Monday, March 31, 2008

Week of March 30, 2008

Updated April 2

The Nature Conservancy on Long Island Joins Nurseries and Landscapers in Urging Gardeners to Avoid Purchasing and Planting Invasive Plants

Cold Spring Harbor, NY — April 1, 2008 — As part of a comprehensive effort to reduce the number of invasive plant species introduced to Long Island’s natural areas, The Nature Conservancy, North Shore Land Alliance, Long Island Farm Bureau, Long Island Nursery and Landscape Association, and New York American Society of Landscape Architects are encouraging gardeners to grow native plant species this spring.

The groups have partnered to donate copies of the book Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants, published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, to all public libraries in Nassau and Suffolk counties, government officials (county, town, village, State, Federal) representing Nassau and Suffolk, growers, nurseries, select landscapers, landscape architects, and Long Island’s garden clubs. The book details a variety of attractive and hardy native alternatives to many of the non-native plants that are degrading our natural landscapes.

“Invasive plants are one of the greatest threats to the natural environment of Long Island,” said Kathy Schwager, invasive species specialist for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “They are often introduced and proliferated by people who plant pretty – but what turns out to sometimes be invasive – plants.” Awareness of invasive plant species is part of a growing trend. In 2007, both Suffolk and Nassau Counties passed legislation stopping the commercial sale, introduction, and propagation of 63 plant species that are deemed non-native and invasive on Long Island.

“This book is a useful resource when it is time to plant your garden this spring. Take it with you when you go to your local nursery and your nursery professionals can help you find the best native alternatives for your garden,” said Joseph M. Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau. Full Article


In a real pinch: 'Hairy' crabs could be a detriment to environment


PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire — If you see a medium-sized crab with white-tipped, hairy claws, beware. Called the Chinese mitten crabs, these Asian-based crustaceans are an invasive species and pose a threat to fisheries and local ecosystems in both fresh and saltwater habitats, according to a press release from New Hampshire Estuaries Project.

NHEP has launched a New England-wide campaign, enlisting commercial fishermen to detect the mitten crabs before they pose a problem and become established in the area.

NHEP Project Coordinator David Kellam said the crab is particularly nasty because it lives in both freshwater and saltwater." In the freshwater system, the juveniles burrow into the banks of streams," Kellam said. "These crabs can come in and increase erosion, which would then suffocate a lot of the creatures that live in the bottom of these streams."

Adult crabs migrate to the sea, where they can clog fish passage structures, foul fishing gear and crowd-out some commercially significant species. In addition, the crabs eat the food of other species. "They just compete for limited food sources, and they're very good at it so they end up pushing other species out," Kellam said.

While the crabs have just recently been detected on the east coast, they have posed a significant problem on the west coast and in Europe for years. A total of 13 mitten crabs have been found on the East Coast in the last three years, with the most recent observation in January 2008 in the Hudson River in Newburgh, NY.

The focus of the campaign is early detection, said Kellam. "If they start expanding they should just go up the coast," he said, adding so far they have been found only in the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay. "But they could expand — it may be too cold up here, but we don't know," Kellam said.

If identified, ecologists can go into an area and net the crabs, removing them. "Early detection is key," said Kellam. "If (someone) finds one, especially if they have hairy claws — it's the only thing with hairy claws — they should hold on to it, not release it, and they should call the New Hampshire Sea Grant." The number for the NH Sea Grant is 749-1565.


North Carolina hopes to wipe out pretty but invasive plant

By Gareth McGrath,

Members of a small task force are quietly confident they might be able to turn the tables on beach vitex, a plant native to the Pacific Rim that was first welcomed to the coast with open arms.

Vitex is hardy and can be beautiful, but it's also ecologically damaging. Officials are hoping to make it one of the handful of established invasive species ever largely eradicated in the Tar Heel State.

"I think it's certainly something that's within reach," said Dale Suiter, a Raleigh-based biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "With things like kudzu, it's too late. But I don't think that's true here."

Working with South Carolina researchers, the group has zeroed in on the best method and time to kill the woody shrub. Suiter said that's in late summer, when the plant is already starting to go dormant and beginning to move fluids - and any herbicide that's applied - into its roots.

The task force recently received a $128,485 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help fund widescale eradication, educational outreach and surveying efforts. "We just had no ability to do that before this," said Melanie Doyle, state coordinator for the Carolinas Beach Vitex Task Force.

But officials know it's much too early to claim victory. Hundreds of miles of coastline still need to be surveyed or resurveyed, and the nearly 300 known vitex sites need to be dealt with. And this February vitex was found along a bulkhead in Wilmington, which could mean the plant has colonized estuarine shorelines along the state's numerous sounds, tidal creeks and waterways.

Vitex rotundifolia is a prolific seed producer, churning out up to 20,000 seeds per square meter that can easily be spread by animals, wind or even the current. Vitex, which features beautiful purple flowers in summer, also can grow up to 15 feet a year - double that amount in areas with irrigation systems - and is salt-tolerant. That makes it a seemingly perfect dune plant, which is what first attracted folks at N.C. State University to the exotic shrub from Asia with the aromatic silvery leaves. The school's arboretum began marketing the plant to nurseries in the mid-1980s, just as coastal development in North Carolina really began taking off.

In South Carolina, the plant gained popularity as a quick fix to help stabilize dunes and beaches battered by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. But as vitex began overwhelming dunes and forcing out native vegetation, officials realized something had gone dreadfully wrong.

It's not just the displacement of sea oats and sea grasses that makes vitex particularly worrisome to environmentalists. The plant doesn't have any of the dune-building and stabilizing benefits of native beach vegetation. Vitex is also a threat to nesting sea turtles and shorebirds. Yet it is those very drawbacks that have helped the task force develop a strong network of partners, ranging from federal and state agencies to the volunteers who monitor beaches for sea turtle nests.

Unlike most weeds, the worst thing that concerned property owners can do is to cut or dig up vitex. That's because runners cut off from the mother plant will simply sprout roots and start growing on their own. "To try and nip any future infestations in the proverbial bud, several coastal communities have adopted rules banning vitex from their beaches.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture wants to have vitex declared a noxious weed, which would make it illegal to be sold in the state. Full Article


'Rock snot' has outdoors enthusiasts concerned in Maine

BY JOHN RICHARDSON, Blethen Maine Newspapers

As anglers return to the state's streams and rivers this spring in search of prized trout, Maine officials will be watching for something else: a fast-spreading algae called "rock snot" that's fouling some of the world's pristine trout streams.

Rock snot, also commonly called didymo, is an invasive species that appears to hitch rides from one river to another on boots or waders worn by fishermen. Once introduced to a new stream that has clean, fast-moving water, didymo can spread quickly and coat the rocky bottom with thick, gooey brown mats of algae.

There is no known way to get rid of it, and experts say it can disrupt river food webs and threaten valuable recreational fisheries. It was first discovered in New England last summer when it invaded a stretch of the Connecticut River between northern New Hampshire and northern Vermont. Officials fear that Maine could be next.

"The thing about Didymo is it follows people and ends up in pristine fishing areas," said Paul Gregory, an invasive species specialist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. "It's the fishermen who are seeking out pristine trout waters. ... They're likely to be coming to Maine as well."

Maine's DEP is concerned enough about the risk of spreading didymo that employees who wade through streams this summer as part of biological monitoring programs will use boots that don't have felt soles. Felt soles are better for grabbing underwater rocks and preventing slips and falls. But they also are more difficult to clean and dry. Moist surfaces can keep the algae alive for up to two weeks. Gregory said DEP staff will be more diligent in cleaning boots and will use rubber-soled waders whenever it won't be too dangerous. "If anybody's a good candidates for spreading it, it's us," he said.

"For a lot of people who are really conscious about it, you make a mixture of water and bleach in a spray bottle and spray down your gear when you're done. The problem with that is you don't want to have bleach residue on your boots either," Bernstein said. Officials in Maine and New Hampshire recommend soaking boots in hot tap water and soap or detergent for 30 minutes and thoroughly drying them before the next use. Full Article

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Week of March 23

Updated March 27

Climate Change May Be Fueling A New Generation Of More Aggressive Weeds

Research shows that global warming may be fueling a new generation of more aggressive weeds that compete with crops and are more difficult and costly to control. Already backyards across America are seeing bigger poison ivy plants with a more virulent form of the oil that causes an itchy rash. And studies show that a doubling of carbon dioxide can lead to a quadrupling of the pollen produced by ragweed -- bad news for hay fever sufferers.

One of the major characteristics of a warming planet is an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Rising carbon dioxide has been shown to help vegetable and grain crops grow more quickly, become more drought-resistant and produce potentially higher yields. Unfortunately, though, the impact of rising carbon dioxide seems to be far more pronounced in the weeds that compete with crops than in the crops themselves.

"Weeds are survivors," said Lee Van Wychen, director of science policy for the Weed Science Society of America. "They can fill various niches and thrive under a wide range of conditions. While we have about 45 major crops in the U.S., there are more than 400 species of different weeds associated with those crops. There is always another weed species ready to become a major competitor with a crop if growing conditions change, such as an increase in carbon dioxide levels."

The impact of rising carbon dioxide levels on weeds can be striking. In a study conducted by Dr. Lewis Ziska of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, weeds grown under urban conditions of warmer temperatures and more carbon dioxide - conditions anticipated for the rest of the world in 50 years - grew to four times the height of those in a country plot 40 miles outside the city, where carbon dioxide and temperature reflected background conditions.

Ziska's research shows that common ragweed plants exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide dramatically increased the amount of pollen they produced. A doubling in carbon dioxide led to a quadrupling of pollen. Some people are allergic to ragweed pollen, resulting in the "hay fever" response, including sneezing and watery eyes. Additional work by Ziska also suggests that even recent increases in carbon dioxide during the last 50 years may have led to bigger poison ivy plants with a more virulent form of the oil that causes people to break out in a rash. Full Article


Herbicide treatment postponed at Glenmere Lake, Florida

By Matt King,

A controversial plan to treat Glenmere Lake with herbicide is off — at least for a year, and maybe for good. You can either blame or thank the northern cricket frog, the tiny amphibian that seems to have more power than Florida village officials.

Although the state Department of Conservation just awarded the village a $48,000 grant to treat the village’s drinking water supply with herbicide to kill an invasive plant species, it’s stopping the project unless the village can prove the herbicide won’t harm the frog.

Village officials will consider other options, much to the delight of [some] environmental advocates who maintain removing the plant manually or by stocking the lake with watermilfoil-chomping critters would be cheaper and more effective. Full Article


Insect-killing worms may help New York

By William Kates, Associated Press Writer

Each spring, tens of millions of alfalfa snout beetles rise from the soil to continue their slow, methodical march across upstate New York, laying waste to fields of alfalfa in a single growing season.

Now, after 20 years of research, Cornell University scientists have discovered a pair of microscopic, insect-killing worms that prey on the beetle, an invasive species that has infested 500,000 acres in nine counties - nearly 14 percent of the state's cropland - since it was first identified in 1933. Scientists hope the nematodes will be part of a two-pronged approach to thwart the wingless weevil. Cornell plant breeders also are working to develop a resistant variety of alfalfa.

The alfalfa snout beetle was first reported in North America in 1896 in Oswego, likely deposited from ship ballast. Farmers first reported it as a pest in 1933, about a decade after alfalfa was planted as a forage crop in New York. The spread of the alfalfa snout beetle has been limited to northern New York and parts of the Canadian province of Ontario. Full Article


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Week of March 16, 2008

Updated March 20

NY fruit growers uncertain about season that includes plum pox virus


APPLETON, N.Y. (AP) - ... A looming challenge for growers is the spring start of testing for plum pox virus and the serious measures in place to stop the invasive species from spreading.

The virus, spread by tiny aphids to peach, nectarine, apricot and plum trees, was detected for the first time in the United States in 1999, in Pennsylvania, and has been found in Canada since 2000. It was found in two locations in Niagara County in 2006 and five more places, in Niagara County and neighboring Orleans County, in 2007. No one knows what 2008 will bring.

Once plum pox virus is found in a tree, growers have to rip out all susceptible trees within a roughly 150-foot radius and are barred from planting new trees in a 1 1/2-mile radius. The restrictions must stay in place for at least three years.

Six growers, including Bittner, have had to destroy some 26 acres of trees, said Robert Mungari of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

A compensation program reimburses growers for lost trees but provides no relief for neighboring farms in the no-plant zone. So far, between $750,000 and $800,000 has been paid out, with about $259,000 coming from the state and the rest from the federal government, Mungari said.

Though it poses no threat to humans, plum pox virus shortens the life expectancy and productivity of trees, Mungari said, "and more importantly, it was a disease we didn't have here in North America, so it's an actionable pest by federal and state standards."

In the coming weeks, state inspectors will collect leaves from thousands of commercial trees across the state to be analyzed. The United States Department of Agriculture, meanwhile, will conduct its own survey of backyard fruit trees on homeowners' property.

In Pennsylvania, after a concerted eradication effort, there were no positive findings in 2007, authorities said. Canada, however, reported about 261 detections in Ontario, leading to increased sampling and the removal of higher numbers of trees across the border. Full Article


Funds Earmarked in New York to Battle Terrestrial Invasive Species

ALBANY, NY (03/18/2008) (readMedia) -- Ten municipalities and organizations will receive a total of $555,000 to help wipe out infestations of non-native terrestrial species across the state, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.

The Terrestrial Invasive Species Eradication grants will be used by recipients to help fight giant hogweed, mile-a-minute weed, pale swallow-wort and other invasive threats to New York’s ecosystems.

For the terrestrial invasive species grants, DEC received applications seeking almost $1 million. A competitive evaluation process ranked and prioritized the proposals for the $555,000 in available funds. The projects selected were viewed to have the best potential for achieving long-term reductions in the presence of invasive species.

The grant proposals selected for funding include:

Bronx County: New York Botanical Gardens - $100,000: to eradicate Armur corktree, Amur honeysuckle, Japanese honeysuckle and porcelain-berry from the New York Botanical Gardens.

Various counties: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (Division of Lands and Forests) - $99,750: to eradicate common reed, Japanese knotweed, mile-a-minute weed and pale swallow-wort from 26 state forests across the state.

Delaware, Greene and Ulster counties: Eastern New York Chapter of The Nature Convancy - $50,330: to eradicate black swallow-wort, bush honeysuckle, giant hogweed and mile-a-minute-weed from areas in the Catskills.

Nassau County: Nassau County Parks - $45,350: to eradicate mile-a-minute-weed from Garvies Point Preserve.

Putman County: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (Division of Fish and Wildlife) - $8,000: to eradicate autumn olive, bush honey suckle, mile-a-minute weed and multi-flora rose from Cranberry Mountain Wildlife Management Area.

Jefferson County: Central & Western New York Chapter of The Nature Conservancy - $7,519: to eradicate buckthorn, bush honeysuckle, garlic mustard and pale swallow-wort from Chamount Barrens Preserve.

Bronx County: New York City Parks (Manhatten) - $15,000: to eradicate mile-a-minute weed from Pelham Bay Park.

Ulster County: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation - $100,000: to eradicate common reed, Japanese barberry, Japanese knotweed, Japanese stiltgrass, leafy spurge, multiflora rose and spotted knapweed from Minnewaska State Park.

Jefferson County: Town Of Cape Vincent - $30,000: to eradicate giant hogweed and pale swallow-wort from several sites in the Town of Cape Vincent.

Suffolk County: Long Island New York Chapter of The Nature Conservancy - $100,000: to eradicate autumn olive, black locust, garlic mustard, Japanese barberry, Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese knotweed, oriental bittersweet and Tree of Heaven from Cedar Point County Park.

The invasive species eradication grant program is among the first of many initiatives of the new Invasive Species Council. The Council’s first role will be to spearhead the attack on invasive species statewide by implementing the recommendations of the Invasive Species Task Force ( ), which include organizing and funding regional partnerships for invasive species management, creating an invasive species research center, developing an invasive species database, and establishing an education and outreach program.

Grant awardees will still need to obtain any necessary State or Federal permits and complete review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), if required, in order to obtain reimbursement. For additional information, please call the DEC at (518) 402-9425 or visit the DEC’s Terrestrial Invasive Species Eradication Grant Program web page at: Full Article


Controlling the violet tunicate in Canada

The Botrylloides Violaceus, or violet tunicate, was discovered in Belleoram in September 2007 and it can be very costly to aquaculture projects in the area, especially mussel operations. Although the violet tunicate population has grown since its discovery, the species is localized to a very small section of the harbour. Officials from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and officials with the Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC) at Memorial University were in Belleoram during March 10 to 14 to try and control the spread of the species' population.

Philip Sargent, an employee with the OSC, was in the community on Monday, March 10 to help begin the operation to control the violet tunicate population in the harbour. "We will be trying to stamp out the violet tunicate before it spreads around the harbour and to other areas of Fortune Bay," said Mr. Sargent. He notes that the species is located on the hulls of vessels, on wharf pilings and on rocks on the bottom of the harbour.

The MUN crew will be using techniques similar to those used in New Zealand and other countries to help eradicate the violet tunicate. "We will wrap the hulls of infected vessels with a type of wrap and pump in fresh water. The water should turn to slush and kill what's growing on the boats," said Mr. Sargent. "We will place pallet wrap around the wharf pilings to choke out the organisms and we will physically remove smaller rocks from the harbour." He noted that the work crew is aiming at a success rate of 90 per cent and that officials will come back in the summer to check the situation again.

According to Dr. Deibel, the violet tunicate discovered in Belleoram may have originated in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. The species has been found in other areas of the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard such as the Cape Hatteras area, Chesapeake Bay, North Carolina and may be moving up the eastern seaboard due to a slight drop in water temperatures. Belleoram is the only area in Newfoundland and Labrador know to have a population of the violet tunicate. Full Article


Monday, March 10, 2008

Week of March 9, 2008

Updated March 14

Giant hogweed control technicians wanted in New York, April & May, 2008

Know of anyone interested in a job, starting 2-3 weeks from now, working to control the invasive giant hogweed plant in New York State during April & May?

DEC Forest Health and Protection is looking to hire 8 people to manually control giant hogweed plants (an invasive plant that can pose a serious health threat to humans) throughout the state on private and public lands. This control method involves cutting through the root 5" below the soil which kills the plant completely. Root cutting is recommended for sites with less than 200 plants as a very effective, though labor intensive, control method. These positions are for the months of April and May, as the root cutting needs to be done in the spring before the plants grow too large to work near.

The contact person for further information is Naja Kraus:

The application deadline for submittal of resumes is ASAP, March 25 or when positions are filled.


Program removes half of invasive fish species from Satilla River, Georgia

WAYCROSS, Ga. -- Georgia Department of Natural Resources say they have removed nearly half of the flathead catfish population from the Satilla River as part of a program to help eradicate the invasive species.

A two-man crew and groups of volunteers spent most days from April to October of last year using electroshock fishing gear to catch the fish, dragging in about 4,500 flatheads. The flatheads have decimated native fish like the redbreast and bullhead since being introduced into the Satilla in the early 1990s. Full Article


9th Annual Maine Milfoil Summit Focuses On Prevention

Susan Kimball, reporter

LEWISTON (NEWS CENTER) -- There was a big crowd at USM's Lewiston campus conference room Friday morning. The topic? Invasive Aquatic Plants, and how to stop them for getting more of a foothold in Maine.

There are thousands of lakes, ponds and streams in Maine. Twenty-eight of them are infested with invasive plants like milfoil. Once those plants take hold they can literally choke a lake. Many of the people at the Milfoil Summit were volunteers with various lake associations. Peter Lowell of the Lakes Environmental Association says the infestations that Maine now has are serious--and a reminder that the crucial work being done must continue. Full Article


Maine groups seek funds to fight invasive plants

By M. Dirk Langeveld,

LEWISTON - Six Maine organizations will seek approximately $4 million in funds over the next three years to fight invasive aquatic plants.Representatives from the Lakes Environmental Association, Little Sebago Lake Association, St. Joseph's College, the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed, and the Maine Congress of Lake Associations were present Friday at the Ninth Annual Maine Milfoil Summit.

According to Amy Smagula of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, New England has seven native species of milfoil and two non-native invasive species: variable-leaf milfoil and Eurasian watermilfoil. According to the associations, 28 Maine lakes are infested with milfoil, which can lower water quality, form mats that inhibit recreation, and decrease property values. Smagula said New Hampshire has 62 affected lakes.

Scott Lowell, of the Little Sebago Lake Association, said the groups are seeking $2.8 million from federal appropriations, $800,000 from competitive federal grants, $150,000 from a state match, and $250,000 in private funds. Full Article


Seasonal invasive plant intern wanted

The Peconic Estuary Program (Long Island, New York) seeks a seasonal intern, May to September, to assist program staff and partners in implementing their Ludwigia peploides (water primrose) early detection, rapid response monitoring and eradication project.

Specific Intern Tasks will include:

- Kayaking the Peconic River weekly in search of Ludwigia infestations
- Taking GPS coordinates of infestations
- Producing GIS maps to track infestations and document eradication event successes
- Manually removing small Ludwigia infestations
- Assisting in coordinating/organizing volunteer eradication events
- Attending and participating at volunteer eradication events
- Developing educational materials

How to apply:

Please prepare and submit a resume and cover letter. The cover letter should clearly state your interest in seeking a temporary position assisting with aquatic invasive species eradication. Cover letters and resumes should be clearly marked with "Summer 2008" in the upper right hand corner and sent to: Suffolk County Department of Health Services - Office of Ecology, 360 Yaphank Ave., Suite 2B, Yaphank, NY 11980, Attn: Theresa Goergen

For more information contact: Theresa Goergen at 631-852-5750 or Laura Stephenson at 631-444-087


20,000 fish arrive to combat invasive weed in South Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- More than 20,000 Asian grass carp were delivered at the North New River Canal in Fort Lauderdale Thursday.

The South Florida Water Management District is using the grass carp to combat hydrilla, an invasive weed that is clogging canals throughout South Florida. The grass carp chew their way through the hydrilla and experts say it is a successful bio-control program that helps reduce the need for more expensive treatments to keep waterways clear. Full Article


Species discovered to help address hemlock pest epidemic

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Forestry researchers at Oregon State University have discovered two likely candidates for biological control of a tiny, invasive insect that is devastating hemlock forests up and down the East Coast, disrupting ecosystems and in some places threatening the very survival of Eastern Hemlock as a tree species.

The findings may provide an important new way to address the growing epidemic of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid – an insect about the size of a small ant that sucks the juices from tree needles, ultimately killing the tree. More research is needed on safety and efficacy. The findings are being published in Environmental Entomology, a professional journal.

Various other predators have been used in attempted biological control of this pest, so far with no proven success. The Adelgid, first found in eastern United States forests in the 1950s, is affecting trees in a vast area from Georgia to Maine, and is spreading west. It can cause 90 percent tree mortality in heavily infested areas, with major economic and ecological repercussions.

In eastern forests, hemlock is one of the few dominant conifer species in what are mostly deciduous forests. It can provide cover for grouse, turkey and deer, and is a food source, nesting site or shelter for almost 90 species of birds. Some bird species depend on hemlock forest habitats, and the trees’ shade helps cool streams, enhances fisheries, and provides a winter wind break.

The newest candidates for control are two species of Chamaemyiidae flies, which are similar to related species that have successfully been used for biological control of pests in Hawaii and Chile. It appears these flies prey only on Adelgids and have a life history that is closely synchronized with the pest.

“The potential of this species for biological control looks very promising at this point,” said Darrell Ross, a professor of forest science at OSU. “With biocontrol it’s always hard to predict what will work and what won’t, but flies very similar to these have worked well elsewhere.”

The insects previously used in attempted control of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid have been beetles, Ross said. Some beetles imported from China and Japan have not worked well, and a beetle from British Columbia is now in early testing stages.

Continued study of the host specificity and preferences of the Chamaemyiidae flies will be necessary before they could be released as a biological control agent, Ross said. Full Article


Road salt, sand is hurting roadside wildlife in Maine - With this years' big winter bringing lots of snow and ice to the area, many biologists are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of road salt on local wildlife. What happens when the salty residue washes into local waterways and soil systems with our spring rains?

Recently, Maine has begun to put more salt on the roads and less sand. Both are bad for the environment, so the question is which is worse? Sand, when washed from roads into adjoining waterways, literally muddies the water. Increased turbidity (cloudiness of water) impacts aquatic communities by blocking light needed by fish and aquatic invertebrates and for photosynthesis by aquatic plants. Fish and invertebrate eggs and vegetation can be covered and killed by sediment deposits. However, these problems pale in comparison with salt contamination. Currently 100,000-120,000 tons of salt are applied to roads in Maine over the course of a normal winter.

Why is salt such a problem? It is a naturally occurring compound. Most of us know that most plants don't like to grow in salty soil, and that a freshwater fish like a perch can't live in the ocean, but why? When soil or a pond or stream get too salty an osmotic (salt concentration) imbalance is created between plants and animals and their surroundings. Plants and animals are adapted to particular conditions, for example, salt marsh plants have evolved to withstand the high salt concentrations of a salt marsh, most have some kind of mechanism that allows them to excrete excess salt. Salt water animals excrete excess salt, through their gills (if they're fish), in their tears (many seabirds and sea turtles) and urine.

The forests, woods, fields and streams along most roads in Maine are home to plants and animals that lack these adaptations to salty conditions. Plants start to lose water instead of taking it up if their surroundings become too salty. Freshwater plants can be displaced by invasive salt-tolerant plants — just look at the increase in the highly invasive common reed (Phragmites) along roadways. Fish eggs don't hatch. Soil bacteria, vitally important to soil ecosystems, start to die at relatively low salt concentrations. This can have long-reaching effects including loss of normal soil structure and increased erosion.

Salt is normally in short supply in nature. A number of studies have shown that both mammals and birds are drawn to the salty snowmelt along roads. In Quebec, ingestion of road salt has been shown to be a major cause of moose-vehicle accidents. Salt is also lethal when over-consumed, both birds and small mammals are particularly vulnerable; a few particles of sodium chloride are enough to cause behavioral changes and death in small birds. Full Article

Sue Pike of York has worked as a researcher and a teacher in biology, marine biology and environmental science for years. She teaches at York County Community College and St. Thomas Aquinas High School.


New York State Museum's plan to control zebra mussels going to market

( - ALBANY, NY --- Marrone Organic Innovations, Inc. ( MOI ) of Davis, CA has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to commercialize technology invented and patented by a New York State Museum scientist that uses a natural bacterium to control invasive mussels that have fouled water supplies across the United States. The NSF has awarded Marrone a two-year $500,000 Small Business Technology Transfer grant for the “Commercialization of an Innovative Green Technology for Controlling Zebra Mussels.” Last year, the State Museum selected MOI as a commercial partner for this microbial biopesticide technology that was invented and patented by Dr. Daniel Molloy, director of the Museum’s Field Research Laboratory in Cambridge, N.Y.

The fouling caused by zebra mussels and their close relatives, quagga mussels, represents billions of dollars in economic damage and has a major negative impact on freshwater ecosystems. To find an environmentally safe control method, Molloy’s lab screened over 700 bacteria before identifying a strain of the common bacterium, Pseudomonas fluorescens, as being lethal to these mussels when ingested. Full Article


Getting to know green invaders in North Carolina

Invasive species are plants, animals or other organisms that are introduced to a given area outside their original range and cause harm in their new home. Invasive species are recognized as one of the leading threats to biodiversity and impose enormous costs to agriculture, forestry, fisheries and other human enterprises, as well as to human health.

At North Carolina Cooperative Extension, we strive to educate the public of the effects of such species and how they can harm our natural environment. Henderson County has an ever-growing list of invasive, non-native plant species that continue to go unchecked or monitored. Often called non-native, exotic, non-indigenous, alien, or noxious weeds, these plants occur as trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, ferns and forbs.

According to Cornell University, non-native plant species are brought into North America for a number of reasons. For example, 98 percent of the United States food supply, including wheat, rice, domestic cattle and poultry, comes from introduced plants and animals. However, one of the biggest ecological problems in North America is the introduction of non-native species that later become weeds or pests. About 10 percent of the non-native species introduced to North America are able to survive and become established. Of these, roughly one in every 10 species that becomes established in a new region becomes a serious pest. These non-native plant species invade gardens, agricultural fields and natural areas such as wetlands, forests, and grasslands.

Alan Mizeras, a master gardener volunteer, is planning an educational lecture for the public. He will discuss some of the invasive plant species we encounter locally and share his list of the 10 most common problem plant species in Henderson County as well as strategies for their control. This program will aid the general public in becoming familiar with invasive plants to help protect our environment from the economic and ecological impacts of these biological pollutants. The program will be held on Monday, March 17 at the Bullington Center. Space is limited. Pre-registration is required, so call 697-4891 to reserve your spot. There will be a $5 cost for each program attendee.

Diane Turner is an agricultural extension agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Henderson County. Full Article


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Week of March 2, 2008

Conserving Florida's wildlife: Non-native fish, plants are problems for ecosystem


Thirty-four non-native freshwater species, introduced from other countries, currently reproduce in Florida. So, what is the significance?

Non-native freshwater fish and aquatic plants present such environmental challenges to Florida's native species, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) works with the public and scientists to manage and conserve the state's native freshwater wildlife and ecosystems.

Nuisance aquatic species include plants, fish, snails, crawfish or plankton that can cause economic, human health or ecological damage.

Almost all of the non-native introductions resulted from individuals releasing unwanted aquarium or food fishes, and/or the flooding of aquaculture ponds. Most of these introductions were done accidentally, but, nonetheless, illegally.

Foreign plants, too, such as water hyacinth, and invertebrates, such as island apple snails, also can create environmental problems. Full Article


New Study Examines System for Reducing Import of Invasive Plants into the U.S.: Implementing Australian Weed Risk Assessment Program in the U.S. Would Save Billions and Reduce Process Time

Arlington, VA (Vocus/PRWEB ) February 29, 2008 -- The invasive plant screening approach used by the U.S. government pales in comparison to other more effective and readily-available systems used by countries such as Australia and New Zealand, according to a new Nature Conservancy and University of Florida study published today.

The research published today in the journal Diversity and Distributions tested the regulatory weed risk assessment system (WRA) in Australia and New Zealand, and concluded that WRA is effectively and efficiently reducing the economic and environmental threats of importing invasive weeds. Nature Conservancy scientists are also calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to implement the WRA in the U.S., and to do so now as the agency is updating its plant quarantine law, known as “Q-37.”

“The WRA system can be used to test all new plants proposed for import and determine whether or not a plant should be allowed entry into a country in under 24 hours,” said Doria Gordon, Associate Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy’s Florida Chapter and lead author of the paper. “Under the current U.S. law, few species are tested and the process can take up to eight weeks.” Full Article