Monday, January 28, 2008

Week of January 27, 2008

Updated 1/31/08

Report calls for more united effort to halt spread of invasive species

By Karl Blankenship, Chesapeake Bay Journal

In 2004, the snakehead, a voracious aquatic predator, managed to make its way into the Potomac River, apparently released by an aquarium owner.

For the last two years, the spiderlike Chinese mitten crab has turned up in the Chesapeake and been reported in other places along the East Coast. The crab is suspected of having hitched a ride to the Bay in the ballast tank of a cargo ship.

And last summer, the zebra mussel-famed for wreaking havoc throughout the Great Lakes-was reported for the first time in Pennsylvania's portion of the Susquehanna River. It is believed to have been carried into a reservoir on a recreational boat.

Those are the latest in a string of aquatic invasions that date back to the earliest European settlers. Without aggressive action by states, they are likely to continue, a recent report warns.

But the region's laws and policies to hold back the tide of nonnative fish, plants and animals are highly fragmented, hindering efforts to provide a unified effort in keeping potentially harmful species out of the Bay and its watershed, according to the report, "Halting the Invasion in the Chesapeake Bay," from the Environmental Law Institute.

The report cautions that federal funding and support to lead efforts to combat the invaders "are unlikely to materialize," making state leadership essential. That means states need to go much further in both coordinating existing regulations and in imposing new measures such as regulating ballast discharges from oceangoing ships, requiring the cleaning of recreation boats and limiting the importation and sale of exotic species, the report said. Full Article The full report is available at the Environmental Law Institute website, .


Worms: Wonderful or wicked?

Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghampton, New York

Earthworms are considered a gardener's best friend. Their burrowing helps aerate the soil and the results of their digestive efforts enrich the soil with organic matter and plant nutrients. So what's not to like about worms?

Scientists have found that worms are harming some forest ecosystems, and may even be pests in few garden and agricultural situations. To understand why worms are not always welcome, it's helpful to take a look at the history of worms in this part of the world.

The forests that now cover much of the northern United States developed after the last ice age ended, approximately 12,000 years ago. The soil on which these forests grew contained a complex mix of soil organisms from bacteria to millipedes, but there were no earthworms. Many of the native soil organisms are decomposers that slowly break down the layers of fallen leaves, dead wood and other plant material to help enrich the soil. Trees, wildflowers and other forest plants evolved along with these soil organisms in a mutually beneficial arrangement.

When European explorers and settlers arrived, they inadvertently brought European earthworms with them in the soil that was used as ship ballast or potting soil for plants. The agricultural activities of settlers helped spread worms, and these invaders from Europe thrived in the once wormless North American soils. Full Article


Florida volunteers round up air potatoes

By DAYNA MALEK, Special to The Sun

Its long unmerciful vines curl and twine through innocent trees, wrapping around its towering prey, suffocating its victims. But now in the dead of winter, when it lies shriveled and dry, it has met its match: a volunteer with gloves and a bucket.

The vines have no where to crawl to; all that is left is surrender. On Saturday morning in cold, rainy weather, more than 900 volunteers gathered at 33 sites across Gainesville to embark on the task of rounding up as many of the intrusive air potato plants as possible - all part of the Ninth Annual Great Air Potato Roundup.

Strategically organized by the City of Gainesville, Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Nature Operations Division, the event, according to program coordinator Sally Wazny, gives the community a chance to come together to work to get rid of the air potato, an invasive plant that has taken over in many areas of Gainesville. Full Article


University of Rhode Island students search for invasive species

By Lindsay Lorenz, University of Rhode Island

While most University of Rhode Island students were working on their tans or part-time jobs, senior Rebecca Allen spent her summer making a splash in the ecosystem. Through URI's Coastal Fellows Program, an initiative that aims to engage undergraduates in environmental issues, Allen took a paid internship with Save The Bay, a local environmental group, which focuses its efforts on the Narragansett Bay.

The project is a follow-up to a similar survey conducted by the group in 2000. From May to August, Allen and another intern conducted visits to 11 docks scattered from Providence to Bristol, spending 20 hours a week examining organisms that have claimed the docks as their habitat."Our objective was to see what new and potentially harmful species might be showing up in the bay," Allen said in a press release. "These non-native species could be taking over the habitats of native species and offsetting the natural balance in the bay. The project was the first step in determining what is here and where they are coming from so we can eventually do something about them." Full Article


Request for Nominations for the Invasive Species Advisory Committee; Extension of Submission Deadline

AGENCY: Office of the Secretary, National Invasive Species Council.

SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of the Interior, on behalf of the interdepartmental National Invasive Species Council, proposes to appoint new members to the Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC). The Secretary of the Interior, acting as administrative lead, is requesting nominations for qualified persons to serve as members of the SAC.

DATES: The submission deadline for nominations has been extended. All must now be postmarked by February 13, 2008. ADDRESSES: Nominations should be sent to Lori Williams, Executive Director, National Invasive Species Council (OS/NISC), Regular Mail: 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20240; Express Mail: 1201 Eye Street, NW., 5th Floor, Washington, DC 20005. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kelsey Brantley, Program Analyst, at (202) 513-7243, fax: (202) 371-1751, or by e-mail at


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