Friday, March 30, 2007

Pet Sounds

Looks like Israel is considering making both a black list and a white list for species kept as pets. According to this article from, hearings were held last month for the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority to seek input from the public concerning which animal species should be allowed to be kept and sold (the white list), and which should be banned (the black list). While some of the species being considered for the black list are rare and in need of protection in the wild, the main reason for this effort is to prevent the further escape and establishment in Israel of such non-native species as the ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri) and the Indian palm squirrel (Funambulus pennanti).

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sue Do grep -l 'ballast' Michigan/*.law | xargs rm recently posted this report about a lawsuit brought by a group of shipping industry stakeholders from Canada, Barbados and the USA against the state of Michigan. The coalition, made up of shipping companies, shipping associations and a dock company, are claiming that the recently enacted Michigan Ballast Water Act is unconstitutional. They also say that the law places an undue burden on the industry and provides little benefit to the Great Lakes.

I did not read all of the background material from the lawsuit, but it looks like this stems from a state law that went into effect on January 1, 2007, stating that all ships entering a port in Michigan that wish to discharge ballast water must apply for a permit (and pay a fee), treat the ballast water in an approved manner, and report on such treatment. The coalition is upset that a state is trying to do the regulating, saying that it would be more appropriately done at the federal level (How long should Michigan be willing to wait for that to happen? Better yet, why not do it at an international level?).

Interested readers may want to check out this page from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which provides links to several relevant documents. Also, this article from the Muskegon Chronicle names some names from the coalition.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Join the Blogger BioBlitz!

Jeremy over at The Voltage Gate has come up with the excellent idea that bloggers should join together during the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Week (April 21-29, 2007) to do some BioBlitzing. For those of you not in the know, a BioBlitz involves going out to a specific area and recording every organism you see, or can be more targeted, such as all the birds you observe over the course of a day, week, etc. It's a very simple way to record biodiversity - the power lies in the aggregation of this data among participants across time and space.

If you've got a blog and want to join in, start here. You don't need to be a science blogger to take part. Or if you're not a blogger but you're into photography, you can still participate by joining the Flickr group.

For those of you already committed, below are some logos for you to plaster all over your blogs :-). I'm releasing these under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, so feel free to edit them however you like. In fact, here are the original xcf files (GIMP) format if you want to play with the layers: full-size logo, mini logo, participant logo. Please be nice and download the files to your own server rather than linking directly to these images!

Blogger BioBlitz full-size logo Blogger BioBlitz full-size logo, bird-free
Blogger BioBlitz full-size logo, yellow bird Blogger BioBlitz mini logo, yellow bird
Blogger BioBlitz mini logo, bird-free Blogger BioBlitz mini logo
Blogger BioBlitz full-size logo, words only Blogger BioBlitz mini logo, words only
Blogger BioBlitz mini logo, words and birdy Blogger BioBlitz mini logo, words and yellow birdy
Blogger BioBlitz participant logo with birdy
Blogger BioBlitz participant logo with beetle Blogger BioBlitz participant logo with frog
Blogger BioBlitz participant logo, words only Blogger BioBlitz participant logo, yellow birdy, via bootstrap analysis
(via nuthatch)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Ladies and gentlemen, please forgive me for interrupting your busy day, but there is an important problem I think we need to address: toad obesity. It is a sensitive subject but I think we all know who we're talking about here:

giant freaking cane toad!
Source: BBC NewsRound

Yes that's right, several of you have sent in notes about the horror that is Toadzilla (their name, not mine), a cane toad the size of a small dog, recently discovered in Australia. Weighing in at around 2 lbs (861g), Toadzilla is the largest cane toad ever found in Australia's Northwest Territory. Thankfully, volunteers from the Kimberly Toadbusters group have already stepped in to offer their assistance as personal trainers:

huge cane toad
Source: The West Australian

Someone needs to get these invasive beasts on the South Beach diet, stat!

(Many more ISW posts about cane toads can be found here.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Press Keet

The "Who, What Why?" feature at BBC News has an interesting piece called "How do parakeets survive in the UK?" In it, they describe the proliferation of the ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri) in British suburbia, a surprise to many that assume all brightly-colored parrots and parakeets are tropical. It turns out that ring-necked parakeets come from the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, so they don't mind the London climate (or the Belgian one, or the German one, or the climate in the Netherlands...). The page for the story also has two opportunities for public participation: a comment section that is now full of non-native bird sightings, and a photo gallery where readers have submitted their own ring-necked parakeet photos.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Weekend Photoblogging

Swans of the day
Originally uploaded by urtica.

I've only ever seen mute swans (Cygnus olor) in pairs or alone, but at Farm Pond in Framingham this past Friday, there were at least 20 of them, and they were getting a little frisky :-).

On a related note, John Peter over at Invasive Notes recently blogged about a group of people very, very dedicated to their neighborhood mute swan, even after its death.

Weekend Photoblogging

Peared Up
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Bradford pears (Pyrus calleryana, also known as Callery pears) are all lined up and ready to get planted at my local Lowe's. Here in Massachusetts, it is legal to sell this species, as it is not on our state's invasive list, but it is certainly a problem plant elsewhere in the U.S.

It's nice that Lowe's is trying to be helpful to their customers by tagging their garden plants with big bright labels, but I would be happier if people made their decisions about what to plant using more than just whether the species produce FLOWERS, FRUIT or EXTRA SWEET FRUIT :-).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Paris Hilton Of Trees

The Dry Spot blog has the most excellent poem about the invasive Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana, also known as Callery pear), ending with:

"Apparently for some unknown reason everyone wants you around.

You are the Paris Hilton of trees."

That's just a teaser, now go read the whole thing. Being the "Paris Hilton" of something just seems so much cooler for an invasive species than being the "kudzu" of something, doesn't it?

Tip of the virtual hat goes to Les Jones for this one.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

By The Buy

According to this press release, the Nature Conservancy has formed an interesting partnership with the Midwest US supermarket/department store chain Meijer. Starting this spring, Meijer will be offering Nature Conservancy-branded plants in their garden center. The plants, which will make up 16% of Meijer's nursery inventory (not sure if that's number of species or total number of plants), will be marked as "Recommended Non-Invasive" with a special icon, and presumably include both native plants and non-native plants deemed to be non-invasive. Included on the list are species such as purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and white pine (Pinus strobus).

In addition to their new sales campaign, Meijer has voluntarily committed to removing two invasive plant species from their inventory: Norway maple (Acer platanoides) and Lombardy poplar (Populus nigra). They will also be donating money to help with invasive plant management and making an effort to educate both the public and their own nursery workers about invasive plants.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

No Beetle Is An Island

From USDA Newsroom comes this press release about the discovery of the Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis, ALB) on a small island off the coast of New York. The infested maple and birch trees on tiny Prall's Island were found by USDA officials earlier this month during a routine inspection. The press release notes the beetles have likely been there at least one year. Following the discovery, Prall's Island and Staten Island have been added to the quarantine zone that already covers parts of New York and New Jersey, and all trees on the island with signs of ALB damage will be sent to the chippers.

Prall's Island was turned into a bird sanctuary back in the mid-1980s, and has no public access - so how did the beetles get there? As the nice map on this page from Wikipedia shows, the island is sandwiched right between New York and New Jersey, in Staten Island Sound (also known as the Arthur Kill). Now check out this map (pdf) showing the (now outdated) quarantine regions for New York and New Jersey. Prall's Island is off the map past the little bit of Staten Island that can be seen in the bottom left corner. Something tells me there are going to be more discoveries in that area over the next few months (and they're gonna need a bigger map!).

Update: The beetles have now been discovered on Staten Island. Xris at Flatbush Gardener has the details.

Monday, March 19, 2007

OER And OER Again

Have you checked out the OER Commons? OER stands for "Open Educational Resources." It's a very cool new resource for educators, a virtual catalog of course materials that relies on its community of users to contribute, review and tag items.

So far they've got 6 entries for "invasive species," from a link to the Scientific American Frontiers Alien Invasion website to a case study of a marsh invaded by purple loosestrife. You can even set up RSS feeds for your favorite tags and keyword searches, to ensure you're kept up to date when news items are added that match your interests. Lots of great stuff there no matter which subject you are teaching or how old your students are.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Weekend Photoblogging

Air Potato
Originally uploaded by Scott Kinmartin.

Nice photo showing the aerial tuber of the invasive air potato plant (Dioscorea bulbifera). Air potato is actually a yam, not a potato, but we Americans are always getting those things confused :-).

Thanks to Scott K. for sharing this photo under a Creative Commons license.

Friday, March 16, 2007

It's Baaaaaaaack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Back from the dead, and looking little worse for the wear, it's the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act (NAISA). This bill has been resurrected in the US Congress in one way or another since 2002, but has yet to pass. Will 2007 be the year for it? Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Susan Collins of Maine seem to think so.

The bill has major provisions for ballast water regulation, and would require a permit for the importation of any non-native species not on an approved "white list." It also lists appropriations for research and for the development of rapid response tools so that states will be able to better deal with problems at the earliest stages of invasion. The full text of the bill can be accessed via the link above, or you can check out prior ISW coverage of NAISA here.

Thanks to Lindsay G. from the National Wildlife Federation sending in a link to the press release.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Carny Barking

The ISW has a post featured in the latest edition of Oekologie, the ecology blog carnival. There are several other interesting posts in this edition, including one about (native) invasive red cedar from The Force that Through, and another about the ecological impact of goats in the Mediterranean from Snail's Tales. Good readin'!

Also, the latest edition of the Tangled Bank blog carnival has arrived, featuring an ISW post along with many other excellent ones from the world of bio-blogs.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Salmon Slammin'

Biology News recently posted this press release about the invasive potential of farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). The ISW has posted anecdotal references to this issue before, but a new report by the USDA has done a full assessment of the risks to streams in the Pacific Northwest. There is already evidence that escaped Atlantic salmon have established a limited number of naturalized populations in streams on Vancouver Island. The report brings up the risk of pathogen introduction and goes on to note that the further spread of the farmed Atlantic salmon could lead to competition with their wild Pacific counterparts.

In related news:

  • Any guesses as to where the majority of the salmon Americans eat comes from? The answer, according to 49 News: Atlantic salmon farms on the Pacific coast of Southern Chile (be sure to check out the video).
  • A recent article from the Prince Rupert Daily News says Atlantic salmon farms are causing major increases in sea louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) populations off the coast of British Columbia, raising concerns that this could lead to negative impacts on young wild Pacific salmon that have not adapted to deal with the parasites in such large numbers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Library Of Redress

Interesting audio from New Hampshire Public Radio about a new library in Michigan that is being built from ash wood. To remind library patrons of the forest that once stood there, they wanted to use wood from the very same property to build parts of the library. Turns out they'll be sending an even stronger message about the damage caused by invasive species, since the ash trees on site have all been felled due to infestation by the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). Sadly, it is likely that in a decade or so, that library will be the only place people in the Ann Arbor area can see any ash at all.

The Ann Arbor News has more information about the project, and you can get more ash borer posts from the ISW by clicking here.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ball Bearings

Almost a year to the day, someone in the Yahoo! group for the ma-eppc recently asked about last year's diatribe by Burpee Seed Company President George Ball, regarding "botanical xenophobes" and how we're all misinformed and overreacting to non-native plants. Ball was wrong on so many my original post for details.

After sending Burpee a passionate email (to which they never responded) I pledged last year to boycott the company, and it saddened me to bypass Burpee seeds, always my favorite in the past, for other seeds when I started my garden this season. Ah, the bad memories! Well, if they're getting dredged up for me, they're getting dredged up for you too:

Friday, March 09, 2007

Opposing Forces

I had the weirdest moment yesterday. I was browsing the web, minding my own business as usual, when I suddenly came face to face with My Polar Opposite:

evil Captain Kirk vs. Good Captain Kirk - who will prevail?
Invasive Species Weblog vs.

Do you see what I mean? I am frightened. Can we exist in the same cyberspace, or must I prepare for battle?

On The Squids

We're going a little cryptic for today's special special cephalo-friendly post:

You'd think it would be news enough that they found a giant squid off the coast of the Florida Keys. Now The News-Press is reporting that the specimen has been identified as Asperoteuthis acanthoderma, until now known only from the Pacific Ocean. Is A. acanthoderma a new arrival in the Atlantic, or is that part of its native range? So few specimens have ever been found, biologists cannot say for sure. Perhaps we can all agree, however, that the last thing the Atlantic Ocean needs is a 25-foot-long invasive species of squid.

A certain 50-years-young someone had better be very appreciative of this silly squid story ;-). Those of you in a more serious mood may feast instead on these cryptic invaders:

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Grass Ring

The University of Vermont recently put out a press release called "Mellow in Europe, Crazy in America," about a paper by S├ębastien Lavergne and Jane Molofsky. Their research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is an excellent comparison of the genetic diversity of reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea) in its native vs. introduced range. We just discussed this paper in my class last week and I have to say it is a very nice study. The authors demonstrate that repeated introductions of the grass from different parts of Europe gave it multiple opportunities for genetic recombination in the USA - in fact alleles that are found only in France or only in the Czech Republic are found together in the USA. The result has been an increase of genetic diversity in these introduced populations, and new genotypes that are not known in Europe. Introduced populations also displayed increased phenotypic variation, expressed in the development of a significantly greater number of tillers (vegetative reproduction via new shoots that grow from the base of a clump of grass), more leaf production and more overall above-ground biomass. The authors attribute these new phenotypes to the rapid spread of reed canarygrass in the USA.

The situation is complicated by the presence of what the authors term "pre-settlement populations" of reed canarygrass in the USA - the "Is it native?" conundrum. However, this study indicates that at least 85% of the genetic diversity of reed canarygrass in the USA is of European origin and it appears that the invasive phenotypes are likely European, similar to what was found with Phragmites.

If you're interested in learning more, there's a link to the full article in the press release.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Six Skeeters Swarming

From comes this story about mosquitoes trying to fly their way into New hijacking a plane. NZ officials are being a bit weird about the whole thing, claiming that there were exactly six insects were involved (three Aedes vigilax and three Culex sitiens) and that all of them were intercepted. I know the mosquitoes were found in the cockpit, but it was a Boeing 737 - that's a big plane with lots of places for things to hide. Also, they set traps for adults and larva in the air hangar, and are refusing to release the name of the airline that owns the plane. Hmmm.

This is certainly not the first time foreign "mozzies" have been found in New Zealand. Here's a detailed report from back in 2002.

Thanks to Andrew B. for sending in a link to this story.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Ants Go Marching

I was trying to find a nice range map showing the global distribution of the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) for my students but it turned out that I couldn't easily find any range map at all*. So I made my own using the world66 website and a little bit of my own tweaking:

range map for the Argentine ant

The native range is marked in green, introduced range in the classic shade of warning and danger (red).

Here is the text list of countries as well:

Introduced in:
New Zealand
South Africa
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom (UK)
United States (USA)

Native to:

That's a pretty impressive distribution, especially given that the list likely isn't complete.

(Source for range data: Global Invasive Species Database)

*Update 4/2008: Alex has provided a link to a much nicer distribution map in the comments. Thanks Alex!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Koi Blog Wandering?

Well whaddya know? Turns out that Maine restaurant owner who had his pet koi confiscated has gone and gotten them back. Sure, his tank has to be locked (to prevent errant fish from wandering off I suppose ;-)) and he has to display a permit along with a note that koi are an invasive species, but it sounds like Mr. Ly is pretty happy with the outcome. At least this has got to be good, albeit expensive ($11,000) publicity for the restaurant.

Be sure to check out MaineToday's slideshow of the "reintroduction" of the koi to the restaurant, their timeline, and the always interesting user comments at the bottom of the page. The ISW previously covered this story back in July and November of 2006.

Update 03/06/07: Apparently this story is so big, the New York Times is covering it.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging

This past week in invasive species blogging:

Weekend Photoblogging

Some invasive bird photoblogging, courtesy of Anita Gould, who recently spent some time in French Polynesia:

A common myna (Acridotheres tristis)

The Myna Strut
Originally uploaded by Anita Gould.

A red-vented bulbul (Pyconotus cafer)

Red-vented Bulbul
Originally uploaded by Anita Gould.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Good China

From comes this article about China's new National Agricultural Biosafety Science Centre. The Chinese government is putting almost $18 million USD towards developing the research center, which will study pathogens, invasive species and genetically engineered organisms. The center will also act as ta clearinghouse for species data, collecting samples and information from across China, and identifying and reporting about potential new harmful species before they become widespread.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

New Arrivals

Sorry about the lack of posts, I've been really busy lately. Turns out invasive species have been busy lately too, in the US anyway:

  • Gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) in Arizona
  • The Yellow anaconda has made an appearance in Florida (Eunectes notaeus) - Look out J.Lo!!!
  • The bamboo worm (Clymenella torquata), a marine polychaete native to the east coast, has been found established in Washington state. It has previously been found in the UK as well.
  • Washington also welcomed reed manna grass (Glyceria maxima). Well, not so much welcomed as targeted for attack later this year :-).
  • The titan acorn barnacle (Megabalanus coccopoma) was discovered for the first time in North Carolina. It appears to be an established population. "Titan acorn"...isn't that an oxymoron?
  • Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) was reported from a lake in Indiana where it has apparently been established for several years. I think that is by far the furthest inland we've seen that aquatic plant...yikes!

Puerto Rico has got it goin' on again too:

New Arrivals is brought to you courtesy of the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Alert System.