Monday, December 29, 2008

Week of December 29, 2008

Happy New Year!

Blog updated 12/31

Rhode Island town to control sand sedge

The Associated Press, Published: December 29, 2008

MIDDLETOWN, R.I.—Middletown is planning to eradicate a species of invasive beach grass from Sachuest Beach that could cause erosion and weaken dunes.

Town Administrator Shawn Brown tells The Newport Daily News that the areas affected by sand sedge will be sprayed with a herbicide in the spring, well before the start of beach season.

Brown says the sand sedge [likely to be Carex kobomugi] has choked out the native species in some areas.

The sand sedge was discovered earlier this year by a researcher working on an unrelated project. Town officials and experts have been investigating various potential solutions since then.

Officials are not sure how the Asian species arrived in town.

The town received approval for the removal plan from the Coastal Resources Management Council. Link


Zebra mussels found in lower Susquehanna

By Karl Blankenship, Chesapeake Bay Journal

Zebra mussels, the infamous invader from the Caspian Sea that has infested the Great Lakes and other water bodies, have finally made their way to the fringes of the Chesapeake Bay.

Maryland environmental officials confirmed in December that a thumbnail-size mussel was found attached to a boat at Glen Cove Marina on the Susquehanna River in Harford County, less than 10 miles from the Bay.

In November, Pennsylvania environmental officials confirmed the discovery of a zebra mussel at the Conowingo Dam in Maryland; the first time Driessena polymorpha had been found in the lower Susquehanna River. Shortly thereafter, they were also found in Muddy Run, a Susquehanna tributary in Pennsylvania, just north of the state line.

Tom Horvath, a scientist with the State University of New York's College at Oneonta, who has monitored zebra mussels since they were discovered in the Susquehanna headwaters, said populations in New York lakes have "really taken off."

The typical pattern, he said, is for the mussel to invade a lake and rapidly expand its population until it ultimately spills out into the river below the lake, where the creatures often "carpet the bottom" for several hundred yards.

"Then they peter out and you just find them hit-or-miss the rest of the way down," he said. But when the zebra mussels, or their larvae which float with the current, find another lake or slow patch of water, they can produce a new "seed" populations that help infest downstream areas.

"I think the hydroelectric dams in Pennsylvania will start creating new source populations for further seeding of the downstream sites, sort of the hopscotch model," Horvath said. Link


Overview Paper: Impacts of White-tailed Deer Overabundance in Forest Ecosystems (Jun 2008; PDF 307 KB)

USDA. FS. Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry.Land managers, especially in southern New England, need to recognize that deer are exacerbating invasive plant problems, while also seriously degrading native forest vegetation. Integrating aggressive deer population control measures into land management programs holds great promise in restoring these forests.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Week of December 22, 2008

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!


Mussel sightings have raised concerns

By Molly Murray, The News Journal

A decade ago, scientists in Delaware and Maryland were on high alert for zebra mussels, a creature that reproduces so quickly that thousands could quickly reduce the stream of water through intake pipes to a trickle.

But over the years, as zebra mussels stayed to the north, south and west, people here pretty much stopped thinking about them -- until last month, when they started showing up in the Maryland portion of the Susquehanna River.

The mussels aren't the only species concerning state regulators. Invasive plants such as rock snot, a problem in the upper Delaware River, can also be a major concern, Miller said.

He said some states are looking at banning felt bottoms on fishermen's wading boots. The felt, used to help prevent slips and falls, can pick up potentially invasive plants.

Zebra mussels get their name from the stripes on their shells. They are small and are native to the Black and Caspian seas and Ural River. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they spread to most of Europe. They first were discovered in North America in 1988, when they were found in the Canadian waters of Lake St. Clair -- which connects Lake Huron and Lake Erie.

Within two years, they were found throughout the Great Lakes and had begun spreading to the Illinois and Hudson rivers. Link


Puerto Rico hunting, killing troublesome monkeys

LAJAS, Puerto Rico (AP) — The easy life is over for hundreds of monkeys — some harboring herpes and hepatitis — that have run wild through southwestern Puerto Rico for more than 30 years.

Authorities launched a plan this month to capture and kill the monkeys before they spread across the entire island, threatening agriculture, native wildlife and possibly people. But some animal experts and the farmers who have complained for years about the rhesus and patas monkeys think it may be too late.

"I don't honestly believe they will ever get rid of the patas monkeys in Puerto Rico," said Dr. Mark Wilson, director of the Florida International Teaching Zoo, which has helped find zoos willing to take some of the animals. "They may go deep into the forest, but they will never go away. There's just too many of them, and they are too smart."

At least 1,000 monkeys from at least 11 distinct colonies populate the Lajas Valley. After a year of study, rangers began trapping them in steel cages that are about 10 feet long, baited with food and equipped with a trip lever. Two of 16 monkeys were released with radio collars for further tracking. Each of the others was killed with one shot from a .22-caliber rifle.

The scourge of nonnative animals is particularly acute in Puerto Rico because of its lush climate and lack of predators. Several species of dangerous snakes, crocodiles, caimans and alligators — imported, kept as pets, then released into the wild — now flourish in more than 30 rivers, said Sgt. Angel Atienza, a ranger who specializes in exotic animals.

As Atienza spoke, his agents were investigating reports of a mountain lion running wild in hills near the small central town of Adjuntas. Behind his office, cages confined snakes, monkeys and a 400-pound black bear confiscated from a private menagerie.

The Lajas monkeys arrived in the 1960s and '70s after escaping research facilities on small islands just off the mainland. They adapted easily, fueled by plentiful crops, including pineapple, melon and the eggs of wild birds.

The creatures cost about $300,000 in annual damage and more than $1 million in indirect ways, such as forcing farmers to plant less profitable crops that don't attract the animals, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies. The monkeys are also blamed for a dramatic drop in the valley's bird population. Link


Brooklyn Parrots Seek Legal Perch

By Amy Lieberman

NEW YORK -- Quaker parrots are not your average urban pigeon.

With their brilliant green feathers and salmon-colored beaks, the birds are certainly worth a crane of the neck -- especially when spotted perched upon power lines in New York City, a far cry from their native Argentinian landscape.

Yet the parrots, also known as monk parakeets, are not indigenous to the United States, leaving them virtually unguarded from predators and electric companies alike.

New York City Councilman Tony Avella is hoping to provide a legal nest of protection with a resolution he is now drafting.

"I want to ask state legislators to include the parrots as a protected species, so the city can enforce the law and stop the netting that is occurring," Avella said. "And second, I want to ask the city to take all the reasonable steps so when people come across these nests they can try to relocate them, rather than just destroying them." Link


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Week of December 15, 2008

Teacher finds ‘destructive’ weed in Pembroke pond, Mass.

Braintree - William Glover, an East Middle School science teacher, has made “a remarkable discovery,” according to Dianne Rees, director of science for the Braintree public schools.

Glover has found and identified hydrilla, an invasive aquatic weed, in Hobomock Pond in Pembroke.

“This is only the second time that hydrilla, which is mainly a southern plant, has been identified in Massachusetts,” Rees said.

She described hydrilla, which is able to grow an inch a day and reproduce in three different ways, as “extremely invasive and destructive.”

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will now take responsibility for a cleanup to try to save the pond where Glover discovered hydrilla, Rees said.

Michelle Robinson, an aquatic biologist with the DCR, explained in a published report why she was impressed with Glover’s work.

“Hydrilla is very easily misidentified, and he was very, very thorough,” she said. Link

Lagoon resident leads fight for mangroves


NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Florida -- Amber Thompson has planted 17 trees over the years, but there's one species on her waterfront property that she's likened to a monster that just won't die.

It's a Brazilian pepper-tree cluster and she's tried everything she knows to get rid of it. For the seven years she's owned the property, Thompson has watched the invasive plant push out the mangroves on the shore. She's tried to eradicate it several times.

"Each time it seems to come back stronger," she said. "Instead of just being a single plant, now it's just spread. It is a monster."

In hopes of a solution, Thompson is turning to the Marine Discovery Center for help to restore the shoreline back to native habitat. She is one of hundreds of property owners along the Indian River Lagoon the organization hopes to help through a restoration project.

Stephanie Wolfe, a biologist and restoration coordinator, said the goal is to restore four miles of shoreline with native vegetation, such as mangroves, which provide a natural defense against erosion, filter water and provide habitat for aquatic wildlife. The program for shoreline from New Smyrna Beach to Oak Hill is funded by a $40,000 grant awarded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Link


NYS to Adopt Tough New Policies to Stop Devastating Aquatic Invasive Species Introductions

ALBANY, NY (12/18/2008; 0930)(readMedia)-- Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River advocates today applauded New York State's latest effort to shut the door on aquatic invasive species introductions. Later this month, a new set of rules from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will begin a countdown to requiring stringent ballast treatment on-board ships transiting the state's waters. Ship ballast is the primary pathway for aquatic invasive species introductions into the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River system and the state's strong ballast treatment standard makes New York State a world leader in stopping aquatic invasive species noted the groups.

New York State's new rules, which will go into effect on December 19th, are among the strictest ballast treatment rules in the country. Per the rule, all ships traveling state waters will be required, by January 1, 2012, to have ballast treatment technology on board. Treating ballast water will prevent further introductions of aquatic invasive species.

"In the absence of strong federal ballast clean-up legislation, we are pleased that New York State has stepped up to create strong ballast rules," noted Jennifer J. Caddick, Save The River Executive Director. "Stringent technology requirements for ships operating throughout the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway will be key in stopping more devastating aquatic invasive species introductions." Link


Massive Hydrilla Treatment Planned for Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are preparing for a massive effort to control invasive hydrilla growing over more than 6,000 acres of Lake Tohopekaliga.

Working in cooperation with the FWC Bureau of Invasive Plant Management, the SFWMD Vegetation Management Division will apply Aquathol, a liquid herbicide, over affected areas of the lake. The treatment is scheduled to begin December 15 and is expected to take four to five days.

Aquathol is approved for lake use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is considered the most effective and environmentally friendly method of controlling hydrilla in Lake Tohopekaliga. Link


NY Guv's budget plan hits Long Island environmental programs


Local environmental programs that rely on a helping hand from the state could be left scrambling for money under Gov. David A. Paterson's proposed budget, which reduced a key state environmental fund by 19 percent and entirely eliminated some categories such as Long Island waterfront revitalization and aid to aquariums and zoos.

There would also be fewer people at the Department of Environmental Conservation to watch polluters, regulate hazardous waste and enforce wildlife and state lands laws. A hiring freeze and proposed $91.8 million budget cut would eliminate 240 positions from the DEC next year, even as it tries to recover from staff cuts in the 1990s.

Advocates fear the economic climate will jeopardize advances in regulating polluters, improving water quality and acquiring open space. "The cuts are more than dramatic. They're crippling," said Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, citing Paterson's proposal to cut the Environmental Protection Fund from $255 million to $205 million.

Over the past two years, that money helped Island municipalities fight invasive species, buy farmland development rights and upgrade sewage treatment plants. Under Paterson's budget, the first two funding categories would be cut 70 percent and 41 percent, respectively, and waterfront revitalization money that paid for the upgrades would no longer be available on the Island. Link


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Week of December 8, 2008

More Than One Zebra Mussel Now in the Chesapeake Region

December 09, 2008 -- More zebra mussels have been found in the Maryland portion of the Susquehanna River, state environmental officials confirmed this morning.The alien mussels, which can cause millions of dollars in damage to water supply and hydroelectric intake pipes and upset the local ecology, were attached to a boat at Glen Cove Marina in Harford County. Earlier this month, a single mussel was discovered within the intake hydroelectric station at Conowingo Dam, which spans the Susquehanna between Harford and Cecil counties. Link


Beetles to fight hemlock pests in Kennebunkport

KENNEBUNKPORT — As Mainers settle into their winter routines, hemlock woolly adelgids, invasive insects that destroy hemlocks, are gearing up for their winter feast in the southern part of the state, and Maine Forest Service staff are planning for a busy survey season.

Surveys conducted earlier this month by the Maine Forest Service show that the adelgids have infested Kennebunkport and surrounding areas. Local residents are being asked to examine their trees for signs of the insects, and to report their findings to the forest service.

"The people of Maine are extremely important partners in looking for the hemlock woolly adelgid," said Allison Kanoti, a forest entomologist with the Forest Service. "Even with full staffing we can only look at a small fraction of hemlocks at risk of adelgid infestation in the state."

"State budget constraints have forced staff cuts," she said. "Now more than ever we need help from Maine citizens."

Next week, Forest Service staff will release about 500 of a species of beetle that eats adelgids. It is hoped that the beetles will gain a foothold in the area and help limit the damage caused by invasive adelgids. Link


Monday, December 1, 2008

Week of December 1, 2008

Invasive Species DVD Targets Hunters and Anglers

America's hunters and anglers are essential stakeholders in managing invasive species that threaten native fish and wildlife populations and their habitats. "Defending Favorite Places," a high-definition DVD featuring invasive species information and testimonies of sportsmen and women across the nation, will be released in December. The DVD will be available for free or may be downloaded from the USDA Forest Service.


Two wild boars taken in Central New York

By David Figura, The Post-Standard

Two wild boars were taken in the Town of Scott in Cortland County on Nov. 22. Marcus Eriksson, of Onondaga Hill, took his hog, weighing around 300 pounds on the hoof, while hunting from his treestand in the morning. Peter Gianferrara, of Camillus, took his boar mid- afternoon. It weighed about 260 pounds.

This past winter, the DEC, in conjunction with several state, federal and county agencies, resolved to do its best -- by trapping and other means -- to take wild boars off the landscape in Central New York. Officials consider the animal an invasive species capable of substantial crop damage, along with wreaking havoc on other plant life, native animal species and water quality in wetlands and streams.

Wild boards can be hunted and taken year-round by any person who has a small-game license, though doing so tends to scatter them. The DEC asks that hunters and others avoid harassing groups of hogs because it will hinder their eradication efforts. Seen or killed a wild boar lately? Call the DEC at 607-753-3095, extension 296. Link


Northern Woodland Invasives: Doing Battle with Non-Native Plants

by Tovar Cerulli, Northern Woodlands

A huge mound of vines, 8 feet wide by a dozen yards long, lay baking in the August sun. The effort required to cut all those vines by hand, drag them out of the woods, and pile them up to dry suggested someone with a mission.

Walking past the mound, I left the clearing and turned down a woods trail in search of that someone. A few minutes later, I found David Paganelli at work with a chainsaw. Strewn along the slope were the felled stems and silver-bottomed leaves of another targeted plant, autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellate). Working alongside him – wielding clippers and a yellow mustard squeeze-bottle – was his son Ryan, dragged out here during a visit home from Tufts Medical School. Father and son had spent most of that day cutting olives and applying Roundup to the stumps.

David greeted me with an easy smile and was eager to jump right into the subject at hand – invasive plants. “We’ve got quite a bouquet here,” he began. He estimates that 12 to 15 percent of his 200 woodland acres in Strafford, Vermont, had been dominated by autumn olives. After hundreds of hours of labor, there are still several acres left to clear. Shade-tolerant buckthorns – both common (Rhamnus cathartica) and glossy (Frangula alnus) – are scattered over the entire property, forming a patient and ubiquitous understory. There are also a few barberries on ledge outcrops among the larger trees and 20 to 30 Morrow’s honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii) shrubs to deal with... Link


Beach redbay trees in jeopardy

By Bo Petersen, The Post and Courier

Among the live oak and palmetto, redbay trees usually don't get much notice. Until now.

"They're dying all up and down here," said Roy Baylor, pointing both ways along Arctic Avenue on Folly Beach (South Carolina).

"These trees saved our house during (Hurricane) Hugo," Kelly King said sadly as she looks up at the browned leaves of the big tree in her front yard a few streets back.

Laurel wilt disease has begun killing the redbays in the Lowcountry, biologists strongly suspect. Actually a laurel plant, the tree is one of the ubiquitous evergreens of the coast, the swaths of winter green beneath the live oaks along the barrier islands and inland. It can live more than 100 years and grow to a tree's girth. It looks like a skinny-leafed magnolia.

The redbay is a vital piece of the coastal ecosystem, providing late-fall fruit for threatened species of migrating birds and butterflies, cover for nesting, scenery, erosion control and seclusion for beach homes. Link


New York wants tougher invasive species rules

By KAITLYN DMYTERKO, Legislative Gazette Staff Writer

Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis and Gov. David A. Paterson are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enforce stricter regulations on ballast water discharges from shipping vessels to stem an invasion of harmful invasive species in New York’s waterways.

Ballast water refers to water held in ships’ cargo holds to keep lighter vessels stable in rough seas, according to the report, Ballast Water Management to Combat Invasive Species, released by Congressional Research Services.

A loophole in the federal 1977 Clean Water Act allows transoceanic ships to dump ballast water in American waterways, often transporting nonindigenous species, such as zebra mussels, with them, according to Grannis. Section 401 of the Clean Water Act gives state water pollution agencies, such as the DEC, jurisdiction to develop stricter regulations for water quality in their individual states.

In 1980, the invasive species, the zebra mussel, was transported with cargo into the Great Lakes. Since then they have plagued the Hudson River ecosystem causing detrimental effects on waterway infrastructures and environments.

Zebra mussels attach themselves to docks, boats and water pipelines and can cause serious damages to infrastructure, including the clogging of pipelines. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, economic damages from zebra mussels is estimated at almost $5 billion a year in the United States.

The DEC is pushing the EPA to enforce ballast water regulations requiring shipping vessels to carry out ballast water exchanges 50 nautical miles away from the shore in water more than 200 meters deep. This water exchange would require vessels to release mucky, sediment-filled water and replace it with fresh ocean water before the ship drifts into state waterways.

The DEC is also calling for the installation of water treatment systems on all cargo vessels. The agency wants the water to meet DEC-recommended guidelines that would require vessels to maintain a salinity level in its ballast water of at least 30 parts per 1,000 before entering New York waters. This mandate would reduce the level of contaminated species the boats are carrying.

According to the DEC, armed forces vessels would be excluded from these standards.

Manna Jo Greene, environmental director for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, said “The ounce of prevention embodied in the DEC’s recommended standards for regulating ballast, bilge and greywater will prevent many pounds of damage, which can be very difficult, if not impossible, to remediate after the fact.” Link