Monday, April 21, 2008

Week of April 20, 2008

Updated April 25

U.S. House passes ballast water treatment standards

By Jeff Alexander, Muskegon Chronicle

The battle to keep ocean freighters from dumping more foreign species into the Great Lakes made an historic advance Wednesday, when one branch of Congress passed the nation's first ballast water treatment standards.

On a vote of 395-7, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a Coast Guard funding bill (H.R. 2830) that contained language requiring some freighters to disinfect ballast water tanks beginning next year. By 2015, all ships operating in the Great Lakes must have treatment systems on-board that kill all living organisms in ballast tanks, including pathogens.

The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate, which has been debating similar legislation (S. 1892). If approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Bush, the legislation would enact the world's most stringent ballast water treatment standards. Full Article

The full text of the bill can be found at


Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) releases 2007 annual report and 2008 workplan

APIPP is pleased to announce that our 2007 Annual Report and 2008 Workplan are now available online at .

In addition, the Adirondack Aquatic Nuisance Species Committee produced its 2007 summary report and 2008 Workplan, also available on APIPP's website under the heading: Adirondack Park Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan, .


Conservationists, biologists, battle unwelcome species to save Delaware plants

The daffodils are blooming along the banks of Hickory Run, a small tributary of Red Clay Creek.

The only trouble is, they don't belong here.

Daffodils -- like the multiflora rose, the seedlings of Japanese stilt grass and the low-growing garlic mustard -- are invaders in this sylvan setting.

"We'll never get rid of 'em," said James G. Subach, natural lands supervisor for the Mount Cuba Center in Greenville.

Besides habitat loss, many private and public land managers in Delaware believe the spread of invasive species -- especially invasive plants -- is one of the state's biggest environmental

They often out-compete native varieties.

Barry Rice, an invasive-species scientist for The Nature Conservancy, said they typically share characteristics such as a short period from germination to reproduction, produce many seeds and can reproduce both by seeds or vegetatively. In addition, they typically take root in disturbed habitats such as roadsides. Once established at the edge of a road or forest, they easily spread, either on passing vehicles or in the wind drafts from passing cars and trucks, he said.

The impact from invasive plants spreads throughout an ecosystem, according to Douglas W. Tallamy, professor and chairman of the University of Delaware Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, affecting biodiversity on every level from plant composition to insects to birds that rely on insects to feed their young.

While it is a challenge, Tallamy said, it is also an area where individual Delawareans can make a difference.

Big environmental issues like global warming often leave people thinking "whatever we personally do isn't going to make a measurable difference," he said. But with invasive plants, people can make a difference one plant at a time and one backyard at a time.

In a state like Delaware, with less and less undeveloped habitat and with fragments of forest, Tallamy believes there is an alternative: "What we need to do is redesign suburbia."

Because non-native plants often are sold in garden centers, homeowners may plant them without realizing the impact.

In his new book, "Bringing Nature Home," Tallamy wrote that habitat loss and fragmentation from farming and development have taken a toll on native plant and animal communities. Ultimately, he said, there will be no habitat left except for the landscapes and gardens we create.

By getting rid of non-natives in yards throughout suburbia, replacing them with native plants and getting neighbor after neighbor to do the same, you end up with a connected area for wildlife and better biodiversity.

Tallamy knows firsthand what a difference native plants can make. In 2000, he and his wife bought 10 acres in southeastern Pennsylvania. Over time, they removed non-natives and replaced them with native species.

Every year, he said, they can see a difference in the native insects and birds they attract.

Susan Barton, a cooperative extension agent at the Univesity of Delaware and co-author of two booklets on plants for a Livable Delaware, said a transportation department that can remove all the invasive plants along highway rights of way may seem impossible.

"But removing multiflora rose from each person's property isn't incomprehensible," she said. Then, "we'd have habitat in suburbia."

Controlling invasives can be complicated. Subach said it often is most important to understand the life cycle of individual plant species to best time control efforts.

Along Delaware's coastal marshes, where an invasive, giant reed species called Phragmites australis is a concern, control efforts can take years. First, specialized weed killers that can be used near environmentally sensitive waterways are sprayed on the vast stands of weeds. Spray is typically applied over two seasons. The spray is followed by a controlled burn of the reeds.

On Wednesday, firefighters in Lewes did a controlled burn on invasive phragmites at Lewes Beach. Besides being a fire hazard, the invasive species of the reed provides little habitat value in North America.

In 2002, a team of researchers found that Phragmites australis supported 170 species in its native habitat. It is found in Europe, Asia and Africa and researchers here believe there are two varieties in our salt marshes -- one that was introduced more than 300 years ago and is especially invasive and a second variety that is native to North America. The introduced variety provides habitat for five species.

In 2002, state environmental officials estimated the total cost of a state-landowner cost-share program to control phragmites at $168,700. A total of 2,410 acres were sprayed -- a small part of the affected area throughout the state. Nationally, federal officials estimate the cost of controlling all invasive species at $138 billion a year. Full Article


Bullhog vs. Honeysuckle

By Steve Bennish, Dayton Daily News

Montgomery County, Ohio — Honeysuckle, meet thy doom.

Your killer is a 6-ton Bullhog forestry mulching machine its friends at Five Rivers MetroParks fondly call a "Bobcat on steroids."

The last thing you will see, honeysuckle, on your way to being ground into mulch, are six rows of steel teeth whirling around at 2,400 rpm on the front of a machine that travels on steel tracks.
This well-deserved fate has been long in coming for honeysuckle, the green Godzilla of the southwestern Ohio woods.

It's a nonnative invasive plant that overwhelms and destroys native plant life, from valuable oak trees to expensive exported herbs such as ginseng. Conservationists, for good reason, despise honeysuckle, which has taken over park lands and private woodlots. Some would like to ban its sale in Ohio.

Honeysuckle has been difficult to destroy — until now.

At Possum Creek MetroParks this week, conservation biologist apprentice Bryan Dorsey made quick work of several acres along Frytown Road, easily grinding plants up to 20 inches in diameter. This stuff has been growing since the 1960s and it is well established.

The new machine, purchased for $93,000 by MetroParks from FECON Inc. in Lebanon, arrived for service March 28.

It is the only one in possession of a parks organization in these parts.

The Bullhog takes out an acre of honeysuckle in six hours — three times faster than a human crew using chain saws. It's cost-effective and sparing of other plant life, MetroParks officials said.
The Bullhog also works on buckthorn, autumn olive and ailanthus. MetroParks plans to use the machine on honeysuckle from November through April, stopping for bird nesting season.

Between honeysuckle session, the machine will be used for other purposes.

After the honeysuckle is shredded, stumps are sprayed with a herbicide, Dorsey said, in a routine that will have to be repeated because honeysuckle requires regular suppression and FiveRivers has hundreds of acres that need attention.

FECON sells many of its locally assembled machines for maintenance along highways and land clearing, product manager Anthony Nikodym said.


Pesticide ban has parks department eyeing options

By Meredith Blake

Greenwich, Connecticut - The Department of Parks and Recreation is scrambling to come up with a plan to properly treat the town's athletic fields following a ban on pesticides instituted last week.

The department had anticipated the ban, but did not expect it until June 2009, when a state law banning the use of pesticides on all elementary and middle school grounds was set to go into effect. Not only did the town mandate go into effect a year earlier, but it also included all town, school and park athletic fields.

The department did not allocate funds to treat the fields organically, nor does it have the equipment and personnel for the job, according to Tim Coughlin, turf operation manager for the parks department. "This is a major logistical change," he said.

In the past, the department has applied one application of pesticide to prevent crabgrass, an invasive weed that, if not controlled, can smother regular grass and destroy the fields.

Now it needs to use equipment to overseed, fertilize, irrigate the fields, and get people out to attack the weeds. And it must be done now, Coughlin said, before the grass really starts to grow in May and the fields are used daily for baseball and other sports games.

"We can't wait too long. Things need to be done in April," said Bruce Spaman, town tree warden.
Spaman, a member of the Environmental Action Task Force, the newly formed group that proposed the ban, said they pushed for its quick implementation, seeing it as an opportunity

"Basically, the program was heading in that direction, but this was the push we needed to go with the organic program," Spaman said. Additional money will be needed, but it is an investment, he said.

If residents look to the successful field at North Street School, which is a model for the rest of the town, they will see what the fields will become. They won't look like Yankee Stadium just yet, he said.

Right now they are going to have to work harder to monitor and treat the fields and that will cost money, he added.

"We know how to do it, but the question is where does the money come from," Coughlin said. Coughlin will be meeting next week with Joseph Siciliano, director of parks and recreation, to come up with a plan. Full Article


Spread of cogon grass heightens risk of major fire in South Carolina

By KATRINA A. GOGGINS, The Associated Press

COLUMBIA - An invasive weed that already has infested more than 1 million acres nationwide continues to spread across the parched Southeast, and experts say the regions drought makes the highly flammable intruder more threatening than ever.

Cogon grass, known for its fluffy, silvery white seed heads, has coaxed its way into gardens, forests and highway medians across the region, where control and eradication programs have kicked into high gear.

Dont buy it, dont dig it up, dont plant it and just let somebody know if you see it, said Laurie Reid, forest health specialist for the South Carolina Forestry Commission. We are definitely on the lookout for it because if it happens to come into a forested situation, then thats when the danger really comes for either wildfire or a prescribed burn.

Now in its flowering stage, cogon grass can burn all year and when it catches fire, experts say it burns higher and hotter than regular grass during wildfires. Its most flammable in colder months when it appears as a tall, thick mass of brown-colored grass. But drought conditions in the Southeast have kept the weed dry and increased its risk as a fire hazard this spring, experts say.

They are unusually hot-burning fires that consume at higher heights -- up to 10 to 15feet, said Jim Miller, a regional invasive plant scientist with federal Agriculture Department. "I dont think theres anything more flammable in our environments landscape. I dont know anything that burns as hot in our ecosystem as cogon grass."

Once used as packing material that arrived in Mobile, Ala. on ships in 1912, cogon grass can seem harmless even beautiful but forestry experts in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama warn its a killer.

A native of southeastern Asia, cogon grass chokes all competing vegetation it kills off pine seedlings in forests and overtakes grazing land where most animals wont give it a second look because of its saw-toothed leaves. Experts believe the aggressive weed could turn the region into a grassy savannah devoid of all native species if given enough time. Ironically, forestry experts said, the grass has spread in part because its hitched rides on equipment used to fight forest fires.

Its actually got to epidemic proportions, said Ed Brown, a spokesman for the Mississippi Forestry Commission. I call it a super weed. I have seen it grow on some of the driest sites that wouldnt hardly grow anything and Ive seen it growing down the edge of water. Ive actually seen it taking over a patch of kudzu.

Cogon grass, sometimes spelled cogongrass, is on every continent except Antarctica and inhabits around 1.2 billion acres worldwide. Asia has lost about 500 million acres to the weed, and it continues to spread to an additional 370,000 acres each year, experts say.

Its definitely a worldwide problem and now we are a part of that worldwide problem in the Southeast because we have failed to confront it, Miller said. Florida now has over 1 million acres and Miller said hes heard reports of cogon grass causing intense home fires there. Alabama has 60,000 acres of it; South Carolina only 10, so far, according to estimates done by the USDA and Clemson University.

States, with the help of a federal grant awarded last year, are starting to coordinate efforts to study, survey and control the spread of cogon grass. Clemson University scientists plan to survey more than half of South Carolina next month. Full Article


Invasive plant in creek hinders manatees

Zac Anderson,

NORTH PORT, Florida — A popular winter home for West Indian Manatees in Sarasota County has become so choked with debris that the endangered animals are struggling to access the creek.

The problem should be remedied soon though, thanks to a $32,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department.

Sarasota County plans to use the money to remove invasive Brazilian pepper trees, which shed their limbs so rapidly that they dam up the Salt Creek in North Port.

The creek, a tributary of the Myakka River, annually hosts up to 70 manatees, which move from the Gulf of Mexico to warm inland waters during the winter.

"This is a critical habitat for the Manatees and the vegetative dams limit their ability to move," said Michael Elswick, an environmental specialist with the county.

Brazilian Pepper trees grow much faster, and shed their leaves and branches more quickly, than native mangroves and pine trees, Elswick said.

"The trees generate a lot of biomass that has heavily impaired the area," Elswick said.

The county plans to replace invasive trees with native plants along a section of the creek popular with manatees. Work with begin on May 31 and last throughout the summer. Article


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