Monday, August 4, 2008

Week of August 3, 2008

Invasive species bills stuck in Congress


WASHINGTON (AP) — Tiny foreign mussels assault drinking water sources in California and Nevada. A deadly fish virus spreads swiftly through the Great Lakes and beyond. Japanese shore crabs make a home for themselves in Long Island Sound, more than 6,000miles away.

These are no exotic seafood delicacies. They're a menace to U.S. drinking water supplies, native plants and animals, and they cost billions to contain.

Yet Congress is moving to address the problem at the pace of a plain old garden snail.

With time for passing laws rapidly diminishing in this election year, two powerful Senate committee chairmen are at loggerheads over legislation to set the first federal clean-up standards for the large oceangoing ships on which aquatic invasive species hitch a ride to U.S. shores.

The dispute is between Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Boxer is blocking a clean-up bill passed by Inouye's committee over concerns it would pre-empt stronger standards in California and a handful of other states; Inouye believes a single national standard is needed. Boxer also insists the clean-up program be governed in part by the Clean Water Act — which would give environmental groups the right to sue to enforce it — while Inouye's bill keeps the program in the hands of the Coast Guard.

Similar clean-up legislation has already passed the House, but advocates on both sides are pessimistic about breaking the impasse before Congress finishes up work for the year. Article


Off summer for some invasive species in Massachusetts

By Doug Fraser,

Cape Cod trees were largely spared the scourges of that voracious triumvirate — the winter moth, forest tent, and gypsy moth caterpillars — this summer.

"There were some localized pockets, but there wasn't any widespread defoliation," said Roberta Clark of the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension. But that doesn't signal an end to the plague. Next year, given favorable weather conditions, the pests could be back in greater numbers.

That could affect orchards, blueberry growers and the average homeowner. After three or four years of complete defoliation by winter moths or gypsy and tent caterpillars, even larger trees can die, Clark said. Stands of dead trees in Sandwich and along Route 3 in Kingston testify to that, she added.

In the case of the gypsy moth and forest tent caterpillars, the humid, cool conditions this past spring helped two strains of the entomophagia fungus attack and decimate their populations. One of those strains is itself an alien species that was introduced in 1989 to attack the gypsy moth. Biological "controls" like the fungus sometimes take a decade or more to establish themselves.

University of Massachusetts entomology professor Joseph Elkinton believes the 1989 fungus is just now taking a major toll on gypsy moths.

For winter moths, it was the hard freeze following Thanksgiving that trapped many of the adult moths in the frozen ground before they could emerge and take their mating flight. Article


Mapping a menace in Connecticut

By Robert Miller,

If you look across Candlewood Lake on a bright day, the sunlight glints and dances on the water.

In his shallow-bottomed boat, Greg Bugbee is now busy slowly criss-crossing Candlewood, wearing sunglasses that help him peer through the surface sheen. The object of his attention -- Eurasian watermilfoil -- lies underwater.

This year, it's hard not to see it.

"Last year, we could stay away from the docks," Bugbee said, pointing out that the plants in 2007 were mostly out in deeper water, away from the shoreline. "This year, it's in closer. That means I have to work between the docks in some places."

Bugbee is a an assistant scientist for the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. For the past four years, he's helped map the thick beds of watermilfoil in Candlewood Lake. For the past two years, working in conjunction with FirstLight Power Resources -- which owns the Housatonic River hydroelectric plants -- he's added Lake Lillinonah and Lake Zoar to the project. Article


Fish species on the decline in the Hudson River, in part due to invasive species

By Michael Risinit, The Journal News

Where the Hudson River bends around Jones Point in Rockland County, there is a navigational marker labeled P 47 on the charts - the letter signifying nearby Peekskill and the figure its height in feet. Two ospreys one morning perched on the structure, which looks like a small oil derrick.

The black-and-white fish hawks also sit atop the river's web of life. Feet first, they can snatch a meal from a river whose biological productivity has been described as "staggering."

State lawmakers heralded the river's fish life when they created the Hudson River Estuary Management Program in 1987, declaring it to be an estuary of "statewide and national importance." An arm of the sea filled with food and shelter for young fish, the Hudson, the Legislature proclaimed then, "is the only major estuary on the East Coast to still retain strong populations of its historical spawning stocks."

Now, 21 years later, many of the Hudson's signature fish populations are suffering. Numbers of American shad, American eel, smelt and blueback herring are declining, according to state fisheries biologists and others. Alewives and Atlantic sturgeon seem to be holding their own, the latter possibly rebounding from rock-bottom population numbers in the early 1990s.

About 214 species of fish call the river and its tributaries home sometime in their lives. Research and monitoring, though, concentrates mostly on sport fish and commercially important species. Several factors could be blamed for the tumbling numbers: loss of habitat and spawning grounds, contamination from sewage and storm water overflows, riverside power plants sucking in water (along with billions of fish larvae and eggs) to cool their equipment, the unintentional take of some species by ocean trawlers, climate change, and invasive species changing the river's food web. Article


Don't be seduced by purple loosestrife

Richard Ceponis, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County (New York)

In the middle of July you start to notice her along the riverbank, on the shore of a pond or along the highway. She catches your eye with a flirting bit of color as she pops up here and there. By August, she is everywhere that she could take root, and her seductive beauty is so strong that it makes you want to just pull over and pick some. But beware; she is not the cute and innocent native wildflower that she wants you to believe she is.

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is not native to North America; it is native to Eurasia. It entered the United States about 1814 by using its enticing beauty to lure European settlers into bringing it over for their flower gardens. It soon escaped cultivation and is now a major threat to the wetlands of the Northeast. It is one of the top 12 invasive exotic plants in upstate New York. The Nature Conservancy considers it a contributing factor to the potential extinction of some of our native wetland plants and animals. Article


2008 Invasive Plant Atlas of New England Invasives Training

New Hampshire

HANCOCK, N.H. — The Harris Center for Conservation Education is offering the “2008 Invasive Plant Atlas of New England Invasives Training” for those interested in learning how to collect and submit data on invasive species.

The Invasive Plant Atlas of New England (IPANE) has created a Web site database of invasive plant species in the region, which is updated with the help of professionals and trained volunteers.

The workshop will provide participants with the know-how to monitor invasive species in their areas, along with a handbook and invasive species field guide.

Part of the workshop will be spent outdoors and will be Tuesday, Aug. 5, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m at the Harris Center, 83 King’s Highway, Hancock, New Hampshire.

Bring field guides, a hand lens magnifier, bug repellent, a hat, sunscreen, lunch, water, a daypack, binoculars and pencils or pens. Wear sturdy footwear.

Information: 508-877-7630 extension 3203 or e-mail



Cotton farmers face a formidable foe

By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press

IDEAL, Ga. — It’s only a few months into the cotton growing season, but already the budding rows of cotton are dwarfed by towering weeds that starve them of sunlight, nutrients and water.

This pesky pigweed species, called palmer amaranth, has long been held in check by powerful herbicides.

But three years ago, scientists discovered a far-from-ideal development in this central Georgia farming hamlet: The first species that’s resistant to all but the most aggressive chemical treatments.

Now, this powerful new breed has spread to farms throughout the Southeast and is threatening to move further west, baffling farmers and bringing comparisons to that deadliest scourge of cotton.

In Georgia alone, researchers expect to find it in about 40 counties this year. It’s steadily spread throughout the Southeast, afflicting farms in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Arkansas. With each farm it devastates, it’s brought comparisons to the boll weevil, the beetle that lays eggs in the plant’s boll and ruins them.

...the only proven method to stop the weed is prevention. Article


State of Connecticut and volunteers make gains against water chestnut

By Candace Page, Free Press staff writer

WEST HAVEN, Ct. — In the battle of humans v. alien invaders on Lake Champlain, the home team has made it on the scoreboard.

Water chestnut, a native of Eurasia, once choked bays as far north as the Crown Point Bridge in Addison. Dense beds of the invasive plant drove fish away from oxygen-depleted waters, tangled boat propellers and made some stretches impossible to navigate.

Today, thanks to 10 years of work, more than $2 million and nearly 13,000 hours of volunteer labor, the worst infestations have been removed from 20 miles of lake between West Addison and Benson Landing.

Thick mats still cover much of South Bay, the lake’s southernmost finger, near Whitehall, N.Y. Yearly patrols by volunteers in canoes remove more scattered plants and keep the chestnut from surging north again.

“This is the closest you get to a real success story when it comes to invasives,” said Tim Hunt, field supervisor of Vermont’s water chestnut control program. Article


Saratoga Lake's milfoil curbed


STILLWATER, New York -- Eurasian milfoil, an invasive plant that creates a nuisance for boaters and swimmers, is almost under control in Saratoga Lake, according to the Saratoga Lake Protection and Improvement District.

The district, which is supported by 1,400 taxpayers who live around the lake, paid for an application of a herbicide to kill the weeds. Last year the chemicals were used on the south end of the lake and in May the district moved to the east side. The cost of the project is $550,000 so far.

This year the district switched from the Sonar brand of herbicide to Renovate, a chemical that needs only three days of contact with the weed to work, rather than 30 days, said lake administrator Dean Long, the director of Environmental Planning for the LA Group in Saratoga Springs.

"It killed the milfoil on the east side or stressed it to the point its growth was slowed down and it is 80 to 90 percent under control," Long said.

In 2009, the district will complete the application cycle on the west side of the lake.

Milfoil grows in large floating beds that kill off native plants and can become tangled in boat propellers. Herbicide used to control milfoil is used in the early spring so it is absorbed by milfoil rather than the native plants that come up later in the season, Long said.

"We were happy the native weeds were not stressed," said Joe Finn, a representative from the town of Saratoga on the improvement district board.

Long said he expects the herbicide to work for three to five years with occasional spot treatment. Article


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