a pair of monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus). I would have thought New York pigeons were tougher than that! Also from BrooklynParrots: a map of monk parakeet distribution in Brooklyn (NY) using the Google Maps API. Some really great population data and anecdotal information on this site, be sure to check it out.

Bonus points to anyone who gets the title ref!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Mass. Hysteria

A story about Massachusetts made yesterday's Washington Post...have we got yet another candidate running for POTUS? Well, not yet :-). This story is about a species of Asian ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus seriatus) found in traps set in Stow and Southborough, MA - the first occurrence of the beetle in North America. The beetles, tiny little fungus-eaters, are rather inconspicuous, so it will likely be difficult to pinpoint when or how they got here. Under the photo caption in the article is this interesting, may-come-back-to-haunt-us quote: "the exotic Asian insect does not appear to pose an ecological threat, experts said Monday." The ISW has previously posted about other genera of Asian ambrosia beetles that have caused problems in the southeastern U.S.

Tip of the virtual hat to Howie M. for pointing out the story. And bonus points to the Washington Post for using the beetle's scientific name.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Search and Destroy

Hawaii is asking the federal government to get tough about inspecting imports into the state, according to this story from The Maui News. U.S. Representative Bill Case, who introduced the Hawaii Invasive Species Prevention Act, wants the feds to be as strict about the agricultural inspection of what comes into Hawaii as they are about what leaves that state. With its unique role as a bridge between the continental U.S. and Asia, Hawaii is certainly under at least as much risk of being exposed to introduced pest species as it is a risk of being a vector itself. If you're not using Firefox you can get more details from Rep. Case's official press release (minus two points to Rep. Case's website designers!). I will post a link to the full text of the bill as soon as I can find it.