Monday, March 16, 2009

Week of March 16, 2009

Updated 3/20

Vitex eradication effort gains traction

Group tallies past year's accomplishments

By Gareth McGrath,

Fort Fisher, North Carolina - The invasive plant has been discovered in Virginia and in places in North Carolina thought to be vitex-free.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing, since it shows that the educational and outreach efforts of the Carolinas Beach Vitex Task Force about the menace posed by the foreign invader are working.

It also shows, however, that there's a lot of work to do to eradicate the shrub. It is native to the Pacific Rim and was once viewed as the savior of the coast, but it's turned out to be a huge biological menace.

On Friday members of the task force gathered at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher to celebrate the past year's successes and discuss the remaining challenges facing the multi-state effort to eradicate beach vitex.

Among the 2008 accomplishments included getting North Carolina to declare beach vitex a noxious weed, making it illegal to be sold or possessed by nurseries or individuals, and securing a $128,000 grant for coastal eradication and educational efforts.

But Melanie Doyle, the state's beach vitex task force coordinator and horticulturist at the aquarium, said there's been an even bigger success over the past year.

"What I'm most proud about is nothing's been mandated by anyone," she said, ticking off the local and voluntary support up and down the coast that the task force has received in promoting eradication efforts. "This has all come about because of people who care."

But with greater awareness of the threat posed by vitex has come the reality of how big the problem is in North Carolina.

"We've got vitex in the northern part of the state," said Dale Suiter, a Raleigh-based biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Just a year ago, we didn't know that."

So far there are more than 400 known locations, including worrisome outbreaks along inland waterways that dramatically increases the amount of shoreline to survey. Link


Fire service's newest toy burns invading grasses on Mullica River, NJ


WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, NJ - The thumping sound of helicopter blades preceded the state Forest Fire Service’s Bell 206 JetRanger as it flew south over the Mullica River and turned to survey Hog Island, where it burned 132 acres of reeds Friday morning.

Hanging out the side was Rob Gill, an aerial ignition specialist, who would be operating the service’s new fire-starting device mounted to the helicopter, “The Red Dragon.”

Generically referred to as a plastic-sphere dispenser, the dragon is filled with paintball-like orbs containing potassium permanganate. When turned on, the machine injects the balls with antifreeze and drops them to the ground, where the mixture of chemicals bursts into flames about a minute later.

The group recently cooperated with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to spray herbicide over an infestation of phragmites, and is now paying the fire service a few thousand dollars to burn the invasive plants away to make room for native flora and fauna.

“Global warming aside, phragmites is the No. 1 threat to the health of our estuaries,” said Emile DeVito, manager of science for the NJ Conservation Foundation, who was familiar with Friday’s project. “It basically consumes all the habitat and virtually wipes out all the species.”

On the Atlantic County bank of the river, a crowd of trucks and people assembled to watch the blaze. A red fire service truck was parked near an Egg Harbor City police SUV in case the fire jumped the water, and a couple other pickup trucks were around from the locals fishing.

Continued at Link


Weed removal money sought in Massachusetts

By JOHN APPLETON, The Republican

BRIMFIELD, MA - The Lake Sherman Association is asking the town for financial help while also seeking grants to cover the $10,300 cost of removing invasive weeds which have been dramatically spreading the past few years.

Association president Robert Chevalier said the $10,300 figure is based on a price quote from Lycott Environmental, Inc., of Southbridge, MA for a chemical treatment this spring to wipe out what has been identified as aquatic variegated milfoil.

The 55-member lake association is basing its case for financial assistance from the town in part on the fact that the town has a boat launch at the pond and that people go in swimming from the launch area.

"It's a landmark for the town and for anyone who is close to this town," said David W. McVeigh, a member of the association.

"We are trying to preserve it in any way we can," McVeigh said.

The association has applied to the Norcross Foundation for a grant for the weed eradication work and is considering other grant possibilities.

"We have been working on trying to get funding for three or four years," said Janet L. Hastings, the association vice president. Association members told the selectmen last week that the weeds already interfere with swimming and boating and, if left unchecked, they can spread to the point of choking the lake, which is only 12 feet deep at its deepest point. Link


Waging war on invasive plants in Connecticut

By Keila Torres,

Invasive plants are taking over the state's parklands and killing off native species, throwing fragile eco-systems into turmoil as wildlife is starved of its natural food source.

Invasive species -- including Oriental bittersweet and Japanese barberry -- have become a widespread problem around the state, said Todd Mervosh, a weed scientist for the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven.

This year, the state Department of Environmental Protection is offering cities and towns grants to get rid of the annoying, non-native plants that have cropped up and taken root here.

The invasive species "are displacing the native vegetation, the plants that have always been here as part of our ecological system," Mervosh said. "There are a lot of animal species that co-exist with these native species, that depend on them."

Oriental bittersweet, an Asian vine with yellow fruit that entwines itself around other plants, is considered by many the "worst invasive plant in the state," he said.

Richard Tiani, executive director of Groundwork Bridgeport, said a group of Harding High School students working with his agency has also found a lot of Japanese barberry -- a vine that wraps around trees -- during their cleanup efforts in Bridgeport's parks and in surrounding towns.

"Over time it becomes so strong and heavy that it kills trees and pulls them down," Tiani said of the invasive plant.

The Harding "Green Team," working with Groundwork Bridgeport as paid summer interns, is partnering this year with the city of Bridgeport in a project to remove a multiflora rose and garlic mustard infestation in Veterans Memorial Park.

The city is seeking a $49,236 grant from the DEP to clean up a section of the 107-acre park. Another section of the park and wetlands, near the proposed Discovery Magnet School, will be cleaned up as part of the $31 million inter-district school project.

Getting rid of invasive plants is essential to preserving the city's parklands and wildlife, officials say.

Continued at Link


Congress Approves Funds For Invasive Species Prevention

By KBJR News 1

Congress has granted nearly 1–million dollars to help slow the spread of invasive species into the Great Lakes Chain.

President Obama signed the bill into law this week, which will help researchers test various ways to treat ballast water before it's discharged into the lakes.

For more than 20 years invasive species have hitch hiked their way into the Great Lakes causing a wide range of economic and environmental problems.

From clogging water pipes to interfering with the lake's natural ecology, many environmental agencies have worked hard to slow the spread of these exotic pests.

The new funding will go towards the Great Ships Initiative which aims to do just that.

"The goal of the great ships initiative is to try to find ballast water treatment methods so that the water can be cleaned or sterilized before it is transported between one place to another."

Continued at Link


Henry Hudson's majestic view altered by invasives

By Michael Risinit,

PHILIPSTOWN, NY - The slice of the Hudson River visible from a bluff on Little Stony Point in Philipstown probably appears much as it did to Henry Hudson and his crew aboard the Half Moon 400 years ago...

...The river was full of fish to levels that are just about unimaginable today," said Fran Dunwell, director of the state's Hudson River Estuary Program. "It was a very rich natural environment."

Dunwell recently wrote "The Hudson America's River." Waterfowl and other birds, she said, darkened the sky where they flew. Oak trees grew 70 feet tall without knots, perfect for shipbuilding. The banks, according to Juet, contained a "great store of goodly Oakes and Wal-nut trees and Chest-nut trees. Ewe trees and trees of sweet wood in great abundance, and great store of slate for houses, and other good stones."

Marshes lined most of the river, not just at Piermont, Iona Island and a few other places as they do today. Chairmaker's rush, horned pondweeds and umbrella sedge are gone, replaced by cattails and phragmites (aka common reed).

But seeds from the original plants are found in sediment cores pulled from the existing marshes, said Dorothy Peteet, a NASA senior researcher and an adjunct scientist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in Palisades.

"We can see back in time," Peteet said. "I think it was vastly different. You had this diversity which would have gone up the food chain."

Read the full article at Link


American chestnut ready to reign again


After decades of selective breeding and countless hours of fieldwork, researchers believe they have developed an American chestnut tree that is ready to reclaim the Appalachian forests.

The first batch of these blight-resistant chestnut seedlings arrived recently at a greenhouse on the agricultural campus of the University of Tennessee, where workers trimmed the roots and identified each tree with a numbered tag.

The trees -- 1,200 in all -- were planted in three Southern national forests as a groundbreaking experiment to determine if decades of crossbreeding have produced a chestnut tree that is blight-resistant yet retains the superior timber qualities of the American chestnut tree.

"This is the very first planting of the final generation and the culmination of a lot of hard work," said Scott Schlarbaum, forest geneticist with the UT Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries.

The trees were grown in a Georgia nursery in cooperation with the American Chestnut Foundation, an organization dedicated to restoring the American chestnut.

The American chestnut accounted for 25 percent of all the trees in the Appalachian mountains until a blight virtually eliminated them between 1904 and 1950.

Today, the airborne bark fungus still survives and kills virtually all American chestnuts by the time they've reached 20 feet in height.

For more than 30 years, the American Chestnut Foundation has been crossing Chinese chestnuts, which are naturally resistant to the blight, with American chestnuts to produce a super hybrid that can be reintroduced in the wild. Only American chestnuts that demonstrate natural blight resistance qualify for the breeding program, and scientists have been careful to breed trees from local environments.

Of the 1,200-year-old chestnut seedlings brought to the UT greenhouse, 500 were the blight-resistant hybrids. The remaining trees were either pure American chestnut, pure Chinese chestnut or hybrid trees from an intermediate back-cross generation.

Earlier this year, the 4-foot-tall seedlings were planted on national forest lands throughout the Southern Appalachian region. In the coming years, researchers will regularly monitor the trees for blight resistance, mortality and growth characteristics.

Stacy Clark, research forester for the Forest Service's Southern Research Station, said American chestnuts were renowned for their straight-grained wood and rapid growth rate.

"We want these trees to be blight-resistant, but also competitive," Clark said. "They're going out into the forest where they'll have to grow quickly to get above the deer browse, and compete with species like yellow poplar and red maple."

The goal of the American Chestnut Foundation was to breed a blight-resistant tree that is genetically 94 percent American chestnut. The foundation chose the Southern Appalachians as the proving ground for the final generation of seedlings because the region was once a stronghold for the American chestnut.

Clark, who leads the study for the U.S. Forest Service, said she is especially excited about two milestones in the trees' development: the fourth year of growth, which will reveal if the trees have held their own against competing species; and years 10 through 20, when American chestnuts normally succumb to the blight.

"If the trees are blight-resistant, we'll definitely know by that time," Clark said.

The chestnut blight robbed the Eastern forest of its undisputed champion. American chestnuts routinely grew 4 feet across and 120 feet high, and lived for centuries. The nuts were an important food source for a wide range of wildlife, and the rot-resistant wood was a prized building material.

Clark said that if the final generation of crossbred chestnuts survives in the national forests, this will raise great hopes about other species, like hemlocks and ash trees, that are being destroyed by nonnative pests.

"If we can restore this tree to its natural habitat, it will be the greatest success story in natural resource conservation," Clark said. Link


Local anglers weigh in on aquatic weed control in Tennessee

Daimon Duggar,

Though many in Marion County are disappointed with last year’s decision by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s to discontinue aquatic weed control in the Nickajack reservoir, there is another segment of the community that couldn’t be happier: Fishermen.

According to a number of local fishermen and those in the fishing industry, TVA’s aquatic weed control program presents a danger to one of the area’s most popular sports and pastimes.

Last Saturday, March 7, dozens of fishermen and fishing enthusiasts gathered at Sullivan’s Landing on Highway 41 for the annual Grassmasters fishing tournament. The name of the competition says it all and reflects the opinion of many regarding the indispensable nature of aquatic growth as it relates to fishing.

“(Aquatic weed control) is really hard on the fish,” said fisherman Darren “Dobie” Kilgore. “It kills grass on humps. If they only did it in channels it wouldn’t be a big deal.”

A common complaint among fishermen is that the weed control program is non-selective. In addition to killing invasive exotic species, many feel, the long standing program also killed native aquatic grasses that allow the reservoirs variety of fish, including large mouth bass, to thrive.

“Grass helps the whole ecosystem. We used to have a good bank but not any more. It has been bad for 10 years,” said Marion County resident and fisherman Roger Kendrick...

...Avid fisherman and stakeholder Jim Henry worries that TVA’s discontinuance of their weed control problem will be more of a detriment to fishing than would unfettered growth however.

“It’s a mess and its going to be a lot worse,” said Henry. “There’s a lot of spots that you won’t be able to get to now. Mullin’s cove, for example. It was already hard to navigate it. This year I think its going to be impossible. This year will absolutely be worse.”

Only time will tell the wisdom of TVA’s new policy. But for fishermen and stakeholders alike, aquatic weed control in the Nickajack Reservoir will continue to be a growing problem.

Read the full article at Link


South East Exotic Pest Plant Council 11th Annual Symposium

Creating Sustainable Landscapes for the Future

May 13-15, 2009
Quality Inn and Suites
Georgetown, SC

Agenda and Registration available online. Go to for all conference information.

Deadline to Register and Reserve hotel room: April 13, 2009.

Plenary speaker topics to include:

- Raising funds for your invasive species project
- Innovative approaches to effective invasive programs through partnerships
- Invasive plants from the perspective of the nursery/landscape industry

Other topics addressed through platform presentations and field trips include:
- Current research in invasive plant control and land restoration
- Building communication and consensus among key players
- Building cooperative weed and invasive species management areas
- Early Detection and Rapid Response efforts
- Control of tidal marsh invasives (ie. Chinese tallow, phragmites)
- And more!

Wonderful fieldtrips, workshops, and social events planned!


'Red Baron' Nabbed In Baltimore

WBAL Radio as reported by Scott Wykoff

A Customs and Border Protection plant seed interception was confirmed on Monday (3/9/09) as the Baltimore area’s first reported discovery of cogon grass weed seed, aka Red Baron grass seed, and just as the legendary Red Baron was a menace to allied fighters during World War I, Red Baron grass has become a despised invasive weed throughout parts of the United States.

During a routine inspection on Friday at the Baltimore seaport, CBP agriculture specialists discovered weed seeds littered among non-compliant wood packing in a container of travertine tile that arrived from Turkey. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture pest identifier database determined the seeds to be Imperata cylindrica, or cogon grass, a Federal Noxious Weed, and confirmed that this is Baltimore’s first Red Baron seed report.

According to the USDA, cogon grass is an invasive weed from Asia that spreads quickly and disrupts ecosystems, reduces wildlife habitat and can decrease tree seedling growth and establishment. Cogon grass is considered one of the 10 worst invasive plant species in the world and is listed as a federal noxious weed. Cogon grass is believed to have invaded more than one million acres in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Texas.

“This interception is a significant find for our agriculture specialists, and it further illustrates our continued commitment to protect America’s agriculture industry and our economy from invasive insect pests and plants,” said James Swanson, CBP Port Director for the Port of Baltimore. “Invasive species pose dire consequences on our nation’s economy, potentially more so than even a single terrorist act could have.”

CBP issued an Emergency Action Notification to the importer to immediately re-export the container. Link


Call for volunteers in Virginia for first Invasive Plant Removal Day on May 2

( - Volunteers are needed across the Commonwealth to help remove invasive plants that are wreaking havoc on Virginia’s landscape. The Virginia Master Naturalists and the Virginia Native Plant Society are seeking help Saturday, May 2nd at locations throughout Virginia in the first ever Invasive Plant Removal Day.

“From kudzu to English Ivy to tree of heaven, there are dozens of invasive species that are causing both ecological and economical harm,” said Michelle Prysby, Virginia Master Naturalist coordinator. “These invasive plants out-compete native species for the same resources, eventually harming trees, wildlife and water quality.”

The Virginia Native Plant Society and the Virginia Master Naturalists are sponsoring this event. Activities are being coordinated locally, and interested people can learn more about how and where they can help by going to .


Feds release invaders to save native plants


They're using new invaders to devour old ones. And while these weevils gobble, they won't wolf down the plants that belong in Florida.

To give native plants a fighting chance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this year announced a $16.6 million plan to send at least 14 invasive bug species on seek-and-destroy missions.

Biologists would set the insects free -- some just a few miles from Brevard County -- along 18,000 square miles from south of Orlando to the Florida Reef Tract in an effort to preserve the character of the Everglades.

They say the bugs will spread to the Space Coast and beyond. And they assure their introduction won't trigger further ecological harm.

"You don't let these things go and . . . forget about them," said Donald Strong, an ecologist and "biocontrol" expert at the University of California, Berkeley. "In the large majority of cases, the insects are chosen and put through rigorous tests based on the fact that they don't attack other things."

The invasive insects in coming years would control Florida's massive problem with melaleuca, Brazilian pepper, Old World climbing fern and Australian pine...

...The insects won't completely wipe out the targeted trees, just keep them in check. That could take two decades or longer.

The melaleuca weevil, for example, can eat away about 98 percent of the tree's seed production, said Ted Center, research leader in Davie.

"What we're basically doing is biologically sterilizing the tree. We're not eliminating the plant. We're neutering it," Center said...

...In addition to melaleuca, the Corps proposes to fight three other notorious invasive plants with insects.

Brazilian pepper: Unlike melaleuca, no one's quite sure how it got here. Most credit a doctor in Port Charlotte. Fond of how the tree looked, he raised hundreds of them in the 1920s, passing them to friends. The Corps hopes a sawfly, a thrips and a weevil can undo the doctor's good work.

Old World climbing fern: Two moths, a gall mite and a stem borer will tackle this much more recent invasion. A Delray Beach nursery introduced the fern -- a native of Africa, Asia and Australia -- in the late 1950s.

Australian pine: A seed wasp planned for release in the next few years holds the most promise to battle back the Australian pine, introduced to Florida in the late 1800s.

Although some past "biocontrols" grew into problems themselves, government biologists assure their extreme caution and long, careful study make these insects the best way to restore a more natural state.

Read the full article at Link


U.S. Birds Struggling to Survive

WASHINGTON, DC, March 19, 2009 (ENS) - Nearly one-third of the more than 800 bird species in the United States are endangered, threatened or in decline due to climate change, habitat loss, and invasive species, finds the first comprehensive report ever produced on U.S. bird populations.

At a news conference in Washington today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released the report, which was developed by a partnership among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, state government wildlife agencies and nongovernmental organizations...

"Just as they were when Rachel Carson published "Silent Spring" nearly 50 years ago, birds today are a bellwether of the health of land, water and ecosystems," Salazar said. "From shorebirds in New England to warblers in Michigan to songbirds in Hawaii, we are seeing disturbing downward population trends that should set off environmental alarm bells. We must work together now to ensure we never hear the deafening silence in our forests, fields and backyards that Rachel Carson warned us about."

...Invasive plants and animals are major threats. Domestic and feral cats kill hundreds of millions of birds each year. Island nesting birds, particularly seabirds, are vulnerable since they nest on the ground or in burrows and are preyed upon by rats, foxes, cats, dogs, and mongooses.

Read the full article at Link

1 comment:

Bird Advocate said...

I just found your blog, and respect your credentials! Thank you for all you do to preserve our wildlife and environment.