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.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Week of September 21, 2008

Updated 9/26

Natural Areas Conference 2008

Focusing on ecological management themes, with an emphasis on invasive exotic species issues. October 14 - 17. Nashville, Tennessee.

Early Registration Fees now available thru
September 30th*!



New York foresters to aid Massachusetts in fight against beetles


WORCESTER— The destructive insect that is tearing through the northern section of the city’s stock of hardwood trees was first discovered in this country in New York more than a decade ago. Now experts on the Asian longhorned beetle from that neighboring state are coming here to help in the fight to eradicate the bugs. Early next month, a team of trained foresters from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation is scheduled to arrive in Worcester to join federal and Massachusetts officials, who are surveying infested trees and plan to begin cutting them down in November.

Their expenses are being underwritten by the U.S. Forest Service, in a welcome development to city officials preoccupied with trying to get the federal government to absorb local costs for the eradication program that could amount to more than $10 million.

New York’s infestation was initially discovered in 1996 in the borough of Brooklyn, and then in the boroughs of the Bronx and Queens and on nearby Long Island. A new infestation was found last year on Prall’s Island, an uninhabited island off Staten Island.

The Massachusetts outbreak, in which more than 1,000 infected trees have been identified in the Worcester area, may turn out to be the biggest yet, according to the Forest Service. Article


Invasive animal amnesty in Florida

Residents who own reptiles that are not native to Florida can now give up their pets without facing a penalty, instead of releasing them into the wild. Releasing animals such as iguanas and pythons, is a "significant pathway for the introduction of nonnative species" says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Not be mention, very illegal.

The commission adopted the new rules on Wednesday that set up a series of pet amnesty events so pet owners can surrender their unwanted pets to wildlife agencies or individuals instead of illegally releasing them.

The next amnesty day event will be held at the Jacksonville Zoo on November 22. Another one will take place in Miami in early 2009. Article


The Nature Conservancy, Suffolk County Parks partner to remove invasive plants from natural areas

East Hampton, NY — September 23, 2008 — As part of a comprehensive effort to reduce the number of invasive plant species found in Long Island’s natural areas, The Nature Conservancy, Suffolk County and the Student Conservation Association are working together to eradicate eight invasive plants documented at Cedar Point County Park in East Hampton. The plants include: tree of heaven, garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed, Japanese barberry, oriental bittersweet, autumn olive, Japanese honeysuckle, and black locust.

The estimated yearly damage from invasive species worldwide totals more than $1.4 trillion--five percent of the global economy.

Invasive plants are the second biggest threat to the natural environment of Long Island, aside from outright habitat loss” said Kathy Schwager, invasive species specialist for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “Invasive plants and animals hurt economies, thwart recreational activities like boating and kayaking and even threaten human well-being.”

Cedar Point County Park is one of the jewels of the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation & Conservation. The 607 acre parcel is located in the Town of East Hampton within the Peconic Watershed overlooking Gardiners Bay. The site is comprised of an oak-hickory coastal forest, fresh-water wetlands, salt marsh and more than four miles of shoreline.

“My family and other County residents have visited this beautiful park for years. Ecosystems are a delicate balance, a choreography of plants and animals that all depend upon each other for survival. When an invasive species comes in, it throws that balance off,” said County Legislator Jay Schneiderman. “I am committed to working with the Legislature and the Invasive Species Advisory Board to make sure invasive species stay out of our parks."

“It’s wonderful that we have all come together in partnership to eliminate invasive species,” said Marci Bortman, director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “We could not have accomplished this hard work without the dedication of Suffolk County, funding from New York State and the hard work of the Student Conservation Association.”

Awareness of invasive plant species is part of a growing trend. In 2007 both Suffolk and Nassau Counties passed legislation stopping the commercial sale, introduction, and propagation of 63 plant species that are deemed non-native and invasive on Long Island. Article


New York DEC invasive species grants

Deadline for Applications is October 31, 2008.

ALBANY, NY (09/25/2008; 1434)(readMedia)-- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis today announced that grant applications are now being accepted for projects proposing to eradicate terrestrial invasive species. Terrestrial invasive species is defined as a plant or animal that lives or grows predominately on land. Applications will be accepted until October 31, 2008.

DEC is making up to $1 million in state grants available to municipalities and not-for-profit organizations for projects to eradicate and/or permanently remove infestations of terrestrial invasive species throughout the state. The funding for these grants was secured in the 2008-09 enacted state budget, through the Environmental Protection Fund. State funds can be used to pay for up to one-half of the cost of selected projects. Individual grants for terrestrial eradication proposals will be awarded for projects that range from $2,500, up to $100,000.

The 2008-09 enacted state budget includes $5 million in the Environmental Protection Fund to implement New York State's Invasive Species Task Force recommendations. For more information on the task force, visit .

Application materials for Invasive Species Eradication Grants have been mailed to municipalities throughout the state. Copies are also available on the DEC website or by calling DEC's Division of Lands and Forests at (518) 402-9425. All project applications must be postmarked by October 31, 2008.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Week of September 14, 2008

Updated 9/18

Oak wilt - a new threat in New York State

George W. Hudler, Cornell University Cooperative Extension

Thanks to keen observations by several homeowners in Schenectady County, New York and prompt action by Cornell Cooperative Extension educator Chris Logue, plant pathologists at Cornell recently confirmed for the first time that oak wilt - a lethal disease of red oaks in the upper Midwest and mid-Atlantic states and Texas – is now present in New York State. So far, oak wilt is only known to occur in the state in an area equal to about three city blocks in Scotia. However, as word of the discovery spreads and more people learn to identify symptoms of the disease, Cornell Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory staff expect to process more samples from various localities elsewhere and, from them, to get a better picture of just how widespread the disease is.

Oak wilt is caused by a fungus – Ceratocystis fagacearum. Scientists don’t know for sure where the fungus came from; it may have been introduced to North America from some other part of the world or it may have evolved as a variant of some closely related endemic fungus growing on another plant. C. fagacearum grows in the water-conducting vessels of host trees and as it does, it causes the vessels to produce gummy plugs that prevent water transport, eventually causing tree death. The mode of action of the fungus in oaks is similar to that of the Dutch elm disease pathogen in elms, but there are few other similarities between the two organisms and their hosts.

All species of oaks native to New York State are susceptible to oak wilt to some degree, but those in the red oak "group" (e.g. northern red oak, black oak, pin oak) are much more likely to die soon after they contract the disease. Movement of the pathogen in these trees is so rapid that it may kill trees in as little as three weeks. White and bur oaks are more resistant to the disease (but they are not immune) and may survive for many years after infection, losing just a few branches each year. However, each individual tree reacts differently from others in the same species and it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict how long an infected bur or white oak will live. Article (PDF)


What's killing off our salt marshes?


Up and down the Eastern Seaboard, the coastal wetlands are dying, and no one knows for sure why this is happening.

First observed in the Florida panhandle in 1990, the shoreline degradation, called sudden wetland dieback, has been observed in hundreds of locations from Louisiana to Maine. Scientists say that while it's normal for coastal marsh vegetation to have its bad years, they have never seen marsh grass die and not recover, until now.

There are a number of suspected causes, with a species of fungus -- Fusarium -- as one of the prime suspects.

But there are other suspects in the lineup, experts say. These include drought, rising sea levels, rising soil acidity, the purple marsh crab, tiny nematode worms and the heating of the Earth's atmosphere.

Things have been happening to the marshes since the beginning of time, but this, we think, is new," said Wade Elmer of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, Connecticut.

In his laboratory, Elmer tends to dozens of plastic flowerpots where he grows Spartina alterniflora, the marsh grass that grows on the very edge of Long Island Sound, and the species that's mysteriously dying. He's trying to determine which of the various species of Fusarium that's infecting them.

"Here are all of the species of Fusarium," said Elmer, hefting a textbook as big as a telephone directory, each page describing a different species.

"One idea is that there is slightly more nitrogen in the soil -- and that, with rising sea levels and maybe a drought, is causing a tipping point," Elmer said. "There's evidence that as the lower marsh becomes wetter and wetter -- and maybe the increasing temperature has something to do with -- the grass doesn't do as well."

It's possible that the dieback might be a poorly understood natural phenomenon -- perhaps something that occurs every several hundred years. But the Earth's climate is clearly getting hotter from human activity, and this has stressed ecosystems around the globe, marsh grass included, experts say.

"Our tidal marshes formed about 3,000 years ago when sea levels were low, and for a long time the seas were rising at a rate of only 1.5 millimeters per year," Rozsa. "Now we're looking at forecasted rates on the order of three or four millimeters per year. With that, we don't think that the marshes can sustain themselves as these big, flat expanses like we see today -- they'll only exist in narrow bands along the shore." Elmer agreed. "We'll see just a thin ribbon of marsh in New England," he said.

Scientists say that sudden wetland dieback is apparently an Eastern Seaboard problem -- it hasn't been observed on the West Coast, nor on the shores of the other continents.

The onslaught of the invasive Phragmites -- the tall wetland grass with its characteristic feather-like fronds -- is not part of the die-off equation. "Phragmites can't tolerate the salt levels that Spartina can -- it's found a little farther inland," Elmer said. "In fact where Phragmites has died, we'll find that the Spartina has died before it."

Some researches have suspected that the purple marsh crab, Sesarma reticulatum, has a role in the dieback equation. The tiny nocturnal crab has been known to have a "lawnmower" effect on Spartina. But Elmer sees the crab and its damage as more of an effect, not the cause, of an unhealthy marsh. The purple marsh crab is a omnivore, consuming both plants and small animals.

Stephen Smith, a scientist with the Cape Cod National Seashore, said that there is a clear correlation between Spartina loss and crab density. He notes that the population of purple marsh crabs in dieback areas is 10 times what it should be.

"You can plant Spartina alterniflora anywhere on these marshes, and it will grow -- so long as you protect them for these crabs," he said.

"In places where they're not protected, the grass is chewed down to a nub. We don't see a situation where the grass turns brown and dies -- it's there one day and gone the next." The question for future research, Smith said, is finding out why purple marsh crab populations are exploding and why they're choosing Spartina over other items their diet. Article


Aiming to build a better habitat in Pennsylvania

By Tom Venesky,

DENNISON TWP, Pennsylvania. – Joe Lukashunas waded into an inhospitable tangle of weeds and thorns and saw potential.

Never mind that the old farm fields in Nescopeck State Park had been overrun with invasive plant species for decades, Lukashunas is hopeful the area can be transformed into fields of native plants and grasses that will be a boon to wildlife.

And he’s not the only one.

Several conservation groups have partnered with state and federal agencies to combat invasive plant species that have taken over more than 70 acres of the former Hoda farm located in the park. The only reminder of the farm is a lone silo standing along the road, while the fields behind it have reverted into jungles of invasives such as multi-flora rose, autumn olive and Japanese barberry.

Within three years, the groups hope to convert the old farm to an oasis of native plants and grasses that provide food and cover to game species, songbirds and insects.

Participating groups include the Honey Hole Longbeards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Northeast Pennsylvania Chapter of Pheasants Forever, Ruffed Grouse Society, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Natural Resource Conservation Service and the North Branch Land Trust. Article


New York City: Forest Stewardship Volunteering
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.

Enjoy the outdoors and be a steward of your local natural areas! To assist the ongoing forest restoration project at Conference House Park, we will remove invasive plant species, preventing their spread and encouraging our native plant and animal community to recover. As needed, we might also plant, seed, or mark with flagging some of our native species. Come and learn while you lend a hand toward a healthy ecosystem!

Please RSVP if you plan to attend. For RSVPs and questions, please call Cheri Brunault at (718) 390-8021, or email at This event is rain or shine. Hope to see you there! Link


'Mean, aggressive' crayfish invades Falcon Lake, Winnipeg, Canada

FALCON LAKE -- While on a holiday scuba diving in Falcon Lake a summer ago, Mark Lowdon came upon crayfish that acted like no crustacean known to Manitoba.

Normally, crayfish just scoot away, but this one acted more like an escaped cast member from the children's television show SpongeBob SquarePants. The crayfish stood its ground, rearing up its full 13-centimetre length and clicking its overly-large claws. "You want a piece of me?" it seemed to snarl.

Lowdon, a marine biologist, caught several of the crayfish, emptied all the food out of the cooler, and put the creatures inside to take to staff at federal Fisheries and Oceans.

It was exciting to make the discovery, but bad news for Manitoba's lakes. Lowdon had found Manitoba's first rusty crayfish, an aggressive, invasive species from the Ohio River basin that wipes out indigenous northern crayfish like ours. Article


USGS to host Congressional briefing on climate change and invasive species

Invasive cheatgrass is altering historical fire regimes throughout the western United States, exposing native ecosystems not adapted to fire to more frequent and intense fire events. Invasive aquatic species including invertebrates, fish, and the fish disease VHS continue to colonize the Great Lakes at an alarming rate. The increased uncertainties posed by climate change compound the challenges facing resource managers throughout the United States as they grapple with growing populations of invasive species.

Come learn how the USGS and its partners are working to provide and apply the science needed by resource managers and policy makers to anticipate and address the impacts of climate change and invasive species on the landscape.

What: The USGS will host a congressional briefing on how science can be used to anticipate and address the impacts of climate change and invasive species on the landscape.

Who: Pam Fuller, U.S. Geological Survey; Mike Pellant, Bureau of Land Management; Gary Whelan, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Where: 2325 Rayburn House Office BuildingWashington, D.C.

When: Friday, September 19, 20089:30 a.m.

Hosts: Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Congressman Vernon Ehlers, Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, Congressman Jim Moran

Sponsors: Ecological Society of America, Climate Change Science Program, Northeast-Midwest Institute

For more information about the briefing, visit Link


Invasive Species Strike Team introduced in New Jersey

BEDMINSTER, NJ —The Upper Raritan Watershed Association (URWA), in partnership with Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS), has announced the creation of the Central Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team. This Strike Team represents the state’s first comprehensive effort toward invasive plant management through a public-private partnership.

With funding provided from the Bunbury Foundation, Conservation Resources Inc., the Conserve Wildlife Foundation, Merck and Co., and the 1772 Foundation, these organizations are pooling their expertise and resources to reduce the spread of invasive plants. They are working to find and destroy new populations of invasive species on public and private lands in New Jersey’s Highlands and Piedmont regions. In addition, they are reaching out to private landowners and public land managers to encourage them to remove invasive plants from their landscapes and replace them with native plants.

Anyone interested in learning more about invasive plants and the problems they are causing in New Jersey is encouraged to consider becoming a volunteer member of the strike team. All volunteers will learn to identify the targeted invasive plants and will put their knowledge to work removing them from sites across Central Jersey. The project team will host a kickoff event at Duke Farms in Hillsborough on Sept. 30 from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information about the strike team, contact team leaders Melissa Almendinger at 908-234-1852, and Michael Van Clef 609-730-1560. Article


Weed It Now on the Appalachian Trail

SHEFFIELD, MA — September 16, 2008 — The Appalachian Trail is a haven for thousands of hikers annually. However, the Trail is also home to other – unwelcome – guests: invasive plants.
To rid the Trail of these harmful species, The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service, Connecticut AT Committee of the Appalachian Mountain Club and Appalachian Trail Conservancy announced today that they have joined together in a removal effort near the Connecticut and Massachusetts border. The work is part of a five-year conservation initiative to remove non-native, invasive plants from over 9,000 acres of the Berkshire Taconic forest plateau.

Entitled "Weed It Now" (WIN), the project received support and funding through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services. The Nature Conservancy drafts a scope of work and negotiates management agreements for invasives species control with willing public and private landowners across the Berkshire Taconic forest. To date the Conservancy has worked with 75 landowners and treated invasive species on 7,000 acres of land. This is the first time treatment will occur on federal land used for the Appalachian Trail.

"The 'Weed It Now' restoration program is vital to the preservation the Appalachian Trail near the Massachusetts and Connecticut border," said Betsy Lyman of the National Park Service. "This project will help in protecting this ecologically rich landscape from further environmental degradation, ensuring its survival for future generations." Article


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Week of September 7, 2008

Freshwater fish in N. America in peril, study says

Invasive species partially to blame


WASHINGTON (AP) — About four out of 10 freshwater fish species in North America are in peril, according to a major study by U.S., Canadian and Mexican scientists.

And the number of subspecies of fish populations in trouble has nearly doubled since 1989, the new report says.

One biologist called it "silent extinctions" because few people notice the dramatic dwindling of certain populations deep in American lakes, rivers and streams. And while they are unaware, people are the chief cause of the problem by polluting and damming freshwater habitats, experts said.

In the first massive study of freshwater fish on the continent in 19 years, an international team of dozens of scientists looked not just at species, but at subspecies — physically distinct populations restricted to certain geographic areas. The decline is even more notable among these smaller groups.

The scientists found that 700 smaller but individual fish populations are vulnerable, threatened, or endangered. That's up from 364 subspecies nearly two decades ago.

And 457 entire species are in trouble or already extinct, the study found. Another 86 species are OK as a whole, but have subspecies in trouble.

The study, led by U.S. Geological Survey researchers, is published in the current issue of the journal Fisheries. Researchers looked at thousands of distinct populations of fish that either live in lakes, streams and rivers or those that live in saltwater but which migrate to freshwater at times, such as salmon that return to spawn.

About 6 percent of fish populations that were in peril in 1989, including the Bonneville cutthroat trout, have made a comeback, said lead author Howard Jelks of the U.S. Geological Survey. But one-third of the fish that were in trouble in 1989 are worse off now, said the Gainesville, Fla., biologist.

The biggest cause, Jelks said, is degraded freshwater habitat, both in quality and quantity of water for fish to live in. Invasive species crowding out native fish is also to blame, he said. Article

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Week of September 1, 2008

Updated September 5

Invasive didymo confirmed in two more West Virginia streams

By The

The invasive algae known as Didymo has been found in lower Glady Fork north of Alpena, and in Gandy Creek near Whitmer, according to Mike Shingleton, Assistant Chief, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Section. After a news release in early July announced the presence of Didymo in the Elk River near Webster Springs, DNR received angler reports of other possible occurrences of the invasive algae. DNR staff collected samples from Glady Fork in the lower stocked section, and also from Gandy Creek in the stocked section of that stream. The samples were sent to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for confirmation. All samples contained Didymo.

Didymo is a common name for Didymosphenia geminata, a freshwater diatom species that can form extensive mats on stream beds. The thick mats can cover native algae and aquatic insects, making fishing very difficult. These thick mats appear slimy, but feel more like cotton or wool fabric. The algal mats are also called “rock snot” and can be white, yellow or brown in color. The algae form stalks that attach to rocks. While the algae eventually die and break off, the stalks persist and may impact stream habitats and aquatic organisms for weeks or months. Article


Asian longhorned beetle on the wanted list in Connecticut

By Magdalene Perez,

State bug researchers are asking Connecticut residents to keep their eyes peeled for an invasive tree-killer beetle.

The Asian longhorned beetle, from China, attacks and kills many hardwood trees, including maple, boxelder, birch, elm, horsechestnut, poplar and willow trees. It has infested trees in Brooklyn, N.Y., parts of Long Island and northern New Jersey for years. Now, it has been spotted in Worcester, Mass., and Connecticut entomologists are on high alert.

"This beetle poses a significant threat to our maple trees as well as other trees," said Dr. Kirby Stafford, state entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. "If it got established, the effects would be devastating to our forests as well as many of our urban trees."

Because of its destructive nature, the beetle is a threat to Connecticut's nursery, maple syrup and forest industries, Stafford said. Article


Purple loosestrife returns to Pennsylvania park


An invasive species of plant, which is native to Europe, is aggressively taking over near Presque Isle State Park, according to a report published in the Erie Times-News.

Presque Isle has battled the plant before, back in the 1970s, and it hasn’t been seen again until just recently. Article


Invasive weed jeopardizes Lake Gardner, Mass.

By Katie Curley,

AMESBURY, MA — Anyone who has swum, boated or fished in Lake Gardner has likely been witness to it.

Lurking under the water is a mass of green weeds that have taken over much of the lake and threatens to damage the lake's entire animal and plant ecosystem if left unabated.

"The weed, mostly variable milfoil, has been increasingly aggressive over the past several years," said Bruce Georgian of the Amesbury Lakes and Waterways Commission.

"There are different theories as to why; no one can tell you exactly."

To control the weed, local officials are even considering draining the lake.

Earlier this month Georgian and a group of volunteers who had completed a "weed watching" program sponsored by the Department of Recreation and Conservation pulled up the weeds in the lake as part of a survey. Another program is planned for the coming year.

In order to control the problem, Georgian said first they have to determine how bad it is and how quickly the weeds are spreading.

"The weeds are aggressive and healthy due to animal waste and fertilizer run off," Georgian said. "But the weeds choke off the oxygen in the lake and make it difficult for fish and frogs and other animal species to live."

The group has come up with possible solutions, though nothing has been planned so far.

"We can drain the lake and freeze the weeds," Georgian said. "This would probably be the best solution, but there are also chemicals, cutting the weeds back and hand pulling. We can't just have a solution, though; we need to look at everything and have a plan to maintain it. There is no magic pill."

The most viable option — draining the lake — would happen in November and need state approval, according to Georgian, though nothing is currently scheduled for this fall.

"It's like taking a pharmaceutical; everything has a side effect," Georgian said. "If you drain and freeze the weeds, it may have effects on burrowing frogs and mussels and, recreationally, people may be stressed." Article


Water chestnuts face herbicides

Harvester loses Oswego River weed battle, so chemicals will be tried.

By Chris Iven,

The Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District is out of the aquatic weed harvesting business.

The large green machine that cut into the carpet of water chestnuts choking Oswego County waterways ended its run this week, said John DeHollander, district manager for the soil and water conservation district.

"You'd have to have a fleet of harvesters if you were going to stay ahead of this," DeHollander said.

And the district can hardly afford the one it has, he said. The district's harvester is 15 years old, and it breaks down too often, he said.

This year, the machine underwent $25,000 in repairs and came back six weeks later than expected.

Instead of spending another $100,000 to buy a new harvester, the district will try to control water chestnuts with herbicides.

"For the public dollars, it seems to be the better route to go, especially for the large mass acreage of chestnuts," DeHollander said.

There are about 100 acres of water chestnuts on the Oswego River. This year, the district treated about 30 acres with the herbicide Rodeo. The harvester's goal was to cut 30 to 40 acres, but that didn't happen, DeHollander said.

Next year, using herbicides alone, "I would like to see if we can't treat the whole kit and caboodle, the whole 100 acres," DeHollander said.

What will happen to the old harvester? It will go into storage this winter, and it will likely be sold at auction in the spring, DeHollander said. Article


Senator Schumer visits infested lake

...the Senator travelled to St. Lawrence County (New York) where he was scheduled to take a pontoon boat tour of Black Lake to witness, firsthand, the damage of the Eurasian MilFoil.
Schumer termed the invasive weed a severe problem for Black Lake, saying it could ruin the lake for boating and fishing.

“I have some optimism we can deal with the situation,” Schumer said in Croghan. “We had Milfoil most severely in Chautauqua Lake near Jamestown and I got the Army Corps of Engineers first, to do a survey on how to get rid of it and then to actually get rid of it. They’ve had a lot of success. We’re going to try to do the same thing in Black Lake where it’s not quite as advanced.”

In July, Schumer announced that the Corps of Engineers has agreed to visit Black Lake to investigate the rapidly spreading Milfoil damage and to develop an action plan to eliminate the problem. Article


Taking aim at phragmites

By Beth Blumenthal for

A Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection worker takes aim on phragmites--the invasive, non-native weeds that are overtaking the natural vegetation around Westport’s Sherwood Mill Pond. The spraying program will allow the native plants to grow back, restoring the vistas and views of the pond. See photo


New Hampshire favors herbicide treatment for Danforth Pond milfoil

Ossipee Lake Alliance,

Freedom – September 3, 2008 – Danforth Pond could be virtually milfoil-free, at least temporarily, if state and town officials implement an aggressive herbicide treatment of the non-native weed, according to DES limnologist and invasive species specialist Amy Smagula.

Smagula was the speaker at a Labor Day weekend meeting attended by Freedom town officials and lakefront property owners to discuss options for controlling the spread of variable milfoil in the hourglass-shaped body of water that connects to Broad Bay through Danforth Brook.

Topping the state’s list of options is treating the slimy invaders with the herbicide 2,4-D, which is the only approved aquatic chemical that attacks milfoil’s root system. The proposed treatment would be followed by selective hand-pulling by professional divers and the installation of a small number of benthic barriers, which are fiberglass mats that smother the pest by blocking sunlight.

Smagula said the state could pay up to half of the $14,000 cost but cautioned that the application process is competitive, noting that funding requests are usually three times higher than the state’s annual $110,000 budget.

The herbicide treatment is part of a DES management plan for the pond based on data compiled by the state and volunteers from the Friends of Danforth Pond and Ossipee Lake Alliance. While herbicide treatment is only one of number of options, Smagula said DES had ruled out most of the others. Milfoil-munching weevils will only eat the Eurasian variety, and dredging and mechanical harvesting could make the situation worse. She said the hand-pulling of thousands of pounds of weeds by professional divers during the past three years has been successful but has had limited impact.

“There’s no way divers can pull 24 acres of weeds all at once,” she said, “and the milfoil is spreading faster than it can be eliminated by hand.”

Asked about the safety of 2,4-D, Smagula said the chemical is safe “when used appropriately.” To create a margin of safety, she said the state works with just two professional contractors and has established application and post-application safety standards that exceed the product’s directions for use. She said state tests have shown 2,4-D, which is broadcast using dissolvable pellets, does not migrate into ground water and is safe for fish and native plants.

Introduced in the 1920s 2,4-D has been used to control invasive weeds in New Hampshire lakes for more than 40 years and has been used in all of the New England states, especially Massachusetts and Connecticut where milfoil problems are similar to New Hampshire’s.

“Maine and Vermont have less milfoil and are more restrictive in their use of herbicides,” she said, “although Maine has used it to control hydrilla, which is even more aggressive than variable milfoil.”

Asked about controlling shoreline runoff as part of the plan, Smagula acknowledged that the pond’s thick layer of sediment is an ideal breeding ground for milfoil, but said the weed is so adaptable it would continue to spread even if the bottom were sandy. She said reducing the pond’s nutrient load should be part of an overall watershed management plan that includes “limiting development and encouraging smart growth.”

If approved, Danforth Pond’s milfoil control plan will not be the first time an aquatic herbicide has been used in the Ossipee Lake system. Diquat, which kills invasive plants but not their root system, was used in Danforth Pond in 2002 and subsequently in Phillips Brook and Leavitt Bay in Ossipee. In all three instances the weeds returned in full force the following year. In contrast, Smagula says 2,4-D will knock the plants back for 3-5 years, making follow-up control methods, like hand-harvesting, more effective. Article