Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Week of May 25, 2008

Updated May 29

Monk parakeets' fate in judge's hands

Animal lovers call them a colorful part of the urban ecology, but the United Illuminating Co. wants a state judge to declare Connecticut's monk parakeet population a tenacious threat to public health and safety.

The utility claims the company's most-effective way to deal with the stick nests that some parrot colonies build on utility poles was the capture-and-slaughter program that sparked controversy, protests and worldwide interest in fall 2005.

During the first two days of a Superior Court trial in New Haven last week, a UI lawyer asked Judge Trial Referee Anthony V. DeMayo to rule that the regional utility can resume the kill tactics.

An animal rights group, which brought the lawsuit against UI more than two years ago, wants DeMayo to issue an injunction so the eradication, which claimed about 185 monk parakeets in 2005, stops permanently. Full Article


Ash borer survey begins in PA this week

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Bright purple boxes will be hanging from ash trees as Pennsylvania officials begin a survey after Memorial Day to assess the spread of the ash borer.

Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff says the invasive beetle was discovered in Butler and Allegheny counties western Pennsylvania last summer.

Quarantines were imposed on the movement of ash nursery stocks, green lumber and firewood in those counties and neighboring Beaver and Lawrence counties.

Wolff says 10,000 three-sided traps will be hung in trees in 35 counties this summer to see whether the bettle has spread to new areas.

The emerald ash borer is a wood-boring beetle native to China and eastern Asia. It has killed more than 30 million ash trees in Michigan since 2002 and millions more in Ohio and Indiana. Article


Native phramites discovered in Rhode Island after fire

Warren, RI — A saltmarsh fire last month in Warren, which caused thousands of dollars of damage to the Audubon Environmental Education Center boardwalk just over the town line in Bristol, has stoked the progress of a habitat restoration project designed to save it from phragmites, an aggressive, non-native plant that has overwhelmed the marsh's natural vegetation.

"The fire to us — and I feel bad saying this because of the boardwalk — was fascinating. Fascinating because we were able to get into areas of the overgrown marsh that hadn't been accessible before," said Wenley Ferguson, Save the Bay's restoration coordinator. "Now we can see tidal creeks and elevations of land that weren't previously visible and survey the damage" caused by the invasive plant.

Save the Bay is working with Warren Land Conservation Trust, a non-profit organization that owns the land, to bring the saltmarsh back.

"It opened your perspective to what the marsh really looked like," she said.

The marsh at Jacob's Point extends 47 acres along the Warren River and is bordered by the East Bay Bike Path and the Audubon Society's education center. The plant's dense root system and tall, willowy stands are destroying the ecosystem by preventing tidal flow into the marsh's further reaches, choking off the once abundant and diverse populations of fish and wildlife that lived there.

"The marsh has one of the largest varieties of flora in the state," said Marilyn Mathison, president of the land trust. A rare specimen of native phragmites was discovered after the fire in a small area of marsh near the Oyster Point Condominiums. The only other documented-finding of the plant is on Block Island. "It was very exciting," said Ms. Mathison, of the discovery. Full Article


Monday, May 12, 2008

Week of May 11, 2008

Invasive algae found in Maryland

Annapolis, Md. — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that a new invasive, non-native algae has been found in Maryland for the first time. The algae, commonly known as Didymo, was found by anglers in Gunpowder Falls in Baltimore County.

Didymo mats, also called “rock snot,” look slimy, but feel like wet cotton or wool, and can be white, yellow or brown. “This alga has the potential to disrupt ecosystems in waters it invades by choking out bottom-dwellers and removing food organisms for game fish and other aquatic species,” said Don Cosden, Assistant Director of DNR’s Fisheries Service.

DNR is developing an aggressive plan of attack to deal with this invader, and asks anglers and outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy Maryland’s waters to use extra precautions when moving from one stream or lake to another.

Once Didymo is established, it can cover and suffocate a stream bottom, and movement of a single cell can contaminate a new waterway. Felt bottom boots and waders commonly used by anglers are the worst culprits in the spread of aquatic invaders. Anglers are strongly encouraged to replace these boots with non-porous materials. New boots made of a sticky rubber material are safer for the aquatic environment and are much easier to clean.

Anglers and other recreational users of Gunpowder Falls and surrounding waters are especially urged to make sure they don’t contribute to the spread of Didymo or any other aquatic invasive species. The public is asked to clean anything that comes into contact with stream water by scrubbing away all dirt and debris before leaving a stream. At home, disinfect equipment by soaking in a 5% salt solution (1 lb/ 5 gal) for several minutes, or scrub well with dish detergent and rinse well. If disinfection is not possible, let equipment dry completely for at least 48 hours. Anglers may want to consider having two sets of equipment in order to move safely from one spot to another.

Didymo is an algal diatom that forms long stalks which combine to form heavy, thick mats that can smother a stream bottom. The stalks can persist for two or more months after the diatoms die, causing habitat damage for an extended period of time. Originally found in Scotland and extreme northern Europe and Asia, Didymo has been transported worldwide. Recently, the species has been found in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. In many cases, anglers have unknowingly transported the diatom on their fishing gear. DNR urges anyone who observes Didymo to contact Don Cosden at 410-260-8287 as soon as possible. Article


Microwave zapping kills invasive species before the invasion

Scientists in Louisiana are reporting development and successful testing of a new cost-effective system to kill unwanted plants and animals that hitch a ride to the United States in the ballast water of merchant ships.

These so-called “invasive species,” such as the notorious zebra mussel, devastate native organisms and infrastructure and cost taxpayers billions of dollars annually. The study is scheduled for the June 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology.

In the study, Dorin Boldor and colleagues point out that invasive species often travel in ballast tanks of international cargo ships. Ships pump sea water into these tanks for stability when a vessel leaves port with little or no cargo. They dump the water at their destination — along with zebra mussels, Asian clams and other organisms that may pose environmental risks.

The new study describes development and laboratory-scale tests of a continuous microwave system which, much like a kitchen microwave oven, used heat to inactivate zooplankton, algae, and oyster larvae in salt water.

Researchers found that a 30-second zap, followed by a 200-second holding period, removed all marine life. Boldor noted that the high heating rates, low operating costs, and effectiveness in hazy water distinguish it from conventional heating methods. Article

Monday, May 5, 2008

Week of May 4, 2008

Grants will help us keep invasive milfoil in check in Maine

Bob Moore gets it. Moore's the head of one of the more effective lake protection organizations in the state, the Friends of Cobbossee Watershed. And when it comes to dealing with the highly destructive invasive aquatic plant milfoil, Moore says, "there's really no success stories."

No, there aren't. Until recently, Maine was the last of the lower 48 states to find its waters infested with milfoil, which comes in a number of varieties. Milfoil's a plant whose rampant and aggressive green growth can choke a lake, making it impossible to boat, swim or fish.

Over the last few years, the state has undertaken a concerted effort to keep the invasive weed out of its lakes and streams, but it has been a losing battle. By last year, 26 lakes and streams were found with the nasty stuff beginning its deadly march.

And as Moore so bluntly puts it, you can nuke the stuff with chemicals, you can pull it out, you can cut it, you can send divers in after it -- but you really can't get rid of it. All you can do is check its progress. Which is why it's such good news that the state has found a way this year to triple the amount of money it gives in grants to municipalities and organizations to fight invasive aquatic plants.

With the financial help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has just announced $60,000 in matching grants to local groups and towns and cities statewide, including Moore's group as well as groups from Messalonskee Lake in Oakland to Mousam Lake in southern Maine to Branch Lake in the Downeast region near Ellsworth.

Moore and his lake-loving colleagues across the state may not be able to ever eradicate the plant from our waters; it's too late for that. But here's hoping that the milfoil-busters are at least able to limit the plant's spread -- and keep Maine's lakes the way they should be. Article


Amityville, New York lab at front in war on Asian beetles

By Jennifer Smith jennifer.smith@newsday.com

Long Island, New York trees still fall victim to the Asian long-horned beetle, the invasive insect that during the past 12 years has gnawed through more than 6,000 maples, elms and other hardwoods in New YorkState. But inside the Amityville war room for New York's beetle battle, researchers say the tide appears to be turning.

For the first time since the black and white bugs were initially detected on a Brooklyn maple in 1996, no live beetles of reproductive age were captured or even seen in New York in 2007. And in April the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the insects were eradicated from Illinois and from New Jersey's Hudson County. The progress follows concerted efforts to survey trees for signs of infestation and, in some cases, treatment of at-risk trees with insecticide to kill the wood-boring beetles.

"We're cutting down fewer and fewer trees each year," said Joe Gittleman, project director for the USDA's Asian long-horned beetle eradication program in New York. "The populations are significantly on the decline."

Some of that progress can be attributed to research done here in the USDA's office on Merrick Road, where scientists analyze felled trees for clues to how, and where, the Asian long-horned beetles spread.

The most recent new detection was in Massapequa, where trees showing signs of infestation were chopped down last year. All told, Long Island has about 30 square miles in quarantine - 23 in and around Amityville and seven in Islip. Full Article


Corrective Action To Be Studied For Canaan Lake on Long Island

By Barbara LaMonica, Suffolk Life

The scenic waterfront vista from Jeanne Overton Wilkinson's family home on Canaan Lake in North Patchogue boasts the serenity of a diverse wildlife population, but an influx of unwelcome, invasive species has become increasingly predominant during the warmer months, peaking in August. The wild growth of such species as the cabomba and milfoil weeds over the last two decades is choking the lake and impacting activities that were once central to the community's recreational pursuits. The public beach, docks, boardwalk, snack bar, and open area where parents would take their children to feed the ducks are gone.

Various sources may be blamed for contributing to the decline. The now capped, town-owned Holtsville Landfill, which has been transformed into the Brookhaven Ecology Center, was the source of a leachate plume that fed into Canaan Lake. Add to that septic systems, runoff from roadways and lawn fertilizers, and there exists a recipe for disaster.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services has initiated steps to address the issues at Canaan Lake. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy introduced a resolution late last year for the appropriation of $250,000 for the study and weed removal process of Canaan Lake and the Upper and Lower lakes in Yaphank. "We have an RFP [Request for Proposal] to have a consultant conduct a water quality study, and to eventually determine the best method in this case for weed removal," explained Dan Aug, a spokesman for Levy.

Martin Trent, chief of the Division of Environmental Quality's Office of Ecology, acknowledged that residents living on and around the lake have contacted his office with concerns. "We took a look at the situation and saw that it was similar to what has been happening in Yaphank with the cabomba weed and milfoil that are choking the lake," Trent said. "We put together a Water Quality Protection Program for Suffolk County to consider and determine the best method, and we are looking into what might be the best corrective application to remove the weeds, which could be the use of herbicides, mechanical harvesting, hand picking," Trent explained.

Trent explained that the Legislature's $250,000 appropriation includes a $200,000 allocation earmarked for the study, and $50,000 for actual implementation of concrete recommendations that will be derived from the study. "One possible scenario is that Canaan Lake is a less complicated ecosystem than the Upper and Lower lakes, so weed removal could be done at Canaan Lake first," Trent said. "But that is only one possible scenario."

John Turner, Brookhaven Town's director of the Division of Environmental Protection, said the town is mindful of the situation. "We are aware of the issue, and any part we could play we will do," Turner said.

But what is occurring in Canaan Lake is not unique to that area. "They are in good company because there are many water bodies throughout Long Island that are plagued by excessive aquatic invasive species," Turner said. "We are going to make a concerted effort, but we need money to do invasive control work in these areas and, given the nature of the problem, the town has only limited resources and is using limited staff. We don't have the luxury to deal with all of the water bodies."

Turner says the causes plaguing Canaan Lake are twofold and are due, in part, to excessive nitrogen from sanitary and septic systems and lawn fertilizers, which "fuels excessive plant growth in streams, lakes and ponds." This, Turner said, coupled with "excessive development around these water bodies," has sparked the rising tide of aquatic weed growth.

Meanwhile, Brookhaven Town Fifth District Councilman Tim Mazzei said he will be looking to work with residents in any way he can to help address the issue with whatever resources the town may have. In projecting a timeline to launch the study of Canaan Lake in North Patchogue, and the Upper and Lower lakes in Yaphank, Trent said the county's intent is for the study to commence during the coming summer season, with "implementation of concrete recommendations" to begin in 2009. "

The final RFP has been drafted and will take a couple of weeks to go out," Trent said, before the county selects a vendor to conduct the study. Full Article


Princeton invasive plant maps for Southeast now available

The Princeton Invasive Mapping Program has recently completed percent cover maps for privet, kudzu, and cogon grass across the Southeast. The maps are based on data contributed by many invasive plant experts from around the Southeast. You can download these maps and all associated data at http://invasive.princeton.edu/.


Here's a link to US Fish and Wildlife Service's new invasive species website: