Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Week of December 28, 2009

Happy New Year!

Invasive species cause $1.4 trillion of losses a year globally

FUZHOU, Nov. 6 (Xinhua, China) -- Scientists should intensify international collaboration to fight invasive species that are causing 1.4 trillion U.S. dollars of losses a year globally, said experts and officials who concluded an international congress on biological invasions here Friday.

The first-ever International Congress on Biological Invasions, held in Fuzhou, east China's Fujian Province, from Nov. 2 to 6, called on policymakers worldwide to pay closer attention to the threat.

A declaration adopted Friday also said they should be more aware of the links between biological invasions, biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystem services.

The Fuzhou Declaration on Biological Invasions also urged policymakers and scientists to focus on the interactions between climate change and biological invasions, and the threats of invasive species to biodiversity, food security, trade, human health and economic development.

At the congress, more than 500 experts from 44 countries heard the latest figures from China, which suggested more than 500 species were recognized as being invasive.

"About 300 of them have proven harmful," said Wan Fanghao, vice director with the Research Center for Invasive Alien Species Prevention and Control of China's Ministry of Agriculture

More than half of the 100 dangerous alien species listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) had been found in China, he said.

Read the full story at link.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Week of December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Special Report: The Exotic Menace (Florida)




Bat Deaths: Some Species At Risk Of Becoming Endangered

By RINKER BUCK The Hartford Courant
December 21, 2009

The die-off of bats in Connecticut and other Northeastern states is now so severe that federal wildlife officials consider it "the most precipitous decline of North American wildlife caused by infectious disease in recorded history."

Since 2006, when hibernating bats in a cave west of Albany were found coated with a chalky fungus, the so-called white-nose syndrome has hopscotched from New Hampshire to West Virginia, sometimes decimating entire caves in a single winter. Finding a remedy for the condition before the die-off reaches the huge bat habitats of Tennessee and Kentucky is considered vital because individual bats eat thousands of insects a night, providing a critical balance for nature.

In Connecticut, bats are dying off in such massive numbers that state and federal wildlife agencies might have to consider listing some species as endangered. In other states, where species such as the Indiana bat and the Virginia big-eared bat are already endangered, captive breeding programs might have to be introduced.

This fall, biologists from Pennsylvania and New York conducted "swarming counts" of bats as they congregated before entering their hibernating caves. These surveys have confirmed that many common species of bats are experiencing mortality rates of more than 90 percent. Biologists at Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection expect to confirm similar mortality rates when they conduct their hibernation counts in caves this winter.

The dire statistics for just one of Connecticut's most common species — the little brown bat — typify the plight of many bats. In 2007, at a Litchfield County cave that is one of Connecticut's largest hibernation sites, the population of little browns was 2,320. [...]

Scientists have identified the fungus coating the bats as Geomyces destructans, and federal research laboratories are close to completing studies to determine whether it is the same fungus often found in European caves. These findings could be important, because white-nose syndrome was first detected at Howe Caverns near Cobleskill, N.Y., a popular tourist site with more than 150,000 visitors a year. Establishing European origins for the fungus would help confirm that it was carried into the cave on the shoe or clothing of a foreign tourist, or perhaps by an American who had recently visited Europe, and then spread to the nearby bat habitat as an invasive species against which the bats had no natural protection.

But until the fungus is fully identified and scientists devise a way to combat it, they are forced to rely on stopgap measures to learn more about white-nose syndrome. [...]

Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant

Read the full story here.


Law would target boats that spread invasive plants

By Dayelin Roman droman@poststar.com | Posted: Sunday, December 20, 2009

Glen Falls, NY - Every summer as boaters launch their vessels in area lakes and rivers, residents concerned about the spread of invasive species stand by watching, according to Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward.

"We have a large number of concerned citizens and groups," she said.

But when boaters inadvertently carrying invasive species into a lake ignore advice to wash off their boats, activists have no recourse.

"They can’t tell them it’s illegal," Sayward, R-Willsboro, said.

The issue has prompted Sayward to propose a bill that would make the transfer of invasive species such as eurasian watermilfoil illegal between bodies of water.

The law would encourage activists to write down the boat’s identification number and send it in to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which would then assess a fine to the boat owner.

"How do we get the message out without a little bit of teeth?" Sayward said.

Last summer, the Fund for Lake George helped the Lake George Park Commission fund the removal of tons of eurasian watermilfoil from the southern basin of the lake. The Fund spent some $75,000 to employ a team of divers to hand-pick the plant off the bottom.

Milfoil, which cuts off sunlight and nutrients to native plants and makes swimming and boating unpleasant, is spread through boats that carry it from other bodies of water.

But milfoil is only one of a host of problem plants the law seeks to contain.

The Adirondack Park Agency passed a resolution supporting the bill in November, and has encouraged towns within the park to do the same.

"With approximately 138,000 New Yorkers who live and work in the Adirondack Park and 9 million visitors, we believe our rivers, streams, lakes and ponds are vital to our tourism economy and community and environmental health," an e-mail from APA Chairman Curt Stiles to the town of Chester states. "We believe there is an urgent need to control the movement of existing and new aquatic invasive species in the Adirondack Park."

Keith McKeever, a spokesman for the APA, said invasive species diminish recreational opportunities in water and can sometimes turn into a thick mat that won’t allow boats through.

At a Chester Town Board meeting on Dec. 8, officials passed a resolution to support the legislation, but wondered whether it was enforceable.

"I know its going to be a difficult thing to enforce," Town Supervisor Fred Monroe said. Councilman Michael Packer nodded his head in agreement.

But Sayward said DEC has the resources to enforce it and send staff to boat launches.

"The people are on the ground already," she said.

And since the law will be attached to penalties and fines for those who break it, the generation of revenue is a possibility, she said.

"People will understand we have a huge problem with invasives," Sayward said.

Read the story at link.


Massachusetts ALB news

Starting Dec. 17, the USDA is seeking bids from contractors interested in assisting with the chemical treatment of trees within the quarantine zone (trunk injections), in order to protect the trees from ALB. Deadline 1/20/10: Link


Monday, December 14, 2009

Week of December 14, 2009

Updated 12/17

Moreau, NY tackles threat posed by invasive plant species

By PAUL POST, The Saratogian

MOREAU, NY — A local environmental group is taking steps to control invasive plant species that it says threaten habitat for birds and other wildlife.

The Moreau Conservation Advisory Council hopes to employ strategies ranging from education to eradication.

For example, the town Planning Board could urge developers not to landscape with harmful plants, while the town Highway Department could remove invasive plants found along local roads.

“It’s a huge problem not only locally, but statewide and nationwide,” council Secretary Ramona Bearor said. “It affects everything — birds, insects and animals that depend on native plants in some way.”

Specifically, she cited three types of invasive species that are causing problems.

One is Japanese knotweed, sometimes called “American bamboo.” Found in the wild, it spreads rapidly. One place it’s taking over is along the Betar Bikeway bordering the Hudson River in South Glens Falls.

Japanese barberry, often used by developers in housing development common areas, is another invasive species, along with the popular burning bush. Each plant produces thousands of seeds that birds eat and spread in their droppings. Seeds quickly take root and force out existing vegetation, changing soil composition in the process. [...]

Bearor said Moreau is the first town in Saratoga County to take a proactive approach in controlling the invasive plant species. The nine-member council was first organized last spring and appointed by the Town Board, as called for in the town’s master plan. [...]

Read the full article at link.


Editorial: Why the delay on rules halting invasive species?


The wheels of government grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small. The wheels of the U.S. Coast Guard apparently just grind slowly.

More than 20 years after the first zebra mussels found their way into the Great Lakes in the belly of ocean-going tankers, the Coast Guard has come up with regulations to deal with such non-native aquatic life.

But it will be nearly six years before the rules take full effect, and some ships may not have to comply with them until 2021.

The timetable set by the Coast Guard calls for feasibility studies to be performed prior to the rules taking effect.

But we've known for some time now how the problem began.

Zebra mussels, and many of the more than 180 other invasive species that found their way into the Great Lakes in the last two decades, arrived here in the ballast water that the tankers take in for stability when traveling on open water and that is later discharged when they arrive. [...]

The frustrating thing for Wisconsin and other states bordering the Great Lakes is that the call went out years ago for treatment or cleansing of ballast water in order to kill non-native plant and animal life before it is discharged.

But the Coast Guard dragged its feet and there was little pressure put on the agency by Congress to take action. This forced Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states to come up with their own rules in the interim when it would have been much more effective to have a national standard that all ships would have to meet.

Congress must put pressure on the Coast Guard to step up the pace on effective rules to guard against further damage to the Great Lakes.

Waiting even another two years is too long. Strict rules against invasive species must be in place no later than 2012.

Read the editorial a link.


Update on DEC's wild boar war in Central New York: They're still out there and moving around

By David Figura/The Post-Standard

In his office, Moravia businessman Andy Boos proudly displays the head mount of the 320-pound black Russian boar he shot three years ago on his property in Spafford.

“I was out deer hunting at the time and this animal came running through the bushes,” he said. “It sounded like a Mack truck. It appeared about 80 yards away at a full run. I took one shot with a handgun (a Thompson Contender 308) and he came down in a pile.”

It’s the kind of story that makes some state Department of Environmental Conservation officials and property owners in the Scott/Spafford area grimace.
In the past few years, the area has been deluged with out-of-towners calling and stopping by to see where they can hunt wild boar. Most of the property in the area has been posted by farmers and other property owners, and trespassing has been a real problem, some farmers said.

“Personally, I think it’s highly overrated,” said John Wanish, owner of J. Dubs Gas and Grub convenience store, along Route 41 in the town of Scott. Nevertheless, the store’s bulletin board has several pictures of wild hogs shot by locals in recent years.

“I’ve had them (hunters) come and stop by the store as far away is Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York City,” he said. “Apparently, there must be a Web site on it or something.”

The DEC has been actively involved the past several years in attempts to clear the invasive species off the area landscape. The animals are believed to have escaped from a private pay-to-hunt game farm nearly a decade ago and are spreading.

The state’s position, as reflected in this year’s DEC hunting and trapping guide is that feral swine are a harmful, invasive species and need to be eradicated. For the past two years, local DEC officials have been trapping the animals at undisclosed private and public properties.

While casual or “opportunistic” shooting of individual boars by, for example, deer hunters isn’t discouraged, local DEC officials are standing by previous statements that systematic hunting — or pursuit — of groups of the animals tends to spread them and make their populations more vigorous.

Is the DEC, which is working with other agencies such as the Cortland Soil and Water District and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the issue, winning the wild boar war? Evidently not, said many local residents who were interviewed in recent weeks. Many said it’s time to call off the battle and stop spending state money on the effort. [...]

This year’s DEC hunting guide for the first time (page 20) notes their presence locally and in other parts of the state, and reminds hunters that all they need is a license that’s valid for hunting small game to shoot feral pigs.

They’re considered “unprotected wildlife.” There’s no season, no take limits or time-of-day restrictions. General hunting rules, such as the distance one can discharge a firearm from a building, still apply. (For more, see pages 16-17 of the DEC hunting guide). [...]

What’s the problem with wild pigs?

DEC officials say they are capable of wreaking havoc on plant life, native animal species and water quality in wetlands and streams, in addition to causing extensive crop damage and carrying various diseases transmissable to wildlife. If you’ve seen or shot a wild boar, contact the DEC at mlputnam[at]gw.dec.state.ny.us or call 607-753-3095, ext. 296.

Are they dangerous to humans?

Like domestic pigs, females are very protective of their young. The state Department of Conservation only has one report locally, though, of a man being attacked by a wild boar. Greg Piercey, formerly of Scott (now living in Kentucky), was building a deer hunting treestand in 2006 when he notice that Red, his golden retriever, had “gotten into it” with a wild boar piglet, according to Piercey’s ex-wife, Kathy. Piercey got down from the tree and started beating the sow with a piece of wood. A piglet ran up to Piercey, “shredded his pants” and bit him on the leg. “He had to have rabies shots,” she said.

Read the full story at link.


The Exotic Menace
Non-native species invade land, water

Environment Writer

A growing worldwide trade in exotic plants and animals, fueled by a fascination with the rare and beautiful, often wreaks havoc on Florida's native plants and animals and costs the nation billions each year.

"America has a love affair with exotic species, but unfortunately it has a dark side," said Don Schmitz, a research program manager with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "Go down to Miami International Airport. It's amazing what comes in on a daily basis from overseas."

The list includes tropical flowers, colorful fish, scorpions and spitting cobras.

Though the imports can start harmlessly as pretty plants or cool pets, far too many wind up in the wild, becoming a growing exotic menace that some say is the single biggest threat to the nation's protected species.

Many scientists consider Florida ground zero in the invasion with more exotic imports arriving daily and more protected species at risk than anywhere else except Hawaii. Hundreds of nonnative species flourish in the wild.

"In a decade or two, the ecology of the state of Florida is not going to be what we've known all our lives," said Herky Huffman of Enterprise, a former wildlife commissioner. "It's going to be changed by all these exotic species."


People have long traded in goods such as seeds, plants and animals. But an explosion in global trade and Internet sales triggered a more rapid and prolific exchange. Overall, more than 50,000 species of plants, animals and microbes have been introduced to the United States.

Tom Jackson, an exotic species specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Florida, calls it "the great experiment."

"We're moving a staggering number of (species) from disparate places to our lands, and sometimes waters, at a speed never before accomplished," Jackson said. And much of it happens with little oversight.

That troubles conservation scientists who fear invasive species are threatening natural ecosystems. A plant or animal becomes "invasive" when it thrives and reproduces in new surroundings and harms native plants and animals, placing them at risk of extinction.

Most species brought to the United States are beneficial rather than invasive, including cattle and crops such as rice.

But when exotics escape or are released into the wild and face no natural predators, they can cause major problems. For example, imported mussels disrupt shipping in the Great Lakes. Yellow star thistle invades thousands of acres of native grasslands in California.

Florida, however, with up to 100,000 pythons roaming in the Everglades, is considered by some the poster child for "really creepy invasives."

Some scientists believe the huge snakes could move into Central Florida. Dozens of other nonnative reptiles and amphibians thrive in the state's temperate and subtropical climates.

The invasives "impact our lifestyles, our economies, our natural areas and our native species," said Doria Gordon, director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy in Florida. If Floridians want to know how exotic invasive species can affect them, most need go no farther than their own lawn, Gordon said. "We all care about fire ants in a big way."

But the menace reaches far beyond front yards.

Exotic armored catfish imported to eat algae in aquariums invade the Blue Spring run and plague manatees that swim there. Plants such as hydrilla and hyacinth clog tributaries to the St. Johns River and other waterways, closing some to boating traffic. Acres of native plants disappear beneath a creeping forest of aggressive Old World climbing fern.

An Asian beetle brought laurel wilt fungus to red bay trees near Savannah, Ga., in 2002. It decimated red bays around Jacksonville, mowed down trees in Palm Coast and was found this year in Daytona Beach.

Similar problems nationwide leave nearly half the country's 958 protected species at risk from competition by exotics, according to a study by Cornell University professor David Pimentel and colleagues.

Invasives cost the country more than $137 billion a year in damage and containment efforts, the study concluded. That's one dollar for every $8 worth of food grown and nearly double what the nation spends annually on cancer treatment. Florida property owners and agencies spend more than $600 million a year. [...]


Jenkins and other conservation scientists say legislation and rule changes are needed urgently to limit the flow of invasive, exotic species, build a coordinated nationwide effort to determine the extent of the problem and repair the damage.

They hope to enlist others in the battle to contain and control exotics, including legislators who could funnel more money to combat the problem. They hope to convince backyard gardeners to plant natives and to stop owners of exotic pets from releasing them into the wild. [...]

Efforts to restrict trade and exotic pet ownership meet heavy resistance.

"You have to have some pretty major evidence that something is going to be a problem before you can get it prohibited," said Bill Haller, acting director of the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants at the University of Florida.

Progress toward a zealous national effort to control exotics has been slow, but the call for action took on new urgency after July 1. That's when a Sumter County family's pet Burmese python strangled a toddler. Officials say the python was improperly caged and the family didn't have a permit.

The resulting nationwide headlines made threats posed by exotic animals a "very major issue," Haller said.

People who have pushed for more stringent regulations for years hope the child's tragic death may finally bring change to aging laws they say fail to protect the nation. They hope to make it more difficult to import problem-causing species.

A U.S. Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill that would ban import and interstate shipment of nine large constrictor and python species.

Proponents of exotic pet and plant ownership and some scientists fear the rush to new legislation and rule changes might unfairly hinder trade, limit personal freedom, and create an underground black market that could make matters worse.

The industry agrees the issue needs attention, said Marshall Meyers, chief executive officer for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. However, change should come from a scientific assessment of individual species and not on an emotional legislative "quick fix," he said. [...]

Read the article at link.


Vegetation having deleterious effect on Lake Takanassee in Long Branch, NJ


LONG BRANCH — For decades, Pete Bacinski visited Lake Takanassee in pursuit of his hobby — bird-watching — and for his livelihood, as sanctuary director of the New Jersey Audubon Society's Sandy Hook Bird Observatory.

The observatory's senior naturalist Scott Barnes more than two years ago noticed a small amount of what appeared to be an invasive plant species blooming in two small ponds near the railroad tracks at the lake that marks the boundary between West End and Elberon.

"We worried about it, but since it didn't spread anywhere else, we didn't take it into major consideration," Bacinski said.

In March, the situation had not changed much from their first view of it. But the situation would not stay stable for long.

"In October, when I saw this plant growing in all parts of the lake, it really scared me," Bacinski said. "It all happened in a seven-month period."

For Bacinski, the other Audubon members and birding hobbyists, this is really about how the vegetation affects the lake's use by avian life.

"It is a great waterfowl stopover and wintering area," explained Bacinski, of Atlantic Highlands. He suspected the problem vegetation might be parrotweed, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists as an invasive noxious weed.

John A. Tiedemann, a specialist professor of marine and environmental biology within Monmouth University's School of Science, had another idea. In September, he finished co-writing a report for the school's Urban Coast Institute on "The Future of Coastal Lakes in Monmouth County."

Tiedemann said the plant blooming wildly in Takanassee is more likely Eurasian water milfoil, which has invaded many of the region's lakes. It also is an invasive plant that can choke out other plant life, according to the USDA.

Eurasian water milfoil likely would thrive in Lake Takanassee's nutrient-rich, eutrophic surroundings, crowding out native plants and hastening the potential demise of the lake.

"If it gets totally taken over by this water milfoil, it will leave no place for the waterfowl to stay for the winter months and have a home," Bacinski worried.

The impact on waterfowl, however, is just a small part of the deleterious effects on the lake, from water quality to aesthetics, Tiedemann explained. Stormwater discharges, fertilizers and too much imperious surface all help the invasive plant thrive.

"Without management and treatment, the lakes get overgrown," he said.

The UCI report concluded government can implement either chemical or mechanical solutions for weed control, even if those are only stop-gap methods.

"The real solution is to control the nutrients that go into the lake," he said. "Rather than mowing the lawn along the lake, plant a vegetated buffer that functions as a biofilter."

Other responses include adopting an ordinance that controls the timing, limiting the amount and type of fertilizer property owners can use on their lawns, overseeing a Canada geese management program, adopting a zero-silt runoff program and installing stormwater system retrofits. [...]

Read the full story at link.


Invasive Plants Threaten Avalon Dune Health

By Leslie Truluck
Cape May County Herald.com

AVALON, NJ — The borough is seeking to remedy potential threats to the health of the dune system and natural maritime forests here caused by invasive plant species.

“The conditions in the dunes require attention,” Environmental Commission Chairman Dr. Brian Reynolds told council Dec. 9.

Invasive species, like Japanese black pine and bamboo, have caused concern for diminishing animal habitat and food sources, potential fire hazards, as well as spread of insects and disease.

Japanese Black Pine was once thought to be a good stabilizer for the dunes, due to its thick roots. However, they have the genetic potential to grow up to 80 feet and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service categorize it as “mildly invasive.”

The commission is updating the borough’s Dune Vegetation Management Plan in order to monitor and control of what is planted in the dune areas, to ensure they are suitable for that environment. Corrective changes to the ordinance will move the pines to the “not recommended” list. The pines attract insects that attack the trees and carry diseases.

Japanese black pines produce extremely flammable needles and cones that, in the event of a fire, could cause it to spread, resulting in damage to properties and the dunes natural maritime forest, Reynolds said.

He said the pines don’t serve as habitat and are not a source of food for wildlife.

A species of bamboo planted on a property near 40th Street has potential to grow 25 feet high and spread. Since most types of bamboo are invasive, the commission has opted to prohibit all bamboo types in the dunes.

The plan encourages a wider diversity of trees and shrubs in the dunes system through systematic replacement of the invasive species with indigenous plants. A test area at the 74th Street dunes, where Japanese black pines have already begun to die will be replaced, as recommended in the report.

The trees’ crowns will be removed, but roots will remain intact, to hold the dunes together. They need to be removed by hand, without heavy machinery, in order not to damage dunes. The half-block 74th Street pilot area is outside of piping plover nesting areas protected by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Funding for this endeavor may be available through a Smart Growth Planning Grant funded by the NJ Environmental Trust.
The commission will review a final draft of the Dune Vegetation Management Plan, prepared by Lomax Consulting Group of Court House, before it is presented to council.

Lomax investigated the entire borough dune system from Townsend Inlet to 80th Street to understand the pine’s height and density distribution. Trees are nearing 25-feet in the 74th Street pilot area.

Environmental Commission will discuss changes to the plan for the dune area during its regular meeting Dec. 15, at 4 p.m. at Borough Hall.

A copy of the plan will be available on the borough’s Web site, www.avalonboro.org.

Read the story at link.


Researchers reveal that zebra mussels can be controlled

While a lone zebra mussel is relatively harmless, its appearance usually indicates the arrival of thousands of the unwanted visitors. In waterways around the globe, the mussels are outcompeting native animal species for food and clogging industrial water systems.

Scientists and municipalities in affected areas struggle with how to eradicate the mussels quickly without causing wide-scale damage to the surrounding ecosystem by using harmful pesticides or other damaging chemicals to remove the mussels.

A recent zebra mussel eradication program led by scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute is now providing a promising example of how zebra mussel populations can be successfully controlled without damaging the natural ecosystem.

“Conventional wisdom on zebra mussels holds that once a population is established, they are impossible to control,” said Darrin Director Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer. “However, we have been able to show that it might be possible to remove enough mussels to reduce the population density to the point where successful reproduction can be impeded.”

The researchers looked at how a relatively low-tech approach, coupled with extensive community outreach and no small amount of volunteer elbow grease, successfully removed what is estimated to be more than 90 percent of a mussel infestation in Lake George within two months. To perform the removal at the freshwater lake, a popular tourist destination in upstate New York at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, the researchers enlisted the assistance of volunteer SCUBA diving teams to hand remove more than 21,000 zebra mussels from the site.

The study took place from 1999, when the mussels were first discovered in Lake George by divers with underwater archaeology firm Bateaux Below, to 2007, although the removal effort continues today. The vast majority of mussels were removed during the first year of the project, from an area covering 3,900 square meters that is divided into nine dive sections. After hundreds of hours of dives, the researchers’ continued investigation and monitoring of the site for larvae suggests that the mussels have not successfully reproduced since the removal began a decade ago.

Because of the nature of the zebra mussels and their link to human activity, particularly their ability to hitch a ride on a contaminated hull or in the bilge water of a boat after a boating trip in an infested waterway, Darrin Fresh Water Institute’s surveillance of the lake has since resulted in the discovery of eight new colonies of zebra mussels. Each is being systematically removed through SCUBA dives in the same way that the initial site was cleaned.

“A critical component of this effort has been a broad-based surveillance program,” Nierzwicki-Bauer said. “This allows us to quickly mount the SCUBA-based approach while the population remains relatively small.” The Darrin Fresh Water Institute and other organizations on Lake George regularly monitor the waterway for new zebra mussel infestations.

“Perhaps ‘mission impossible’ can never be claimed in the fight against zebra mussels, but the prevention of colonization may well be possible with a long-term commitment to monitoring and rapid removal,” she said.

The research team’s findings, based on activities and study from 1999-2007, were published late this summer in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. Along with Nierzwicki-Bauer, researchers contributing to the study are John Wimbush of the New York State Department of State; Marc Frischer of Skidaway Institute of Oceanography; and Joseph Zarzynski of Bateaux Below.

Provided by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Invasive algae found in Garrett Co.'s Savage River

DNR biologists discover habitat-attacking didymo in another MD trout stream

By Candus Thomson
The Baltimore Sun

Another premier Maryland trout stream has become tainted by an invasive algae feared worldwide for its ability to coat the bottom of rivers and lakes and smother the habitat and food supply of fish.

Biologists at the Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday that didymo, known by anglers as "rock snot," was found in Garrett County's Savage River late last month.

"There's nothing we can do short of closing the area down, and that's draconian," said Don Cosden, inland fisheries director. "We're going to try hard to contain it."

Officials fear the algae could spread to the North Branch of the Potomac below the Jennings Randolph Reservoir, another of the state's best trout waters.[...]

At least three streams in West Virginia have been tainted as has the Delaware River in Pennsylvania.

Cosden said biologists doing routine water quality testing just below Savage River Dam were suspicious of initial results and went back to test again. This time, they found a small mass near a foot bridge and on some rocks.

Didymo was first identified in the 1890s in Europe and China. Scientists on the West Coast detected it a decade ago. An outbreak in New Zealand in 2004 prompted a "biosecurity lockdown," complete with checkpoints and penalties of five years in prison and $100,000 fines for anglers and boaters who failed to clean their gear. A year later, reports were down 90 percent, but officials warned the decrease could be part of a natural cycle.

The same thing could happen here, Cosden said. Didymo "doesn't compete well" in rivers where other algae is present, a condition that exists in the Gunpowder and the Savage rivers. But the North Branch, with its ice-cold water and clean bottom, is a perfect host for didymo, he said.

"We just need to pay attention and be careful," Cosden said. "I suspect we'll have to do more targeted sampling and we'll reach out to anglers when they start returning to the rivers later this winter."

Copyright © 2009, The Baltimore Sun

Read the full article at link.


Exotic Species Threaten Puerto Rico’s Ecosystem

Latin American Herald Tribune

SAN JUAN – Invading species of green iguana and red lionfish are threatening the ecosystem of Puerto Rico, according to the head of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, or DRNA, of the Caribbean island, Daniel Galan.

Galan said Tuesday in an interview with Efe that neither of the two species is native to Puerto Rico, and so their presence threatens not only the animals but also the plants here.

“The main problem they pose is that neither of the two species has a natural predator in Puerto Rico,” said Galan, after noting that the green – or common – iguana (Iguana iguana) was introduced to the island 20 years ago by people keeping them as pets. [...]

Read the full story at link.


Milfoil control requires coordinated effort

By Larissa Mulkern
Editor of The Carroll County Independent

TAMWORTH — State and local officials from three towns met last week to discuss launching a coordinated effort to combat and control variable milfoil in the Ossipee Lake system, before the choking weed affects tourism and property values on a lake that borders three communities.

Representatives from the Ossipee Lake Alliance, Green Mountain Conservation Group, select board and conservation members from Ossipee, Freedom and Effingham and a state representative from Moultonborough gathered the morning of Dec. 8 at Samantha's Inn in Tamworth. The meeting was arranged by Ossipee Conservation Commission Chair Elizabeth Gillette after the commission and alliance members met with Ossipee selectmen and NH Department of Environmental Services Limnologist Amy Smagula to discuss milfoil treatment options for Pickerel Cove and other areas of infestation.

Ossipee Lake Alliance Board Member Bob Reynolds, who recently attended the N.H. Legislative Exotic Aquatic Weeds and Species Committee's Milfoil Summit meetings in Concord, kicked off the meeting with an update. He said a proposed bill would not generate expected revenues to fund milfoil control until 2011. He added that the fact the bill was proposed indicates that the state understands towns and property owners can't win the milfoil battle alone.

The DES spent nearly its entire $450,000 milfoil budget on prevention alone, he said, leaving just $60,000 for milfoil control to be distributed to dozens of communities already affected by the weed. [...]

Read the full article at link.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Week of December 7, 2009

Vermont receives $497,000 to control invasive species, fund 'park interpreter' program


Governor Jim Douglas today announced that the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation was awarded nearly a half-million dollars of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds from the U.S. Forest Service to control invasive insects and plants and provide conservation education programs in state parks and recreation areas within the Green Mountain National Forest.

The 16-month project will allow state officials to control the spread of invasive plants and insects on state and National Forest Service lands, by conducting pest surveys, limiting firewood movement and enhancing native species recovery for ash, butternut and chestnut.

“Vermont’s forests are valuable economically, ecologically and socially,” said Commissioner Jason Gibbs. “A major thrust of maintaining forest health in Vermont is detecting, eliminating or managing newly introduced pests.”

The funds will also allow the Department to hire and train seasonal “park interpreters” – restoring the popular conservation education program in Vermont’s State Parks and expanding it to recreation areas within the Green Mountain National Forest.

Read the full story at link.


Invasive Species Awareness Week

Register by Dec. 10 for National Invasive Species Awareness Week to receive the pre-registration discount! Go to www.nisaw.org to register online and check out the updated agenda. Great speakers, timely topics!

National Invasive Species Awareness Week
Jan. 10-14, 2010
Four Points Sheraton, Washington, DC

For more information, contact Lee VanWychen at lee.vanwychen[at]wssa.net or Janet Clark at janet.k.clark[at]gmail.com.


Quarantine on invasive vine made permanent

By Aaron Applegate
Kathy Adams
The Virginian-Pilot
© December 7, 2009

[Virginia] State officials have made permanent the quarantine on beach vitex, an invasive vine that’s been discovered on dunes in Sandbridge and Norfolk’s Willoughby Spit.

The quarantine, which started in late October, prohibits the movement of any part of the plant into, within or from Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Accomack County and Northampton County. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services board voted to make the restrictions permanent Thursday, according to its Web site.

Beach vitex, nicknamed “coastal kudzu,” is one of a few plants that will grow on the beach, so some property owners have planted it for ornamental purposes.

But it has the potential to destroy dunes, choke out native plants and ravage habitats, including that of the endangered loggerhead sea turtle, according to the agriculture department. For those reasons, the plant is already banned in the Carolinas.

Virginia Beach officials have said residents should leave beach vitex alone if they have it on their property. Digging it up will spread it, said Cal Schiemann, the agricultural extension agent for Virginia Beach. It’s best to wait until spring before scraping off the plant’s bark and applying a herbicide with a brush, he said.

Read the article at link.


Marsh Dilemma: Restore Or Preserve?

by Melinda Tuhus
New Haven Independent

An environmental group wants to allow salt water to flow again into the West River’s marshes, by replacing almost century-old tide gates. Neighbor Paula Panzarella, for one, worries that mosquitoes will return, too — and wild turkeys and elderberries might disappear.

Rich Orson, a PhD ecologist and habitat restoration consultant with Save the Sound, pitched the idea to three dozen neighbors last week at the Barnard School Nature Center at the corner of Derby Avenue and Ella Grasso Boulevard and abutting the river.

Orson said his project has three goals: improving water quality by allowing for the exchange of salt and fresh water, enhancing recreational opportunities, and allowing more fish to swim from Long Island Sound up the river. The existing tide gates, installed in 1920, have kept virtually all salt water out, destroying 130 acres of salt marsh in the process.

Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, received federal stimulus money from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; $800,000 is earmarked for replacing the West River tide gates. [...]

...one aim of the project is to push the phragmites back and allow other flora to gain a foothold. [...]

Read the full story at link.


Temporary federal job opportunity in Alaska

The National Park Service - Alaska Exotic Plant Management Team is looking for candidates interested in helping protect America's last frontier from the ever increasing presence of damaging invasive plants. Alaska's National Parks are home to some of the most beautiful and pristine terrain in the nation, rich in wildlife and culture. Experience your America and build a fulfilling career by joining the National Park Service. Become part of our mission to unite our past, our cultures and our special places to establish important connections to the present and build a rich and lasting legacy for future generations. This full-time temporary position, thru September 30, 2010, and is based out of the Alaska Regional Office in Anchorage, AK. This position may be filled at the GS-6 or GS-7 grade level with an hourly pay scale of approximately $16.25 to $18.10, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Extensive travel during the summer field months to Park Service units throughout Alaska will be required as well as camping.

If you are interested in this position please review the attached qualifications and position summary documents. If you meet the qualifications required please submit by January 8, 2010 to the address listed below a descriptive resume and your responses to the attached Knowledge, Skills and Abilities. Applications will be reviewed and interviews potentially scheduled for the middle of January. This position is slated to begin no later than March 1, 2010.


Bonnie M. Million
Alaska EPMT Liaison
Alaska Regional Office
240 West 5th Avenue
Anchorage, AK 99501
Office: 907-644-3452


Air Potato Exchange Day

When: January 9, 2010 10:00 a.m.—2:00 p.m.

Where: Bert J. Harris, Jr. Agricultural Center, Sebring, Florida

The Highlands Soil and Water Conservation District will host the “Air Potato Exchange Day”. All you have to do is bring in some air potato bulbils ( at least one grocery bag full) to the Agricultural Center in Sebring, and receive a free native plant.

Also, prizes will be awarded for:

• The biggest air potato

• The most air potatoes (pounds)

• The smallest air potato

• The most uniquely shaped air potato


Hough-Goldstein honored by Delaware Invasive Species Council

University of Delaware

9:31 a.m., Dec. 9, 2009----At the annual meeting of the Delaware Invasive Species Council on Nov. 23, Judy Hough-Goldstein, professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, was presented with the organization's first ever research award.

Hough-Goldstein was honored for her “significant contributions toward the advancement of invasive species research with the biological control of mile-a-minute weed.”

Hough-Goldstein's nomination letter stated, “Through her years of research, Judy's lab was the first to test and obtain a permit to release a biological control agent of mile-a-minute weed. The agent, a stem-boring weevil, has been released in five states, and is being mass-reared at a laboratory in New Jersey. Since 2005, Judy and her lab have monitored the weevil's dispersal, population growth, and impact on mile-a-minute at release sites. Additional projects in her lab include bio-control agents for kudzu, and methods to enhance currently available agents for purple loosestrife.”

Hough-Goldstein has been a member of DISC since 2004 and became vice chair in 2005. She moved to chair in 2007.

Read the full story at link.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Week of November 30, 2009

Group: don't wait on ballast rule

SAVE THE RIVER PLEA: Proposal would protect St. Lawrence, may take too long to implement


An environmental group is concerned that a new rule proposed by the U.S. Coast Guard requiring ships to clean up ballast tanks to prevent any new invasive species from entering the St. Lawrence River may take too long to implement.

The Coast Guard has a proposal that would require ships transiting any waters of the United States, including the St. Lawrence Seaway, to clean up their ballast tanks.

According to the legislation, the proposal would establish new procedures for approving onboard equipment to clean ballast water before discharge. For the first time, the regulation sets upper limits for the number of organisms per unit of ballast water. The current rules require vessels only to make mid-ocean ballast exchanges, a control technique that frequently has been attacked as inadequate to prevent the introduction of alien species into U.S. waters.

The effort, according to Jennifer J. Caddick, executive director of Save the River, would help prevent a problem facing the river's fish and wildlife: aquatic invasive species.

Over the years, the river has seen a number of invasive species change its environment and affect fish species, such as zebra mussels and round gobies. Zebra mussels have cleared up the river's water, and gobies threaten native fish species.

"These invaders threaten the river ecosystem, our regional economy and our way of life. This rule could be a groundbreaking regulation and could be the strongest effort yet in the fight to stop aquatic invasive species introductions," Ms. Caddick said.

However, she said, she believes the proposed rule allows polluters too much time to fix the problem, up to 10 years.

"We need to tell the Coast Guard in no uncertain terms that it needs to stop introductions of aquatic invasive species into the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes now," she said. Ms. Caddick said it's important for people to make their opinions heard.

"We know that the shipping industry is lining up in opposition to this new rule. It's important for the Coast Guard to hear directly from citizens, who are bearing the burden of invasive species damages, about the rules as well. The new regulation, if implemented with stronger deadlines, could be the most significant effort yet in the fight to stop aquatic invasive species introductions," Ms. Caddick said.

Save the River, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve and protect the ecological integrity of the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River, is asking concerned groups and individuals to submit comments to it by Friday at www.savetheriver.org.

Read the story at link.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Week of November 16, 2009

Hand-writing on the wall for kudzu?


kudzubugATHENS, GA - Researchers at the University of Georgia and Dow AgroSciences have identified a kudzu-eating pest in northeast Georgia that has never been found in the Western Hemisphere.

Unfortunately, they say, the bug also eats legume crops, especially soybeans... a major cash crop in Georgia.

The bug has tentatively been identified as the bean plataspid (Megacopta cribraria), a native to India and China. It is pea-sized and brownish in color with a wide posterior, said Dan Suiter, an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“It kind of waddles when it walks on a surface, but it flies really well,” he said.

It’s also commonly called lablab bug and globular stink bug. Like its distant cousin the stink bug, when threatened, it releases a chemical that stinks.

Suiter and CAES diagnostician Lisa Ames first saw the pest when samples were sent to them in mid-October from UGA Cooperative Extension agents and pest control professionals in Barrow, Gwinnett and Jackson counties. Samples have since arrived from Clarke, Hall, Greene, Oconee and Walton counties.

Homeowners first reported the pest after finding large groups of the bugs lighting on their homes.

“At one home in Hoschton, Ga., we found the bugs all over the side of a lady’s house,” Suiter said. “There is a kudzu patch behind her home that provides food, and they were attracted to the light color of the siding. At this time of year, the insects are most active in the afternoon when it gets warm.”

In addition to homes, the bug is attracted to light-colored vehicles. [...]

Suiter says the pest’s populations are, for now, contained to northeast Georgia.

It’s an “invasive species feeding on an invasive species.”

Read the full story at link.

Photo courtesy southeastfarmpress.com. Photo by Dan Suiter.


Predator Beetle To Battle Hemlock Pest

ScienceDaily (Nov. 13, 2009) — Hemlock woolly adelgids (HWA) -- aphidlike insects that have destroyed stands of hemlocks throughout the East Coast -- were first identified in hemlocks in the central Finger Lakes in summer 2008 and then in trees in Cornell Plantations' natural areas in early spring 2009.

Laricobius_nigrinus"To battle the hemlock-killing insects, a team of entomologists has released one of the adelgids' natural predators as a local case study. Specifically, researchers from Cornell, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and University of Massachusetts-Amherst released 900 Laricobius nigrinus beetles into a stand of adelgid-infested hemlocks on Cornell Plantations land near Lansing and at two other sites on Seneca Lake.

L. nigrinus beetles are native to the Pacific Northwest, where the black, 3-millimeter-long beetle keeps HWA in check by preying on them. As HWA spread through the Northeast, the insects flourished and decimated hemlocks, since no natural predators lived in the region. HWA avoid predators by growing in the winter. But L. nigrinus beetles have synchronous life cycles with the HWA, and they feed and grow during winter.

"It's important to reassure people, the release of this beetle is not haphazard," said Mark Whitmore, a Cornell forest entomologist in the Department of Natural Resources. "People have been studying L. nigrinus for a long time and have established that it will feed only on adelgids and successfully reproduce only on a diet of HWA."

The Lansing site was ideal for the case study, the researchers said, since the hemlocks there are only lightly infested with HWA, and there are many hemlocks to sustain a long-term study.

Volunteers trained to identify adelgids by Whitmore and Cornell Plantations staff discovered the Lansing site last spring. The site will be left untreated with pesticides for 10 years to study how well the L. nigrinus beetles become established, said Todd Bittner, director of natural areas.

If the experiment proves successful the researchers expect the population will take two to three years to build to levels where they can be readily detected.

Cornell natural areas staff will continue to survey Cornell Plantations, train volunteers and research strategies for stopping the spread of adelgids, Bittner said.

Read the story at link.

Photo of Laricobius nigrinus by Ashley Lamb, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Seaway official dispels 'myths'



WASHINGTON — Expansion of the St. Lawrence Seaway is never going to happen, but neither will the ban that some environmentalists seek for ocean-faring ships on the waterway, the system's U.S. administrator said.

St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. Administrator Collister Johnson sought an interview this week to dispel what he called "urban myths" perpetuated in the special election for the 23rd Congressional District, including Seaway expansion, winter navigation and the Seaway's approach to invasive species released by ocean vessels.

He dismissed as "absolutely absurd" the assertion that a proposal in Congress to create a power marketing agency on the Great Lakes — most likely the Seaway Corp. — could provide funds to expand locks and channels for bigger ships. And he described himself as "frosted" at Save the River, the Clayton environmental group, for suggesting as much in a recent newsletter to members.

The proposal, passed by the House this summer, is "not a devious federal plot to widen or deepen the Seaway. It's never going to happen," Mr. Johnson said.[...]

Mr. Johnson also sought to tamp down speculation that the Seaway Corp. supports winter shipping through the system, another practice that Save the River and other groups say would cause environmental damage and possibly interfere with hydroelectric production at the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project because of disruption of the ice cover.

"Winter navigation will never happen," Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Johnson also defended the Seaway's record on management of invasive species and said measures already in place — dumping of ballast water outside the system, saltwater flushing of ballast tanks to kill organisms, and inspections of ballast tanks at Montreal — are working well.

Since 2006, he said, no new species have been introduced to the system by ships, the longest such period since the 1960s.

He said the Seaway Corp. supports additional controls sought by the U.S. Coast Guard, ballast treatment systems on ships and saltwater flushing.

"That is effective and realistic and keeps stuff out," Mr. Johnson said.

On the other hand, the National Academies of Science has questioned whether exchanging ballast and flushing ballast tanks with salt water is enough to kill all potential aquatic invaders. While the method is highly effective at reducing their numbers, the National Academies reported last year, most ships were not designed for that purpose and tanks may have "dead zones" that are not fully washed out.

Read the full story at link.


Asian longhorn beetle

By Staff reports
GateHouse News Service

Weymouth, MA —

This article is written by a Weymouth resident, Neil Russo

Mom & Pop: sighting of Asian longhorn in South Weymouth false alarm.

Mom: Well, I must say that a cup of Earl Grey and an éclair hits the spot. Eb should have his own program on TV - his expertise in baking is phenomenal. I'm putting the last two back into the fridge. We can have them after supper. More Earl Grey… certainly, but no more éclairs - you've had two; you know… I worry about your health, and no amount of sweet-talking will make me give you another éclair.

Besides, I know you were as surprised as I was when we got our copy of the Smithsonian magazine and spotted the article about the Asian longhorned beetle. Thank heavens that the sighting of what was thought to be an Asian longhorn in South Weymouth turned out to be a false alarm. It was wonderful though that the concerned mother called about a possible sighting. That's how most invasives are first found, by alert citizens.

In the article by Peter Alsop, 'Invasion of the Longhorns', in the November issue, that's how the longhorn was first spotted in Worcester, MA. Alert citizen, Donna Massie, first noticed one on her car, and then two days later while hosting guests at a barbeque noticed a large number of beetles, including one covered with sawdust at the bottom of a maple tree, its head submerged in a dime-sized hole on the tree trunk.

The following day, Donna searched the Internet and began leaving messages with various agricultural sites. Eventually Patty Douglas, who works for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as plant health director for Conn., Ma., and Rhode Island, was contacted and Donna sent her a photo taken with her cell phone.

Within twenty-four hours, Patty Douglas and invasive species ecologist Jennifer Forman Orth were in Massie's backyard, staring at the trees. Their greatest fears were realized - the longhorns had invaded Worcester!

Pop: The Asian Longhorn had originally occupied a small niche in the forests of China, Korea, and Japan… and not considered a serious pest. Unfortunately, as the Chinese government began to plant enormous windbreaks of millions of trees in its northern provinces to cut down erosion, they planted mostly poplar trees which grow quickly and tolerate the arid, cold climate of northern China. [...]

Read the full story at link.


Arlington County (VA) teaming With AmeriCorps on invasive-plant removal


Arlington government officials hope a new partnership with AmeriCorps will put a dent in the county’s growing problem of non-native, invasive plants.

County Board members have approved receipt of a $62,823 state grant to help fund the work of six part-time workers - all recent high school graduates - who will be tasked with removing invasive plants from the Four Mile Run watershed and restoring a more natural habitat in the area.

The grant funding will be augmented by $27,590 in county funds to pay for a combined 10,000 hours of work from the six AmeriCorps program participants. Each of the students will receive $11,400 in the coming year for 1,700 hours of work.

Currently, there are 156 AmeriCorps members serving across Virginia.

Read the story at link.


Candlewood Lake (CT) drawdown to be shallow this year

By Robert Miller, Staff Writer

The ribbon of mud flats around Candlewood Lake, CT will be only half as wide this winter as last winter, as the lake will have a shallow, rather than a deep, drawdown this year.

"It will be in the 5-foot range,'' Larry Marsicano, executive director of the Candlewood Lake Authority, said Monday.

The owners of the lake, FirstLight Power Resources, drop the lake level every year, letting it stay down through the winter before bringing back to its summer operating level of 427 feet above sea level.

As in the past, when Northeast Utilities and its subsidiaries owned the lake, the strategy has been to alternate deep and shallow drawdowns.

Marsicano said despite the deep drawdown's success last year in killing the noxious Eurasian watermilfoil, an non-native invasive species that some years totally clogs the lake, FirstLight will stick to that pattern and not hold a deep drawdown two years in a row.

"It's consistent with what we've done in the past,'' he said.

The drawdowns expose the long strands of watermilfoil to freezing winter temperatures and cold winds. With luck, it kills them, leaving the lake's shallows watermilfoil free. That happened this year.

But as Marsicano has pointed out in the past, some drawdowns work better than others. If there's a lot of snow and ice early in winter, they may act as a protective blanket, allowing the plants to survive until spring. If it's a mild winter, the plants may not be killed off.

Marsicano has said, no one has ever studied whether repeated deep drawdowns may damage the lake's flora and fauna. Until that's known, he said, the safer path is to alternate deep and shallow drawdowns. [...]

Read the full story at link.


Air potato taking the wind out of local ecology in Florida

For Highlands Today

air_potatoSEBRING - The air potato, an invasive exotic plant, is attacking Highlands County's native plants and animals, and a few local super heroes are needed to fight it off.

Highlands County resident Clara Wyatt said that her mother has it growing on her backyard fence.

At first she liked the way it looked and didn't mind having it around, but now it has just become a nuisance.

"I mow her grass, and I will pull them up. You pull them up, and they come right back," she said.

Like Wyatt, county residents may have seen this vine that produces little warty potato-like tubers, not knowing what it is.

But those who know about it better be warned, said Corine Burgess, natural resource specialist at the Highlands Soil and Water Conservation District.

The air potato has become a serious threat to the county's native species, she said.

"It is an invasive exotic plant that is growing out of control pretty much everywhere you look," Burgess added.

"Unless someone puts a stop to it, it will take over every piece of vegetation in its path. It is like a blanket. The plants underneath it can only survive so long without sunlight."

Burgess wants to start a neighborhood group with residents in the county to fight invasive species, with emphasis on the air potato.

The group will map out areas in the neighborhood with air potato plants and report them.

Burgess will get permission for volunteers to pull up the vines and pick up the air potatoes.

"All it will really cost you is some of your time and labor," she added.

The air potato has no natural enemies, and nothing can eat it.

This poses a threat to animals because it is killing off the plants they eat, Burgess said.

"It is a food-chain thing," Burgess said. "If there is nothing at the bottom of the food chain, everything will eventually be affected."

According to the University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants' Web site, the plants are very toxic and should not be consumed.

They can grow up to roughly 8 inches a day.

Many Florida counties are recruiting volunteers to help protect and conserve Florida's natural areas through the removal of air potato.

During the air potato roundup, citizens, organizations and local businesses get together to collect vines and bulbils.

"I think the air potato roundup is an excellent idea and provides a nice tool for a teaching people about invasive species in general," said Bill Overholt, chairman of the air potato task force at the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, a branch of the University of Florida.

The air potato task force put together and repaired a management plan, which can be accessed on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council Web site under Invasive Species Management Plans.

It has background and biological information on the plant, answers questions about where it grows, where it came from, what it looks like and how to manage it.

"We hope to have a biological control another year down the road," Overholt added.

The Highlands Soil and Water Conservation District will have the third of four free workshops on Florida's invasive and exotic plants and animals from 1-3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20 at the Bert J. Harris Jr. Agriculture Center. The last workshop will be Dec. 18 at 1 p.m.

The workshops are leading up to air potato exchange day on Jan. 9.

Every person who brings in one bag or more of air potatoes will receive one free native plant.

Those who have questions about the workshops or are interested in starting or joining a neighborhood group to fight invasive exotic species should e-mail cburgess[at]hcbcc.org.


Invasive plant management tutorials

Here is a link to PA's invasive plant management tutorials for land managers. There's a lot of good information here.



Monday, November 9, 2009

Week of November 9, 2009

Invasive plant species threatens shore plants, animals, dunes

Gannett New Jersey
November 10, 2009

An invasive foreign plant is rapidly making inroads in New Jersey's critical dune systems, and Louise Wootton wants to stop it in its tracks.

Asiatic sand sedge (Carex kobomugi) — a "scruffy little plant" — threatens to take over the habitat of endangered and threatened species, such as the piping plover, according to Wootton, a biology professor at Georgian Court University in Lakewood.

The sedge also can result in lower dunes, lessening their ability to protect communities from flooding, Wootton said.

"It changes the ecosystem completely," she said.

The Brick resident has enlisted about 25 students from Georgian Court, Marine Academy of Science and Technology on Sandy Hook and Brookdale Community College in Middletown to help study the sedge, map its extent and study ways to get rid of it.

She wants government permission to begin eradicating the invader, which is rapidly making inroads on Sandy Hook, at Island Beach State Park and in some other beach areas.

The plant has no known predators or diseases here, she said.

"Delay is expensive," she said. "It's ecologically expensive and it's economically expensive, and that's a message we want to get out to the townships, too, because they are really good stewards of their dunes."

Wootton, who has studied invasive species for 12 years, is not alone in asking for the green light to fight Asiatic sand sedge. The yellow-green plant was first spotted in the United States in Island Beach State Park in 1929 but has mushroomed in recent years, according to Wootton.

The Asiatic sand sedge has out-competed, or is threatening to out-compete, native plants in areas where endangered and threatened species live or may live, according to a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Such species include the piping plover, an endangered beach-nesting bird.

Meanwhile, the large-headed sedge, another invasive plant, has also been found in New Jersey, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The federal agency wants the DEP, at a minimum, to allow the removal of invasive plants in threatened and endangered species habitat through herbicide spraying, hand-pulling or other methods.

DEP spokeswoman Elaine Makatura had no comment on the letter.

"Aggressive invasive"

The Asiatic sand sedge is a perennial plant with deep roots that grows on coastal dunes and the upper areas of beaches, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service letter.

It forms a dense mat and drives out native plants, such as American beach grass and beach panic grass. It also invades the habitat of the piping plover, the threatened sea beach amaranth plant and other species.

The plant is "invading sites in New Jersey at a rapid rate," the Fish and Wildlife Service says. It occupies more than 90 acres in Island Beach State Park and on Sandy Hook.

Asiatic sand sedge populations also have been found in Sea Bright, Monmouth Beach, Long Branch, Manasquan, Harvey Cedars, Long Beach Township, Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and other locations.

"It's a very aggressive invasive," Wootton said. "It's one of the top 25 most unwanted species in New Jersey."

Digging and pulling out sedge plants by hand has been successful in controlling small infestations, according to the Alien Plant Working Group. But that method may not be feasible for larger efforts.

Wootton said the plant's roots are 3 to 4 feet deep, and hand-pulling is very labor-intensive and does not eliminate it.

Herbicides such as Rodeo kill the sedge down to its roots and are much more effective, she said.

"The damage that's done by the sedge is so much greater than responsible use of . . . Rodeo," she said. "We find that we're able to use very, very low amounts because we're using it with a backpack applicator, which allows us to be very specific in the application."

The National Park Service is looking into whether there are better alternatives than Rodeo, she said.

Science lesson

Alex Kloo of Manasquan, a 16-year-old junior at M.A.S.T., is performing tests to find the lowest effective level of Plateau, another herbicide, to kill Asiatic sand sedge with the least environmental damage. The park service does the spraying at Sandy Hook, he said.

Kloo got involved in the project because "it's so close to home for us," and he thought it would be "a great chance to make a big difference in the fight against" the plant.

"I love the beach," he said. The environment is "such a huge problem now" and environmentalism "should be a top priority and in a lot of people, it's just pushed to the wayside."

Read the article at link.

Photo by PCA Alien Plant Working Group.


New Jersey lags on plan for combating invasive species

STAFF WRITER, Asbury Park Press
November 9, 2009

New Jersey is more than four years behind schedule in finishing a plan to combat invasive plants, animals and other organisms that threaten our environment.

But the plan should be ready within a few weeks or so, said John S. Watson Jr., deputy commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

"We believe (invasive species are) a problem that needs our attention,'' Watson said. "We do see significant forested areas that are impacted and we do need to make sure that we pay attention to it."

Some areas are "probably too far gone, but then we're going to be focusing on areas where we can really have an impact in eradicating those species,'' he said.

More than five years ago, then-Gov. James E. McGreevey signed an executive order creating a New Jersey Invasive Species Council. The council was charged with submitting a New Jersey Invasive Species Management Plan to the governor by June 2005.

The idea was to come up with measures to "combat these dangerous invaders and protect the state's biological diversity," according to a 2004 statement. [...]

Watson said the invasive species plan will list species believed to be most invasive.

It will recommend that retailers and landscape growers "reduce the availability of those species,'' he said.

Asked why the plan has taken this long to complete, he said "the short answer is there was a lot more work than was anticipated in getting the report done and our job was to get the report done right," not rapidly.

Read the article a link.


“Invasive Species: Change and Dollars” Conference

A broad coalition of agencies and organizations will host a lively, high-profile summit on Jan. 10-14, 2010 in Washington, DC, to:

Call attention to invasive species issues – targeting Congress and Federal agencies
  • Generate action – empowering new policies and adequate funding
  • Build a national grassroots network – working together to limit the impacts of invasive species

Titled “Invasive Species: Change and Dollars,” the conference will be organized thematically and in the context of securing adequate resources to address invasive species in a time of global change. The three inter-related themes are:

  • Climate Change
  • Energy (including biofuels)
  • The “Green” Economy
Organizers: The event is organized by a national, bi-partisan coalition of groups representing private citizens, local and state natural resource and agriculture agencies, academia, professional scientific societies, environmental organizations, and businesses such as nurseries and the pet industry that are affected by non-native, invasive species.

Attendees: Notable spokespersons, Federal agency and Congressional leadership, and leading experts in climate change, energy, and the “green economy” will be invited to present information, recommendations, and responses. It is expected that several hundred people from across the U.S. will attend this inaugural event. Broad media coverage will be arranged.

Invasive species (harmful non-native species) are one of the most significant drivers of global change. Consequently, they can have substantial impacts on the economy, infrastructure, and human health. Thus far, funding, legal authorities, and personnel have been inadequate to address the problem. For the U.S. “green agenda” to be successful, the government must address invasive species as a priority.

Visit the North American Weed Management Association website for more information.


Coast Guard wants to toughen ballast water controls

Standards could be 1,000 times more strict by 2016

By Rona Kobell
Chesapeake Bay Journal

More than 20 years after the first zebra mussels hitched a ride into the Great Lakes, the United States still doesn't have a requirement to treat ballast water coming into the nation's ports from ships.

Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard are thinking about changing that. The agency has proposed a rule that would require ship owners to install treatment systems to reduce the number of organisms released into the water.

The current proposal calls for an initial phase that would match the International Maritime Organization standard, which has been in place since 2004, limiting the number of organisms allowed in the ballast tanks to 10 per cubic meter. But, beginning in 2012, the Coast Guard is calling for the phase-in of a new standard that would be 1,000 times stricter, allowing for only one organism per 100 cubic meters of water for all ships.

Both environmentalists and shipping companies welcome some form of standard, although they don't agree on how strict it should be, said Cmdr. Gary Croot, chief of the U.S. Coast Guard's environmental standards division. Environmentalists and regulators want the stricter standard to be implemented right away, while shipping companies would like more time.

Dealing with ballast water has been a murky issue since 1972, when it was initially regulated, then exempted, by the Clean Water Act.

Ocean-going cargo ships typically draw in water while in ports to stabilize their vessels at sea, then let out the water when they arrive at their destination. During the long journey, many of the organisms living in the ballast tank die. But hardy invaders live on, and they bring reproducing populations into new bodies of water that can devastate native species. [...]

Scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD, have identified more than 170 nonnative species that have established self-sustaining populations in the Bay, many of which are believed to have arrived in ballast water. Because of such concerns, a Bay Program task force in 2001 issued a report that called for federal action to regulate ballast water. [...]


Deer culling operation in Connecticut

By Robert Miller
Staff Writer, NewsTimes.com
Updated: 11/07/2009 01:16:10 AM EST

RIDGEFIELD, CT -- The plot of open space is tucked between big new homes. The neatly trimmed fairways of Ridgefield Golf Course lie nearby.

But in the early hours of the morning, and again as the afternoon turns to dusk, a hunter sits in a deer stand high above the ground, compound bow and arrows at the ready.

When deer cross the open space -- lured by corn used as bait-- it's fair game.

The spot is one of 11 that hunters have chosen in the town-sanctioned effort to knock down Ridgefield's white-tailed deer herd by at least two-thirds -- from levels of about 60 deer per square mile to no more than 20 deer per square mile.

It's a take-no-prisoners operation.

"This isn't a hunt,'' said Stefano Zandri, the hunt master. "It's a deer culling operation.''

That is, it's an organized attempt to kill as many deer as possible using a dedicated core of hunters and feed as a lure to bring deer within range of the hunters' arrows.

And judged by that criteria, it's a success.

More deer were killed by bow hunters in Ridgefield than in any other town in the state in 2008. In 2009, it's in the lead again, with Redding second and Newtown third. No other towns in the state come close.

But at least one group of neighbors -- while not opposed to hunting deer per se -- find this year's move to expand the hunt to the Lynch Brook Lane subdivision much too close for comfort. They have asked the Board of Selectmen to suspend the hunt in their neighborhood until they have a chance to make their case in public.

"My daughter's swing set is 6 feet away from where they are hunting,'' said Madalyn Dyott, one of the Lynch Brook neighbors who oppose the hunt on the 18 acres of land that borders their homes. "I'm at a loss to understand this. It cannot be what was intended.''

In response, Tom Belote, chairman of the town's Deer Committee, said the Lynch Brook Lane neighbors are exceptions in their objection to the hunt, which is entering its third year, expanding from one site to 11 in the those years. Once people understand what the hunt is about, he said, they want it to happen.

"We haven't had any incidents or accidents and we haven't lost any deer,'' he said.

Ridgefield isn't alone in trying to sort out these issues.

Throughout the region, the same thing is happening in Brookfield, in Redding, in Wilton and at the Devil's Den Nature Preserve in Weston.

Newtown is considering establishing its own hunt.

The premise is simple. There far too many deer in the landscape and no predators to keep the herd in check.

That throws the environment out of whack -- the deer damage the forest ecosystem through over-browsing and play a major part in the spread of Lyme disease, hunting proponents say. When drivers hit them on the roads, it can total the car as well as the deer.

And because humans largely created this imbalance, they say, they have a responsibility to do something to reverse it.

"People talk about being good stewards of land, as it's humans over here and nature over there,'' said Patricia Sesto, co-chairman of the Fairfield County Municipal Deer management Alliance. "But humans are part of the environment.''

"The overpopulation is so severe that it will take an intense and ongoing culling,'' Belote said.

There are people who oppose hunting on principal. For them, the expansion of the hunt within individual towns, and to new towns -- is disheartening.

"It's very disturbing,'' said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. "It makes me incensed.''

For Feral, such "deer culling operations'' are nothing more than an effort by the state Department of Environmental Protection to make money by peddling hunting licenses.

That's because all the deer hunt will do, is create better, less grazed habitat, Feral said. That means the deer that do survive will have more offspring, and quickly repopulate the area.

"I think it's a knee-jerk sign,'' said Laura Simon, field director of the urban wildlife program of the Humane Society of the United States. "People think doing something is better than doing nothing.''

But Simon said these hunts won't really change the imbalance of nature that now exists -- especially in the reduction of Lyme disease.

"It's really deceiving people,'' she said, pointing out that other animals -- especially white-footed mice -- play as large a part in the life cycle of the ticks that spread Lyme disease.

The reason for opening even relatively small parcels of town-owned open space up to deer hunts is simple: that's where the deer may be hanging out. If towns really want to make a serious reduction in the size of the herd, said Michael Gregonis, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Environmental Protection, they have to be willing to let hunters on that land. Where towns have allowed intensive hunts, deer numbers are going down, he said.

That's the key,'' he said. "Hunters have to have access.''

In Ridgefield, there have been few complaints prior to those registered by the residents of Lynch Brook Lane. But when the Board of Selectmen voted in September to expand the hunt from 7 sites to 11 -- including Lynch Brook Lane -- she became so angry she contemplated quitting her post.

Manner said she opposes hunting in general. But she said the Lynch Brook Lane neighborhood is so residential that it makes no sense to have hunters -- even bow hunters shooting down from stands -- use the land.

"This isn't winter,'' she said. "It's fall, people are out walking.''

One of the objecting neighbors, Suzie Scanlon, said no one in the neighborhood knew that the selectmen had opened the space to hunting until they read about it in the newspapers.

"I think we should have received notice and had a chance to express our safety concerns.''

"My daughter is in pre-school,'' said her neighbor, Rajal Young. "The open space is in our backyard. I just don't think it makes sense here.''

In response, Belote said the Deer Committee has agreed to limit the hunt to the half of the Lynch Brook open space area that's a less trafficked wetland. Since that's the portion of the open space that butts up against Madalyn Dyott's land, that change probably won't mollify the neighbors.

And the basic issue -- how to control an out-of-control deer herd in a suburban town -- remains.

"A lot of people think 'Hunting is great,'" Stefano Zandri said. "'Just not in my backyard.'"

Read the story at link.


Essex County (NJ) executive gains unanimous support for proposed 2010 deer management program

By Office of the Essex County Executive

Essex County (New Jersey) Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that the six municipalities where the Essex County Deer Management Program will be conducted have approved resolutions supporting the 2010 program. [...]

"Culling deer from our reservations is a very controversial and emotional issue and we thank the governing bodies from the six municipalities for allowing us the opportunity to explain our program and for providing their support. The local elected officials understand continuing our Deer Management Program is essential to protect our open space and prevent our reservations and forests from being destroyed by deer overbrowsing," DiVincenzo said. [...]

Read the full story at link.


New Brochure: "Alternatives to Ornamental Invasive Plants: A sustainable solution for Long Island horticulture"

Long Island, New York is one of many locations throughout the U.S. that has taken progressive steps towards improving the environment by reducing the spread of invasive plants. Invasive plants have damaged Long Island’s unique woodlands by replacing native flora, and in turn, negatively impacting wildlife and natural ecosystem processes. Invasive species are among the top causes of biodiversity loss across the globe.

You can be part of the solution, by growing and planting alternatives to ornamental invasive plants! These plants were selected based upon their similar ornamental characteristics and cultural requirements compared to the invasives.

Alternative plants may be native or non-native, but are not invasive. Alternative plants are well adapted to Long Island, and many are readily available at Long Island nurseries. You can help make the future of Long Island greener by growing these “native-friendly” plants!

A new brochure entitled "Alternatives to Ornamental Invasive Plants" was recently developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Download a pdf copy of the brochure at link.

There is an additional brochure entitled "Invasive Plants: Frequently Asked Questions for Long Island’s Horticulture Professionals" that is available for download at link.

For more information, visit:



New woodland invasive species subject of Elmira, NY talk


Learn about the history and diversity of invasive species and how the Asian Longhorned Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer will affect the area in the years to come at a presentation next month.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chemung County, New York will present a talk on New Invasive Species at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3 in Conference Room 110 of the Human Resource Building, 425 Pennsylvania Ave. in Elmira.

This event is free and open to the public. RSVP by calling (607) 734-4453.


Forest program on biological control of invasive plants set by Rutgers Extension

By Terry Wright
Somerset Reporter
November 10, 2009

A forest management/stewardship program called “Biological Control of Invasive Species in New Jersey” will be held Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office of Hunterdon County, 6 Gauntt Place (off Route 31), Raritan Township.

It’s designed for woodlot owners and anyone with an interest in forestry and/or wildlife management.

Dr. Mark Vodak, forestry extension specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and Mark Mayer, supervising entomologist, N.J. Department of Agriculture will speak. Topics to be discussed include a brief overview of the mission of the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insect Laboratory; biological controls for hemlock woolly adelgid, mile-a-minute weed, purple loose-strife, and gypsy moth; and current and future biological control projects.

Why these particular species are of concern, how to identify them, the management or control practices developed by the Lab, and the success of these practices will be the focus.

There will be ample opportunity for questions and discussion.

Pre-registration is required. To do so, or if you have any questions, call Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office of Hunterdon at 908-788-1339. Registration deadline is Wednesday, Nov. 18.