Monday, September 26, 2005

IPANE in the Evening - Day 1

The rest of the day's talks were all about sources of funding for invasive species control...and most of it went right over my head. Too many acronyms: BASF, USFWS, EQIP, GRP, CSP, LIP. Rather than a summary, I'm just going to post a few links so those of you who are interested can start deciphering things for yourselves:

  • EQIP
  • LIP CT
  • LIP MA
  • Schedule of webcasts from BASF, many of which relate to invasive species. The speaker, Jason Bean, noted that there would be a webcast about funding resources on October 10th. A couple of attendees noted that past webcasts were very helpful, but I have to admit the role of BASF as a facilitator for funding to fight invasives creeps me out a little, since the unspoken implication here is "so that you can buy our herbicides."

Friday, September 23, 2005

IPANE in the Afternoon - Day 1, Part 5

To end Friday's session of scientific talks, Seth Wilkinson spoke about his company's efforts at restoration on Pochet Island and Wings Island, off of Cape Cod. The goal on Pochet Island is to rescue the sandplain grassland there, especially important since it is a globally rare habitat type. They've been employing several different management techniques to rid the island of invasive plants like Asiatic bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) and shrub honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.). The machines in the slideshow were big enough to hold a person, but not so big as their weight would do serious damage to the land. Plus they got to burn lots of stuff, good fun all around.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

"You got your invasive species in my habitat!"..."You got your habitat all over my invasive species!"

Did you miss the latest edition of the Tangled Bank, hosted over at milkriverblog? I almost did. It's filled with candy and a dash of invasive species goodness. Please enjoy some ISW M&M's, but save me some blue ones.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

IPANE in the Afternoon - Day 1, Part 4

Next up was Chris Zimmerman, talking about "Invasive plant species inventory and assessment of the Beaverkill Forest Matrix Block in the Catskill Mountains in southeast New York." This was an extensive mapping project looking at the distribution of a dozen different invasive plants. An analysis of road classes in the surveyed region found that they were a good predictor of whether invasive plants would be present or not, with transects by trails having relatively few invaders and true roads having more. Another interesting finding was that land with a home density of even just one house per km had more invasive species richness than land with no houses at all.

I noticed that the "Acknowledgements" slide at the end of the talk listed an Anonymous Donor...note to self: acquire anonymous donor!

Monday, September 19, 2005

IPANE in the Afternoon - Day 1, Part 3

Nava Tabak gave a very interesting talk about the potential of Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) invading New England. The ISW has posted about this species several times before, but always in the context of it invading Europe. Turns out it's already naturalized in parts of New England. Nava noted that Himalayan balsam has very similar habitat requirements to our two local native species of Impatiens, I. capensis and I. pallida, but grows taller and faster, and its seeds are more tolerant of dry conditions. Luckily it's easy an annual species, and easy to pull out, so they've already started control projects to get rid of patches in Farmington, Maine.

Bonus points to Nava for color-coding her graphs using the flower color of each species :-).

Sunday, September 18, 2005

IPANE in the Afternoon - Day 1, Part 2

Randy Westbrooks from the USGS was supposed to give a talk this afternoon, but was held up by Hurricane Ophelia. But they already had his talk on a disk, so Les Mehrhoff gave his talk for him. The talk was about efforts to develop a national early detection and rapid response (ED/RR) network for the U.S. Some benefits of ED/RR over traditional management of invasive species are that ED/RR typically has minimal and brief impacts on a habitat, and theoretically should be cheaper than dealing with any species that has ealready become established. There are a lot of components that must come into play between the ED and the RR to have an effective system: detection, identification, vouchering, record verification, rapid assessment, etc. I say we buy every citizen scientist a camera and a GPS unit :-).

Interested? Then check out this draft plan (Word doc) on the subject.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

IPANE in the Afternoon

Charlotte Pyle’s talk, "Let's get precise about what a "native" plant is" started off with a lot of basic introductory invasive species fodder, so I started reviewing my notes from the previous session. My mistake – because I suddenly realized she was talking about some pretty cool stuff. Charlotte works in Connecticut, and has been thinking a lot about what the term “native” means and how it’s important from an ecological perspective. She listed several reasons why people typically want to grow native plants: for ecological restoration, as habitat for wildlife, because of the belief that they won’t grow out of control, and because they believe native are better adapted to the environment. Of course, we know that often it is easier to grow a hearty non-native plant than to cultivate non-native species.

Charlotte also pointed out that labeling a plant as native can indicate many different things. Subspecies may be native to a very specific region, or cultivars of native species may no longer have the characteristics that made their wild counterparts a valuable part of the ecosystem (I loved her example of plants bred to have huge berries – too huge to fit in any local bird’s mouth!). The fact is, we really don’t know what we’re doing to wild native plant populations by mixing in horticulturally grown plants.

After Charlotte, Jonathan Lehrer spoke about Japanese barberry, but I’m going wait to talk about that until I cover the talk that was given on Saturday by another member of his lab.

Friday, September 16, 2005

IPANE in the Morning - Day 1, Part 2

The second morning session was all about the IPANE project:

  • Les Mehrhoff was up again, this time doing some IPANE by the Numbers: 126 different invasive plants tracked, 500+ volunteers, 6000+ herbarium records, 3000+ field reports, 7000+ species reports. Wow. Also, he was wearing a really cool black IPANE t-shirt. I want one.

  • Chris Mattrick spoke after receiving a giant golden shovel from Les. I'm trying really hard not to find any metaphor in there. Chris pointed out ways that the New England Wildflower Society has been an intergal part of coordinating the IPANE volunteers and, more importantly, developing the volunteer training programs to teach people how to collect data and identify invasive plants.

  • Cynthia Boettner shared a few inspirational stories about IPANE volunteers who really went the extra mile to protect habitats they cared about from invasive plants.

  • Robin Harrington ended the session with her talk, "Connecting the Fields of Research and Management: A Synergism Necessary for Success." (Hey, "fields" - I just got it :-)). Two interesting points from her talk:

    • Researchers should always be thinking about management implications when they are designing invasive plant experiments. Good example: learning that the seeds of Asiatic bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) don't stay viable in the soil for very long is going to strongly influence what control methods you choose to use against it.

    • Scientists need managers need help managing invasives. So why not work together: get land managers to fund university research in exchange for the opportunity to get a specific problem solved.

Early Morning IPANE - Day 1

Funny story about getting to the 2005 New England Invasive Plant Summit this morning. I had to enter the hotel through the back door, because I had parked so far away and it was raining, not a good thing when you are carrying a poster and mounting board. As I typically do in unfamiliar surroundings, I started following behind a few other people that looked like they knew where they were going. We passed a sign welcoming us to the IPANE Summit, and a few twists and turns later we ended up in front of a conference room with a table loaded with handouts. The sign on the door said "100 Worst Violations." I thought to myself, "Wow, that's a bold statement to make about invasives." Then I noticed something odd - the people around me were all wearing nice, conservative suits (sorry biologists, but you know we're all about the jeans and sandals). Then I realized I was on the wrong floor - at the wrong conference. I still have no idea what that other conference was about. :-) Here are some highlights from the start of the *actual* IPANE conference:

  • Les Mehrhoff opened the conference with a proclamation that he wouldn’t rest until invasive species are so well-known that there are placards about them down in the subway station.
  • Randall Stocker from the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (University of Florida) was next up with his talk titled “Invasive Plant Management Science or Art?” He brought up an interesting point about whether we want a combination of science and art in everything that we do, from early detection to restoration to control and management (yes! ). He was also the first person to point out that we definitely don’t have enough time or money to answer all of the questions we are asking about invasive plants.

  • Chris Dionigi finished out the session with an update on the activities of the National Invasive Species Council. Am I the only one who has trouble processing Powerpoint slides showing organizational charts? Maybe it's just confusing because, as Chris noted, - there are 35 federal agencies and 36 federal laws that impact invasive species. Or that 300 federal programs, 150 groups and 200 organizations play a role in invasive species issues.

    Interesting documents put out by the NISC include:


Today and tomorrow I will be at the 2005 IPANE Summit. Expect some serious science geekery around here for the next few days; blogging about it seems like a good alternative to the "take notes furiously and then file them away in a drawer, never to be seen again" system I've used at past conferences. I will also be displaying a poster based on work done by my research group, "Guiding Gardeners to Native Plant Alternatives Using Internet Technology." Those of you lucky enough to be attending will be able to play with the guide on my laptop, everyone else can see a pdf version of the poster here. We hope to be debuting the guide on the real live internet later this year.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Frog Wild

Some non-native frogs are harboring an unwelcome hitchhiker in their home in the UK, according to this article from BBC News. The American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) were found to be carrying a chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), something that doesn't affect them but could be deadly to native British frog species. This is the first time the fungus has been found on animals living in the wild in the UK. Back in June the ISW reported that the same fungus was discovered in Tasmania.

Special thanks to monopolist for sending in a link to this story :-).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Call to Ahms

From out of nowhere, my home state of Massachusetts has opened a public comment period regarding the proposed plan to ban the sale of more than 140 different non-native plant species (Well, okay, it felt like it came from out of nowhere, but the public notice is dated July 11, 2005. How did I not hear about this???). The list of species is made up of plants from the Federal Noxious Weeds List and, more importantly, the species determined to be invasive, potentially invasive, or likely invasive by the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group.

If the plan is approved, the majority of species on the list will be banned starting on January 1st, 2006, though 12 species received "waivers" of a sort and will be phased out over a longer period of time. Is 2006 really enough time, or are some nurseries that plan ahead going to get burned?

Those of you who would like to submit comments to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources about the ban have until September 30th. I emailed the DAR to ask how they were dealing with cultivars and varieties of invasive plants that were listed, an important consideration that is not mentioned in the notice. When/if I receive a response I will post it here.

Update: The Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List was approved and has gone into effect. Most plants were banned from being imported or propagated as of Janury 1st, 2006, but several species important to the nursery/landscaping industries have delayed bans that either went into effect this past July or will start in 2007 or 2009.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Dining Out

Seems some native species are perhaps tiring of eating the same old native meal every day. According to this press release from the Georgia Institute of Technology, researchers offered two species of native crayfish (Procambarus spiculifer and P. acutus) a variety of native and non-native plants to eat - and they preferred the non-native plants 3 to 1! The results of the study are corroborated by other studies showing similar results for 9 herbivores taste-testing more than 300 plant species. This could throw a big wrench into the works that support the Enemy Release Hypothesis (the idea that invasive species are successful because they are introduced to new areas without the enemies that kept them in check in their native habitat).

If you're hard-core, you'll want to check out the full research paper by Parker and Hay, "Biotic resistance to plant invasions? Native herbivores prefer non-native plants" in the September issue of Ecology Letters - grab it here.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Girls' Guide to Harbors and Fouling

Andrew Cohen points me to the Guide to the Exotic Species of San Francisco Bay, a project he developed for the San Francisco Estuary Institute. Launched in June, the guide features profiles for about two dozen of the Bay's non-native inhabitants. A well designed site that is chock full of relevant information and excellent photos - go check it out.

Friday, September 09, 2005

But do they Glow???

In Australia, researchers trying to find a better way to manage invasive cane toad (Bufo marinus) populations have come up with an interesting technique. According to this report from CNN, the toads are attracted to a type of lighting known as black light blue, commonly used in "bug zappers" and popular in dance clubs. Over the course of three weeks at a site near Darwin, the researchers used the lights to capture 200 toads and five errant teens looking for a rave.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to this story. And of course I was kidding about the ravers :-).

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Music for the Biomasses

Turns out that invasive grasses in the genus Miscanthus may be our cure for global warming. At least that's what this article from South Africa's Independent would have us believe. Researchers at the University of Illinois have been testing Miscanthus species as renewable energy crops. Apparently the grass is already being used as a combustible fuel in parts of Europe, and has been found to be a highly productive crop. One scientist notes that it would take growing Miscanthus on less than 10% of land in Illinois to power the entire state with electricity. Interested readers may also want to check out this paper (pdf) from Long et al., the lab at U. of Illinois.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Tangled Bank is Here!

A new version of the Tangled Bank is up over at B and B. Go read it and you'll find a pair of invasive species articles (mine included) tucked down in the Biology and Ecology sections. Go on now, git!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

How Many Kiwis Does it Take to Screw With a Bulbul?

According to this story from stuff NZ, Biosecurity New Zealand has alerted residents of Auckland to be on the lookout for a pair of red-vented bulbuls (Pycnonotus cafer) that were seen in the area. BNZ is concerned that a viable population of the birds would cause damage to agricultural crops and to the natural environment as well. Red-vented bulbuls were previously introduced to New Zealand back back in the 1950s but were eradicated - their importation was later banned. Sources differ regarding whether the species has already reestablished in that country.

Monday, September 05, 2005

What's the Rush?

The Monroe Evening News is reporting that the invasive flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus) may now be established in Michigan's River Raisin. They're still awaiting confirmation on the species. The real story here, though, is that the Monroe County Drain Commissioner spotted the plant nearly three years ago, but failed in his attempt to procure an herbicide permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Monroe County is one of seven counties in Michigan where flowering rush is known to be established. Oh well.

Thanks to Julie A. over at the Human Flower Project for sending in a link to this story.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Rolling the Dike

The International Association for Great Lakes Research has a story about a recently published study pointing to wetland dikes around the Great Lakes as a harbinger of invasive species. Turns out that the dikes, built to stabilize the wetlands for waterfowl and still water plants such as cattails, also allow nutrients to build up and species such as purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) to thrive. Native plants, having evolved with a cycle of natural disturbance caused by tides and flooding, were less common when species diversity was compared to that of undiked wetlands. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a link to the article abstract.

Friday, September 02, 2005


The Leaf Chronicle is reporting that Didymo algae (Didymosphenia geminata) has been found east of the Mississippi River for the first time. Scientists for the Tennessee Valley Authority say there are thick mats of it in the Tennessee River, and no one's sure how it got there. No one's quite sure where it's from either: the species is been noted as being invasive in New Zealand, native in Canada, status uncertain in the U.S.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Technical Difficulties

Argh - What horrible thing has happened to cause the excellent USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database to go offline? I am devastated! Oh NASdb, I need your excellent range maps and species profiles! Please come back! :-(