Monday, September 29, 2008

Week of September 28, 2008

Updated 10/3

Annual Delaware Invasive Species Council meeting on November 7, 2008

The annual Delaware Invasive Species Council meeting is scheduled for 8:30 AM - 2 PM on Nov. 7, 2008, at the St. JonesReserve (Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve) near Dover, Delaware. Highlights include featured talks by John Gaadt, LorraineFlemming, and others, a delicious catered lunch, exhibits, invasivesquiz, door prizes, and more. Each registrant will receive a copy of thebrand new publication, "Mistaken Identity? Invasive Plants and their Native Look-alikes for the Mid Atlantic," which will also be the subjectof a hands-on workshop including an outdoor walk. All this for only $20! Pesticide credits and Certified Arborist credits are available. For more information, directions, and to register see the DISC website, Registration deadline is October 29.


Invasive Forest Pest Conference on October 30 in Ithaca, NY

This one day conference will focus on three of the most importantinvasive non-native forest insect pests in the Northeast: HemlockWooly Adelgid, Emerald Ash Borer, and Asian Longhorned Beetle. These insects pose tremendous threats and may change the composition and function of our forests forever. The conference will feature a group of 14 experts who will examine the impacts, issues, and current research, as well as discuss management options and examine the potential ecological impact these pests will have on the region's forests. Continuing education credit will be available.

For more information contact Mark Whitmore, Dept. of Natural Resources, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. .


Mysterious bat deaths under study in New York

By Sara Foss,

Last winter, tens of thousands of hibernating bats died in caves and mines in eastern and upstate New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and northwestern Connecticut. Many, but not all, of these bats had a white fungus around their muzzles and other parts of their bodies; as a result, biologists named the affliction white-nose syndrome. Some of the bats hibernating in affected areas survived, but not many: In eight New York caves, the mortality rate ranged from 80 percent to 100 percent.

Scientists have many questions about white-nose syndrome, and few answers. They don’t know what it is. They don’t know whether the bats are transmitting it among themselves, or whether people are spreading it, or whether it’s even killing the bats. What they do know is that what’s happening is unprecedented.

“Any time we start having mass die-offs, we ought to be taking it very seriously as a potential canary in the coal mine,” said Merlin Tuttle, director of Bat Conservation International, based in Austin, Texas. “We may be looking at a serious environmental crisis.” He suggested there are probably multiple causes. One factor, he said, may be population decline in groups of insects that bats rely on for food.

Tuttle doesn’t view the bat die-off as an isolated incident. Recently, scientists have been baffled by the unexplained disappearance of millions of commercial honeybees, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, and a few years ago scientists reported that a strange new fungus that kills frogs, toads and other species of amphibians was spreading around the globe.

Al Hicks, the mammal specialist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s endangered species program, views the bat die-off as symptomatic of an environment in crisis. He suggested that the world’s increasing population and “the increased rate that we move things around on this planet” are taxing the earth. “Our ability to move quickly and frequently around the planet allows ever increasing movement of organisms,” he said. Invasive species such as zebra mussels and purple loosestrife threaten to throw New York’s ecosystem out of whack, he said.

New York is considered the epicenter of the bat die-off.

Little brown bats, the most numerous bats in the Northeast, are being killed off in the greatest numbers. But the Indiana bat, which is listed as an endangered species, has also suffered, as have northern long-eared and small-footed bats, eastern pipistrelle and other bats using the same caves and mines.


Invasive grass is threat to Maryland's native species

By Ishita Singh,

The latest threat to Maryland native species is a unique-looking plant with leaves that look like they have been folded and then smoothed out.

Wavyleaf basketgrass (Oplismenus hirtellus ssp. undulatifolius), native to Southeast Asia, was first discovered in 1996 in Patapsco Valley State Park. Last year, researchers found it in Little Paint Branch Park in Prince George's County.

The plant's seeds spread in the fall by sticking to animals, pants, boots and bikes. Once the seed is planted, Wavyleaf Basketgrass out-competes native plant life. There are no insects or animals that feed on it, so its growth is unimpeded by natural causes.

"It has the potential to completely change the diversity of the ecosystem, and take the bottom out of the food chain," said Maryland Department of Natural Resources ecologist Kerrie Kyde.

"Because this was found so early, we think we can control it, but citizens need to be alert, walk around their property and keep an eye out on these things," said Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant with the Home and Garden Information Center at the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

Wavyleaf basketgrass has alternating leaves that taper to a long point. It is a bright green and grows about 2 feet high. For more information, go to Wavyleaf Basketgrass.



'Weed It Now' drive pushes on

By Trevor Jones, Berkshire Eagle Staff

SALISBURY, Conn. — Along a path to the Appalachian Trail, the forest here seems strangely out of place. With thickets of tall brush and vines overtaking the trees, it looks more like the entrance to a dense tropical jungle than the trees and ferns of a typical New England woods.

That's because the area has been overwhelmed by invasive plant species in recent years and several local organizations are working to change it, and other regional woods, back to their natural state.

The work is part of "Weed It Now," a five-year initiative focusing on the removal of invasive plant species from more than 9,000 acres of the Berkshire Taconic forest plateau. Covering three states and 75 different properties, it's the Northeast's largest invasive plant removal project to date.

"This trail provides such an amazing habitat for wild species," said Jessica Murray Toro, conservation project manager for the Nature Conservancy. "Invasive species are the greatest threat to that natural habitat."

Invasive plants like Japanese barberry and garlic mustard spread rapidly and can have dramatic impacts on forests by out competing other plants, reducing tree regeneration and affecting water and soil chemistry. These changes can disturb the region's natural balance, further impacting other plants and animals' habitats.

Crews have been working along the western portion of the Massachusetts-Connecticut border starting last week, including Great Barrington, Egremont and Sheffield. They have sprayed herbicides on specific plants, working through dense barbed plants and high reaching vines. Once the work is complete, they will return to the site the following year to ensure the herbicide worked.

"If you don't do something about it, you're going to see, long-term, (invasive plants) having a huge impact," said David O'Brien, a Lewis Tree Services foreman working at the site.

"Weed It Now" is an initiative formed by the Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service, the Connecticut Appalachian Trail Committee of the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. In its final year, representatives from the initiative have already sprayed more than 7,000 acres of forest impacted by the unwanted plants.

The goal is to get the invasive plant population under 5 percent in the forest, safeguarding more than 25,000 acres from the threat of invasive plant species. Article


NJ pond infested with Asian swamp eels


GIBBSBORO, N.J. - Another unwelcome foreign animal species is causing trouble in New Jersey.

State fish and wildlife officials have found hundreds of Asian swamp eels slithering and breeding around Silver Lake in Gibbsboro.

Four states now have the eels, which can gobble up all kinds of aquatic life.

No one has figured out how to kill off the creatures.

The eels are highly adaptable. They can change sex. They can burrow in mud and survive for weeks without food. They can also crawl over land to other bodies of water.

Officials believe someone may have had the eels as exotic pets and dumped them in the waterway. Article from Newsday.


Odyssey: artificially intelligent submarine searches for invasive species

MIT researchers have designed a new robotic underwater vehicle that can hover in place like a helicopter — an invaluable tool for deepwater oil explorers, marine archaeologists, oceanographers and others.

The new craft, called Odyssey IV, is the latest in a series of small, inexpensive artificially intelligent submarines developed over the last two decades by the MIT Sea Grant College Program’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicles Laboratory.

The new Odyssey IV, which has just completed sea trials off Woods Hole, Mass., can move through the deep ocean, up to 6,000 meters down, stopping anywhere in the water column and constantly correcting for currents and obstacles. Navigating to its preprogrammed destination, it can hover in place, making detailed inspections of the footings of an offshore oil platform, or photographing the flora and fauna around an undersea vent.

This summer, this latest-generation craft has been demonstrating its new abilities on its first scientific mission, a study of the George’s Bank area of the Gulf of Maine, which is hugely important to the region’s commercial fisheries. Odyssey is being deployed in a series of dives to map and observe an invasive species of sea squirt called Didemnum that has been infesting New England waters. MIT Sea Grant’s Judy Pederson has been tracking the Didemnum invasion for several years, hoping to prevent it from smothering important native species; Odyssey IV will be her eyes on the seafloor. Article


New Members of Invasive Species Advisory Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. — At a meeting of the National Invasive Species Council today, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced the new members of the Invasive Species Advisory Committee, who will provide advice and recommendations to the council.

The Invasive Species Advisory Committee is made up of 31 individuals representing a broad range of stakeholders including scientific, conservation, agriculture, State and Tribal governments and industry organizations that are impacted by invasive species.

Members of the Fifth Convening of the Invasive Species Advisory Committee:

Peter Alpert, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts
Nancy Balcom, Connecticut Sea Grant
Leslie Cahill, American Seed Trade Association
Timothy Carlson, Tamarisk Coalition
Earl Chilton, II, Ph.D., Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Janet Clark, Montana State University
Joseph DiTomaso, Ph.D., University of California, Davis
Otto Doering, III, Ph.D., Purdue University
Susan Ellis, California Department of Fish and Game
Miles Falck, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission
Christopher Fisher, Colville Confederated Tribes
Amy Frankmann, Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association
Ann Gibbs, Maine Department of Agriculture (Representing National Plant Board)
Catherine L. Hazlewood, Esq., The Nature Conservancy
Lisa Ka’aihue, Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council
John Kennedy, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (Representing the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies)
Robert McMahon, University of Texas at Arlington
Kathy Metcalf, Chamber of Shipping of America
Edward L. Mills, Ph.D., Cornell University
Jamie K. Reaser, Ph.D., Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
Steven Jay Sanford, New York Department of Environmental Conservation
Jeffrey D. Schardt, Florida Department of Environment Protection
Celia Smith, Ph.D., University of Hawaii
David E. Starling, Aqueterinary Services, P.C.
Nathan Stone, Ph.D., University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Douglas W. Tallamy, Ph.D., University of Delaware
John Peter Thompson, The Behnke Nurseries Company
Jennifer Vollmer, Ph.D., BASF Corporation
Damon E. Waitt, Ph.D., Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center University of Texas at Austin
Robert H. Wiltshire, Center for Aquatic Nuisance Species (Representing the Federation of Fly Fishers)
Kenneth Zimmerman, Lone Tree Cattle Company

News Release

New York DEC partners with Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis today announced the signing of a five-year contract with the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP), an award-winning program focused on detecting and eradicating invasive species such as garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed and purple loosestrife in the Adirondack Park.

APIPP is one of New York’s regional partnerships focused on the problem of invasive species, which have proliferated throughout the state’s waterways, forests and farmlands. Because they typically come from other parts of the world, invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian milfoil often don’t face natural ecological checks and balances and, therefore, reproduce and spread at alarming rates. Their negative impact is increasing largely due to the rise in global trade and travel.

A national- and state-award winning program, APIPP over the years has made presentations, developed public-service publications, produced videos and undertaken other efforts to spread awareness about the ecological damage caused by non-native plants. Volunteers have served as monitors for hundreds of lakes, ponds, rivers and forests and have ripped out tons of invasive plants from Adirondack roadsides. Currently, more than 30 invasive species including Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard, giant hogweed, swallowwort, Eurasian milfoil have been found in the Adirondack region. With this new contract in place ($1.36 million through the state Environmental Protection Fund), APIPP plans on expanding its working boundaries and broadening its mission beyond plants.

APIPP’s principal partners are The Nature Conservancy (TNC), DEC, Adirondack Park Agency (APA), and State Department of Transportation (DOT). TNC hosts the program at its Keene Valley office and coordinates volunteer efforts.


Crab attack: Chinese mitten crabs are invading Columbia County, NY


FISHERMEN NEAR THE MOUTH of the Hudson River found the first Chinese mitten crabs in the Hudson in 2007. Robert Schmidt of Hillsdale, Professor of Biology at Bard College at Simon's Rock and assistant director of Hudsonia, says he had discovered Chinese mitten crabs at the mouth of the Roeliff Jansen Kill by this past spring. In a couple of years, he says, "They'll be coming to a neighborhood near you."

Schmidt says as recently as September 23 he found four mitten crabs in the Kline Kill under a bridge on Wire Road in Germantown, and with the help of interns Erin Swift and Ira Shadis he consistently found mitten crabs in other waterways of Columbia Dutchess counties this past summer. Near Hudsonia, the environmental research institute on the campus of Bard College in Annandale, Schmidt says he has found more than 150 exoskeletons shed by mitten crabs in a small stream, indicating a sizable population there. He has also found crabs in the Cheviot Brook in northern Germantown.

When Nyack Fisherman Bob Gabrielson discovered the first crabs in the Hudson River, he was struck by their appearance. "When we caught the first one in 2007 the crab was pretty darn ugly," says Gabrielson. "It looked like a spider crab, looked like it had a muff of hair on its claws. I guess that's 'cause it looked like a mitten."

They're actually downright destructive, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. "They have the potential to destroy commercial catches and nets by pinching the fish and nets--this was a big issue in San Francisco Bay," Lori O'Connell of DEC said in an email.

Mitten crabs were first discovered in the United States during the 1990s in San Francisco Bay, where Schmidt says they have interfered significantly with commercial fisheries. On the east coast, they've been found in the Chesapeake Bay and the St. Lawrence River.

A potential problem for the Hudson River ecosystem is that the crabs reproduce at a rapid rate and are known to lay upwards of a million eggs at a time, causing them to push native species of all kinds out of the environment and clog water systems by their sheer numbers. Mitten crabs also make their homes by burrowing into riverbanks, causing significant erosion and habitat destruction.

Another issue is that there are no indigenous fresh water crabs of any kind in North America: blue crabs native to the Hudson are saltwater crabs that exist primarily in the southern part of the river, where the water has a high salt content. Schmidt says the mitten crabs' rapid reproductive rate will force a sudden high density of crabs into an environment that never has had crabs, and that this will disrupt the ecosystem.

Mitten crabs mate in salt water, but they migrate into freshwater as they mature. The fact that they have moved into Columbia County only two years after they were first discovered at the mouth of the Hudson is the result of the crabs' ability to travel through waterways rapidly. Another problematic factor is that mitten crabs have the capacity to travel long distances on land.

No one has come up with any sort of method to control their population yet, according to Schmidt, so they're continuing to spread at alarming rates. "They're frightening," he says. "They could spread all over Columbia County and the United States."



Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Open Space Stewardship Program (OSSP)

Courtesy of "Sound Bytes," the newsletter of the Long Island Sound Study

The Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Open Space Stewardship Program (OSSP) encourages students to become “environmental stewards” by involving them in research projects throughout Long Island. This year, Long Island Sound Study (LISS) has joined OSSP to coordinate research projects within LISS stewardship sites. Some projects that have already begun include surveying plant, macro invertebrates, and fish populations at Sunken Meadow State Park; examining wetland disturbance at Cedar Beach; mapping and removing invasive plants at Nissequogue River State Park; and examining the distribution and effects of invasive Asian shore crab populations at Flax Pond. For more information on OSSP, please contact Mel Morris or Larissa Graham.


No comments: