Friday, September 29, 2006

Demotion of the Ocean

Back in April 2005, the ISW posted about the Federal judge in California that ordered the EPA to stop exempting ballast water from the Clean Water Act. Now that same judge has gone further, ruling last week that the EPA start regulating ballast water by Sept. 30, 2008. As reported by the Muskegon Chronicle, the EPA appeal...again (you didn't think there was a chance they would decide not to appeal, did you?).

Here's a great quote from the article:

"If EPA had spent the last seven years developing a permitting program for ballast water instead of fighting this court battle, not only would our water be safer but our economy would be better protected"

- Deborah Sivas, director of the Stanford University Environmental Law School Clinic

In the meantime, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington have banded together and produced the Agreement on Ocean Health (pdf), and Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a bill to require that the California State Lands Commission have its own ballast management plan by 2008. Sign On San Diego has the story.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Knotweed, but not Giant Knotweed

Polygonaceae Fallopia sachalinensis
Originally uploaded by Leonieke.

Found this on Flickr while searching for photos for the Life on the Japanese Knotweed project. The title indicates that this is Giant knotweed (Fallopia sachalinensis, Polygonum sachalinese, etc.), but the leaves tell a different story. Giant knotweed has very large, obviously "cordate" (heart-shaped) leaves with slightly wavy margins, while Japanese knotweed (F. japonica) and the hybrid Bohemian knotweed (F. x bohemica) have leaves that are more squared-off at the base, like you see in this photo. All three are invasive outside of their native Asia.

The interesting thing here is that it's not a simple photographer's error - if you look at the largest size of the photo you can see that the botanical tag actually says Fallopia sachalinensis. This photo was taken at the botanical gardens in Leiden, The Netherlands, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world...they'll be getting an email from me soon - I am very curious.

Bonus points to Leonieke for putting this and other photos up under a CC license.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

You Can't Win If You Don't Play

Seriously folks, the "Your Punny Title Here 3" contest has been up for 2 weeks and there are only 2 entries? Where's the creativity? Where's the competition? Where's the desire for geeky prizes?

Deadline for entries is Oct. 1st.


Have you checked out the creepiest, crawliest edition ever of Circus of the Spineless? It's all about the tats, but you can find a stinky ISW post in there somewhere too, plus one about invasive earthworms (wha? no earthworm tattoos? :-)).

Monday, September 25, 2006

Hey Wee-Woo!

Remember that artist who was trying to teach starlings to speak the name of one of the men who introduced them to the U.S.? Well, I may have a new BFF, and it's Wee-Woo the Original MySpace Talking Starling.

Wee-Woo friended me as soon as I asked, which is better than some humans-who-shall-remain-nameless have done. And since Wee-Woo doesn't judge me, I'm not going to judge his Sturnus vulgaris-ness, except to say that holy cow, this little bird's got a voice that makes my parrot shriek with jealousy! Check out some of those vids and you'll think they're fake, the voice is just all-too-human.

Anyway, Brian Collier's got some serious catching up to do...

P.S. - Hey WeeWoo, what you doing? <3 <3 <3 LOLOLOL

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging

Invader Battle: Knotweed vs. Porcelainberry!
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Invasive porcelainberry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), one of several vines we've spotted when out photographing for the Life on the Japanese Knotweed project.

Got Knotweed? Join in!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Parrot Trooper

A couple of weeks ago the New York Times published a brief Q & A with Australian ornithologist Joseph Forshaw. In the introduction he alludes briefly to New York's monk parrots (Myiopsitta monachus) in a way that seems to be filled with admiration of their ability to survive. That was enough to inspire the Flatbush Gardener to dash off a letter to the editor about monk parrots as invasive species. Even better, the Times actually published the letter (go Xris!).

Be sure to check out the three-part video interview that accompanies the article. It's a bit fluffy ("What does parrot breast taste like?" !!!!), but in part two you can see Dr. Forshaw and the interviewer at a church in Brooklyn observing a flock of monk parrots that have taken up residence in a cemetery. The video also includes a very brief interview with Stephen Baldwin of the Brooklyn Parrots blog.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Maybe they just need a better anty-perspirant!

The L.A. Times is reporting that scientists may have found an interesting way to combat the massive supercolonies of Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) that plague California: they make them smell bad. A biologist and a chemist at the University of California Irvine worked together to synthesize the scent that the ants use to recognize each other as colony members. Then they altered the formula in a few different ways and used the chemical on test ants. The ants no longer recognized the scent of the treated ants, and in some cases reacted by decapitating them. If tests continue to be successful, the synthetic ant scent could eventually be incorporated into bait traps or anti-ant sprays. I wonder if they will need to develop a unique scent for each of the supercolonies known throughout the world?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Shuffle Off The Buffelgrass

There's an interesting chain of articles over at the Arizona Daily Star's website...follow me as we first stop at this article about the problems being caused in Arizona by buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare), specifically its potential to act as fuel for wildfires, and its role in the transition of Arizona from desert into a lush grassland.

From there, head over to this opinion piece criticizing the original article, noting that buffelgrass is good forage for grazing animals, is not actually fueling wildfires(?) and is the only thing that will help rebuild Arizona's topsoil and "the native invisible ecosystem" of soil microbes, leading to the reestablishment of native grasses. As to whether the soil ecosystem in buffelgrass-invaded sites is native, I cannot say. I also cannot find any information about the buffelgrass site invaded by native grasses that was referred to here, but I would definitely be interested in learning more.

Our last stop on the buffelgrass tour is this second opinion piece supporting Arizona's decision to control buffelgrass, noting the various negative effects that this species has been found to exhibit on the environment, and claiming that Arizona's grazing animals don't need additional forage. Again, my knowledge on the sbject is quite limited.

So who is right and who is wrong? It's not an easy answer, especially since the newspaper, as is to be expected, is utterly free of scientific references supporting either opinion. It would have been nice to at least see the credentials of the two people offering such polarized views. From the comments left under both pieces, it sounds like the Arizona Star's readers have their feet firmly planted on the anti-buffelgrass side of the fence.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Wilson Finch, You Are A Bad, Bad Man

How is Gmail's spam filter supposed to function properly when you send me this:

aperiodic nutria not evangelic

Wilson Finch to invasion, invasion_1, invasive1, invasive, invasiveblog, invasor.mkiv, invasor, invassoc, invat0rz, invatech, invatek, invax, invayne73, invazian, invazion, invaziongrafix

From: Wilson Finch To: Cc:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Date: Aug 31, 2006 12:36 PM Subject: aperiodic nutria not evangelic

Imagine your home at the r8te below.

We make it happen everyday.

It'd make your monthly paymInts around 1,500.

$553,000.00 at 3.95% int.

Where are these aperiodic nutria, and should we be worried? :-)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging

Originally uploaded by urtica.

There is a spot on Nantucket Island where a huge stand of true bamboo grows - about 20 feet tall and so dense that it is dark within. On one side of the stand another photographer and I found a patch of Japanese knotweed, mostly on the edge but with some stems visible inside the dark bamboo understory. Can you tell the difference between true bamboo and Japanese knotweed, which is sometimes called "Mexican bamboo" (though it is neither)?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

There once was a geek on Nantucket

The Sconset Dump, a now closed landfill on the island of Nantucket, is no ordinary dump. You'd be hard pressed to find another landfill that is considered conservation land - this one harbors a number of rare plant species, but also some of the best examples of invasive plant populations that can be found anywhere on the island.

This week Nantucket is celebrating their Biodiversity Initiative with a series of field trips (.pdf), and I'll be leading one this Saturday afternoon at the Sconset Dump to check out the invasive plants there. If you're in the neighborhood, come check it out, and you'll get a free laminated guide to the Invasive Plants of Nantucket.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Seedy Soldiers

The Canoe Network is reporting that the Canadian military has been shirking their responsibility when it comes to preventing invasive species from entering their country. The Canadian Press apparently got their hands on a draft government report that details the lax procedures in place for reintroducing military equipment into Canada after it has been abroad. The report points out a wide variety of issues, from the contaminated ballast of military ships, to the untreated wooden pallets used to store ammo, to a general lack of awareness about invasive species among the Canadian Forces. The article notes that Afghanistan, just one country where the Canadian military has a presence, is a potential source of both autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata already an established invasive plant in North America) and Himalayan knotweed (Polygonum polystachyum, already known in Washington state).

Ok, I've been sitting here pondering the title for this story for well over an hour, and since some crazy person just spent big bucks in the ISW store, I think it's time to give away some more free stuff...

Post a comment with your single best idea of a punny title for the story below, and you could win your choice of 1) an item from the ISW store 2) a "Pests in Your Lake" decal with optional Vermont state park passes or 3) a "Charles Darwin has a Posse" decal. The previous contest and winner can be seen here.

Update:Congrats to Greenman Tim for coming up with the winning title!

Tangled Bank is Here!

A fresh new Tangled Bank is up over at the Hairy Museum of Natural History. Be sure to check out the custom-designed invasive irradiated moth!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Read My Lips: No New Taxonomists

An article in The Australian and elsewhere notes that Australia's biosecurity is at risk due to a dearth of taxonomic experts. The experts are desperately needed to identify invasive species and prevent them from entering the country. The Weeds CRC points out that the lack of experts needed to examine items for export could hurt Australia's economy as well. As the top botanists, entomologists, and parasitologists head towards retirement, there are few younger folks to replace them.

What is causing this shortage? It might be severe government cutbacks in hiring, or perhaps a lack of decent taxonomy programs for university students, or maybe both. All I can say is, if there are no Australians getting field experience, whether that experience is a college thesis or on-the-job training, Australia is treading a dangerous path towards the next big environmental crisis (Not that Australia is the only country that should be concerned. We've all got our own issues).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging

Some nice meaty posts about invasive species seen floating around the blogsphere this past week:

  • Wayne over at the Niches blog posts about his efforts to eradicate Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) from his home in Georgia. This is his fourth year at it. He seems to be making some progress, but doesn't think he'll be done any time soon. Go Wayne! :-)
  • bootstrap analysis blogged about the threat of carp entering the Great Lakes, and speaks out in support of the electric barrier that was once slated to be built in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.
  • Missed this when it first came out, but bootstrap analysis also posted about non-native earthworms in the midwestern U.S., back in August.

Weekend Photoblogging

"the plant that eats the South"
Originally uploaded by mimbrava.

mimbrava over at Flickr has got a really nice mosaic of Kudzu photos (Pueraria Pueraria montana var. lobata). You can see close-up shots of the leaves mixed with wide-shots of its propensity for covering everything in its path. Check it out.

Friday, September 08, 2006

E-grass, I've had a few...

Seems the Sierra Club is not too happy about Florida's plans to farm giant reed (Arundo donax) for use as a biofuel, according to this story from the Palm Beach Post. If the Biomass Investment Group has its way, they'll be planting 15,000 acres of the grass, burning it to generate electricity, and then selling it to a local power company.

Setting aside the fact that whoever decided to start calling this plant "e-grass" needs a stern talking-to (grrrrrr, just look at B.I.G.'s URL), consider that it may not be the best thing for Florida to purposely introduce yet another invasive species there. California, which has also entertained proposals for using giant reed as a biofuel, has been dealing with invasions in the San Diego area for over a decade.

Thanks to Lynn M. for sending in an email about this story.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bad Loch

The Scotsman is reporting that an invasive seaweed has been discovered in Loch Fyne, where it threatens to damage oyster and mussel fisheries. Known as Japanese wireweed (Sargassum muticum), this species is native to Japan, thought to have spread naturally from France to Scotland several years ago after it was accidentally introduced to France from Japan or British Columbia. Since its introduction, Japanese wireweed has gone on to impact Scotland's Firth of Clyde in several ways, including hull fouling, clogging of pipes, reduction of native seaweed diversity, and damaging equipment used to harvest shellfish. No effective long-term management techniques are yet available to control it.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to just john for coming up with the winning entry for the latest "Your Punny Title Here" contest. His lyrical and punny title, "Lionfish Spikes on Cape Fear? Oh, my!" will proudly be displayed at the top of that blog post for eternity*. For his creative efforts, just john will be receiving an Invasive Plant Wall Clock from the ISW store. An honorable mention goes to Martin at Salto Sobrius for "Lionizing the Atlantic."

P.S. - if anyone who entered the contest is interested in getting an aquatic invasive plant decal that comes with two free Vermont park passes, drop me an email. Seems you guys prefer the ISW store schwag and I've got park passes to spare.

(*the life of this blog)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Life on the Japanese Knotweed

bug of the day
Originally uploaded by urtica.

The Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, Reynoutria japonica, Polygonum cuspidatum, or whatever you want to call it) is blooming around New England - what about where you live?

Flowering time is a great chance to observe some of the pollinators and other insects that use this species. If you've got knotweed, a camera, and an affinity for observing nature, consider joining Life on the Japanese Knotweed, a Citizen Science project with the goal of capturing digital records of plants and animals observed in and around the species.

Life on the Japanese Knotweed uses the photo-sharing site Flickr, and is the sister project of last year's successful Life on the Purple Loosestrife project.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Moth Rah

ARS News is reporting that scientists may have found a better way to control the cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum), a South American insect that preys upon various species of prickly pear cacti (Opuntia spp.).

While there has been some success with releasing sterile male moths into wild populations (sterile insect technique, or SIT), irradiating the males to the point of sterility also left them lazy and less likely to compete with non-sterile males for a mate. Results have shown that dosing the moths with a lower level of radiation gave scientists what they needed: male moths with reduced fertility, rather than sterility, that are much more interested in finding a mate and produce sterile offspring. Field tests for this technique are currently going forward on an island in Alabama, the outermost edge of the moth invasion, which has gradually been spreading from South America up into U.S. territory.

Interested readers may also want to check out previous ISW posts about the cactus moth.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging

This weekend in invasive species blogging:

Friday, September 01, 2006

Dungens and Crabbins

YubaNet is reporting that a Dungeness crab (Cancer magister), native to the west coast of the U.S., was found this past July in the Atlantic Ocean. No one is sure how the Pacific Crab got all the way across the continental U.S., but due to its size (big) and sex (male), it is suspected that it was purchased as seafood and then released. West Coast dungeness crab fisheries can only catch and sell male crabs.

This story was first reported over a month ago by MIT and also media sources such as the Underwater Times.