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.

Dark Willow

According to this report from, New Englanders should be on the lookout for the European gray willow (Salix cinerea), an invasive shrub recently gaining notoriety in these parts. Apparently this willow prefers coastal habitats, and is considered a threat to rare coastal plain pond shore habitats. For now, I can't seem to find a good U.S. resource about this species, so head over to this New Zealand page or this Aussie one for more information. Efforts to eradicate the species from a Cape Cod pond will be proceeding this fall.

Monday, October 03, 2005


What the heck? They finally get a confirmed sighting of a brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) in the U.S., and it's in...Oklahoma? That's right, according to this report from KOTV News, the snake was about 3.5 feet long, and was discovered inside a cargo box shipped by the military from Guam. The article notes the last official sighting of a brown tree snake in the U.S. was over a decade ago in Texas, and was introduced via the same pathway. There have been many brown tree snake alerts in Hawaii over the past few years but no one has ever caught one of the reptiles there.

Thanks to the Protect Your Waters website for posting about the article.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Captcha the Flag

After spending about an hour today removing comment spam, I have decided to activate the captcha feature in Blogger. So now when you want to post a comment you have to decipher a squiggly word and type it in the box. Guess I should be happy that my blog finally reached the level of fame that attracts the lowly, sleazy, money-grubbing spammers that are trying to ruin the internet for everybody :-).

Where the Heck Have I Been?

Sorry posting has been so light lately - project deadlines have been plentiful over the past four weeks. The ISW will return to its regularly scheduled invasive goodness on Monday.

In the meantime, if you are in the area and are interested, I will be leading a walk over at the Sailors' Home Cemetery Salt Marsh Trail in Quincy, MA this Sunday, Oct. 2nd at 1pm. The event is sponsored by the Quincy Environmental Treasures program. You are welcome to join us (meet at the intersection of Fenno St. and Haviland St.), or you can just check out the virtual nature trail from the comfort of your own home.