Saturday, October 25, 2008

Week of October 19, 2008

Wild Boar in Massachusetts

Massachusetts State police said a 200-pound Russian wild boar was euthanized after being struck by a vehicle on Route 2 in Lancaster this week. Monte Chandler of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said there are no Russian boar populations in Massachusetts. Lisa Capone, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, confirmed that the animal was a wild boar. The animal likely escaped from a game farm because Massachusetts does not have a native, free-roaming wild boar population, she said.

In Pennsylvania, breeding populations of wild boar are believed to currently exist in two counties (Bedford and Cambria), where pregnant females and young have recently been seen and killed. Damage caused by feral hogs to wildlife, habitat and property has been reported in the southwest, southcentral and northeast regions of the state. Two additional counties, Montgomery and Warren, have unconfirmed sightings of young and/or pregnant sows. Feral hogs are classified as an invasive species by the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Council.


Scientists Sort Out “Who's Who” Among Australian Pine Species

By Marcia Wood, ARS, USDA

Invasive Australian pines that crowd out native plants in Florida present a particular conundrum. In the Sunshine State, it can be very difficult to tell the look-alike Casuarina species and subspecies from one another.

Correct identification is important to the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists who want to import Casuarina-quelling insects from the invasive tree's Australian homeland to stop the plants' uncontrolled advance in Florida. But until they know who’s who among the confusing Casuarina trees, researchers won’t be able to precisely match the helpful insects with the exact Casuarina with which they evolved in Australia. Perfect matches may be critical to the insects’ success in the United States.

To solve the identity puzzle, ARS botanist and research leader John Gaskin is analyzing DNA taken from Casuarina trees growing in Australia, where their identification is certain. He’s comparing that to DNA from the Casuarina trees currently running amok in south Florida.


Fending Off Invaders a Full-Time Job at the Delaware Coast

By Andrew Ostroski, Delaware Coast Press

LEWES -- They creep in and smother the living. They're invasive species -- plants that don't naturally inhabit an area -- and they're nothing new to Delaware's coast.

And while experts say some local residents have helped them flourish, the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is taking measures to ensure they don't take too large a toll on native plants.

At Cape Henlopen State Park, volunteers are working to stop the growth of the Wisteria vine, an invasive species from Eastern Asia that has killed some vegetation and is threatening several acres more. The vine was believed to have been planted decades ago.

According to Rob Line, director of environmental stewardship with DNREC's Division of Parks and Recreation, there's something sinister behind these seemingly unassuming plants. While the vine grows along bike trails and along the park's fishing pier, it blocks sunlight for other vegetation, eventually killing other plants.

"These are ecosystem changers," he said. "There are literally hundreds of plants that are not native to the Mid-Atlantic states that we use all the time. But the ones we worry about are the ones that can go in and change an entire plant ecosystem."

The invaders

According to Line, there are a number of species that have overrun portions of land near the coast.

"The No. 1 issue that we're seeing is with the Japanese black pine tree (Pinus thunbergii)," he said. "It's commonly used as a landscaping plant."

Also inhabiting the coast is the Asian sand sedge (Carex kobomugi), a salt-tolerant plant that competes with American beach grass, Line said. And there's also the Chinese lespideza, a low shrub that often grows on roadsides; the Oriental bittersweet vine, low bushes that have been known to grow into trees; and several other species of plants that environmental groups are hoping to control.


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