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.