Monday, March 23, 2009

Week of March 23, 2009

Updated 3/26/09

Birds in Freefall

Living on Earth -

A new large-scale report finds roughly a quarter of all American bird species, in a variety of habitats, are in decline. But there are a few bright spots that point to potential for a turnaround. Living on Earth’s Jeff Young went visit Conn Island in the Potomac River and has our story...

...YOUNG: So what's the role of exotic invasives and bird populations?

MEHLMAN: Exotics or invasive species are one of the top threats to biodiversity of all kinds worldwide including birds. Non-native plants come in and can totally alter habitat type so it's unsuitable for use by birds and other wildlife.

YOUNG: The report shows invasive species, habitat loss and fragmentation, pesticides and disease all taking a tremendous toll on birds...

See the full story at Link


Wilmington, Delaware CBP outruns invasive bittervine

Contributed by U.S. Department of Homeland Security, featured in

Competitive runners boast of four-minute miles, but they can’t keep pace with an invasive weed species that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists intercepted at the Port of Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday.

On Thursday, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) botanist identified a weed seed, discovered during a CBP inspection of pineapples that arrived aboard the M/V Eurus Lima from Costa Rica, as Mikania micrantha, also know as the invasive mile-a-minute weed (aka bittervine).

Bittervine is reportedly an actionable federal noxious weed that can grow as much as three inches in 24 hours, and it crowds out native species.

“Our agriculture specialists immediately recognized this weed seed discovery as a potential threat to American agriculture and asked USDA for an urgent identification,” said Zachary Pillarelli, CBP Supervisory Agriculture Specialist for the Port of Wilmington. “Turns out their suspicions proved correct. I guess you can say CBP successfully outran another invasive species threat.”

CBP ordered the container secured and issued an Emergency Action Notification for the container to be re-exported. The USDA permitted the container, which was destined to Canada, to be shipped to Canada where authorities will take appropriate action. Link


8th Pepper Pull held on Saturday in Florida

Crystal River Preserve State Park, Florida, held the 8th Pepper Pull event today, sponsored by the Friends of Crystal River State Parks and the Ozello Civic Association.

25 volunteers, one staff and an Americorps IP member roved the hammocks to pull out young Brazilian Pepper trees before they can fruit.

Volunteers came from the Preserve, as well as Homosassa Wildlife Park, Ozello Civic Assoc., Native Plant Society, Audubon, and Crystal River Middle School.

After the pull everyone ate lunch provided by the Ozello Civic Association. In all, 16 additional acres were rid of 3568 pepper plants. This brings the total acreage treated with this program to approx. 103 acres and the running stem count for Pepper Pulls to over 54,000.

This type of retreatment follows the herbicide killing of adult plants by staff and contract projects, breaking the reproductive cycle in the area. This program has become an important component of a multi pronged CRPSP attack on exotics involving staff and volunteer herbicide treatments, community education and motivation, and contract control projects sourced from BIPM (FWC) and federal grants.

Keith Morin
Park Biologist
Florida Division of Recreation and Parks
Department of Environmental Protection
Crystal River Preserve State Park
3266 North Sailboat Ave.
Crystal River, FL 34428
Phone: (352)563-0450
Fax: (352) 563-0246
Cell: (352) 302-1649

Visit The Real Florida at


Volunteers sought to track tree-killers in upstate New York

ITHACA - Cornell University is taking steps to identify new infestations of invasive insect species that destroy tree populations and have encroached on New York's borders.

The emerald ash borer, hemlock woolly adelgid and Asian longhorned beetle, tree-killers with a taste for maple, ash, hemlock and willow, have been discovered in new locations all over the Northeast. The hemlock woolly adelgid (pronounced uh-DEL-jid) is already known to be in Tompkins County. The infestation was first reported in July.

Woolly adelgids were found two weeks ago around Cornell Plantations on the Cornell campus and last week in the Finger Lakes National Forest, for a total of 19 natural areas around Cayuga and Seneca lakes, said Mark Whitmore, an entomologist with Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The university has announced volunteer training sessions to help identify and report new infestations around Cornell and in Ithaca's gorges. Link


Coastal weed may be alternative energy source

By Jack Fichter, Cape May County

VILLAS, NJ — Phragmites, the tall reeds that grow along waterways, get no respect. People poison them, burn them, tear them out of the ground with machines and they may be a cheap source of alternative energy.

Stan Smith, of Council Bluffs, Iowa is working on a project to use Phragmites to produce electricity. They grow all over Cape May County and are considered an invasive weed even though some were planted years ago by the Army Corps of Engineers to hold sand dunes together. He is South Dakota State University graduate with 20 years experience a design engineer followed by a career in product marketing and manufacturing management.

Smith said he would harvest Phragmites including the roots, grind them up and put them into a digester where microbes would eat them and create methane gas which could be used to run generators to make electricity or fed directly into the natural gas pipeline to supply homes.He points to a digester operation at the Green Valley Dairy in Krakow, Wis. where manure from a herd of 2,500 cattle is enclosed in a tank system that excludes oxygen and is broken down by naturally occurring bacteria that produces biogas.

The dairy is using two anaerobic digesters on their farm to generate approximately four million kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy a year, which would be enough to power about 400 average Wisconsin, homes for one year.

Smith suggested using the former Ponderlodge, now owned by the state Department of Environmental Protection and called Villas Wildlife Management Area, as an “east coast lab to study Phragmites.”

Barbara Skinner, who is leading a drive to save the Ponderlodge estimates there are hundreds of acres of Phragmites growing in Cape May County and several acres on the property. She has been gathering signatures on a petition to be sent to Gov. Jon Corzine requesting the lodge building and property be preserved as an environmental center.

Skinner said $4 million allocated by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife to demolish buildings and tear up asphalt pathways on the property would be better used to restore the lodge as an environmental center.DEP is taking bids for demolition of buildings before summer.

Smith also suggested the county airport as a location for a series of digesters which could produce electricity 24 hours per day. He estimates the cost to build the first digester at about $3 million but additional units would cost $1.5 million to $2 million. Link


Army official says Asian oysters plan needs more study

By Timothy B. Wheeler,

A key federal official has come down in favor of raising relatively small batches of sterile Asian oysters in the Chesapeake Bay while expanding government efforts to restore the bay's native oysters. But he said he would continue talks with Maryland and Virginia officials to try to reach a consensus on a policy for bringing back the shellfish.

Col. Dionysios Anninos, commander of the Norfolk District of the Army Corps of Engineers, said Friday that a five-year study by Maryland, Virginia and the federal government had failed to resolve concerns about the risks of allowing large-scale farming of the non-native shellfish. He said more studies should be done growing sterile Asian oysters in the bay before a decision is made.

Virginia's seafood industry has pressed to go ahead with full-scale cultivation of the Asian oysters, arguing that they are the best option for increasing the commercial harvest since native oysters are plagued by disease. Maryland, however, has pushed for sticking with the native species, as have other federal environmental agencies and environmental groups.

Critics say that there is a risk of reproduction even in raising sterilized oysters — and that the foreign species could cause widespread environmental damage if it took hold. Link


Asian oysters NOT headed for Chesapeake Bay

By Cory Nealon,

NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia - Citing insurmountable government roadblocks, the Virginia Seafood Council on Tuesday abandoned its effort to introduce Asian oysters into the Chesapeake Bay.

"Unless someone else in the state has the political will to do it, we're finished," said Frances W. Porter, the council's executive director.

Appearing before the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Porter was expected to speak in favor of a council application to introduce 1.1 million non-native oysters into the bay starting in June.

Instead, she withdrew the application citing onerous federal and state requirements, which she declined to discuss.

The VMRC board, with the exception of Ernest L. Bowden Jr. — a waterman who said he was "deeply concerned" about the decision — offered no reaction.

The decision comes weeks before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction with Virginia and Maryland, is scheduled to release a report that will guide the future of oyster cultivation in the bay.

Speaking by phone after Tuesday's meeting, Porter said the states and the corps have already decided not to allow the expansion of Asian oysters, which are fast-growing and resistant to diseases that have helped decimate the native oyster population.

"In our opinion, it is wrong," said Porter. "But it is a guiding document."

Lynda Tran, communications director for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, said no decision has been made.

"That is certainly not accurate," she said.

Mark Haviland, a spokesman for the Army Corps in Norfolk, said the agency last spoke with council members during a conference call on Friday.

Participants discussed three possible courses of action, he said: allowing the expansion of Asian oysters, allowing nonreproductive Asian oysters, or prohibiting Asian oysters in the bay. The only decision reached, he said, was to make a unified recommendation in the report. Once the backbone of the bay's seafood industry, native oysters have declined dramatically because of poor water quality, disease and decades of heavy harvesting.

The council began introducing Asian oysters — under rigidly controlled conditions — eight years ago. It hoped to convince federal and state regulators that non-native oysters are a timelier and less expensive way to boost the oyster industry.

Several groups, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, oppose the idea. They worry about unforeseen consequences of introducing the alien species.

Porter criticized detractors, saying they "are solely focused on the risk, not the benefits" of Asian oysters. She said the introduction of Asian oysters could help clean up the bay. Oysters act as a natural water filter.

Scientists have been working to restore the bay's native oyster population since 1993, said Tommy Leggett, an oyster scientist with the foundation. The effort, combined with more restrictive harvests, has kept the population steady in recent years, he said.

"We're seeing enough success with restoration," said Leggett, who owns an oyster farm in Gloucester County. "We're not out of the woods yet, we're a long way from that, but it's working." Link


CRISP ALB Survey Planning Meeting - 4/2/09, 10am-2pm

Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership (CRISP)

Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, Arkville, NY
Time: 10 AM to 2 PM (Bring your lunch)
Meeting Goal: Further planning for 2009 ALB survey

1) status of DEC and DAM campground surveys
2) status of GIS analysis of ALB-risk property owners (APHIS Quarantine zone zipcodes in relation to zipcodes in CRISP parcel database)
3) plan for 2009 CRISP region ALB survey
4) plan for outreach to CRISP property owners
5) what's happening with state (and federal?) level coordination?

Barbara Dibeler
Landscape Ecologist-Invasive Species Coordinator


Noxious & Invasive Vegetation Management Short Course

The second Northeastern Weed Science Society (NEWSS) Noxious & Invasive Vegetation Management Short Course (NIVM) will be held on the week of September 21st, 2009, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

This course has evolved to meet the demand and need for training and instruction of professionals involved in the administration or implementation of invasive plant management in the Northeastern United States. This course is designed for public and private land managers (parks, conservancies, preserves, forests, private parcels and farms) from Maine to North Carolina who desire a better understanding of non-cropland weed management. A huge success in 2008, the course has expanded to include even more topics. This year, pre-registrants can select from a choice of topics they most want to see included in the week long event. Other topics will cover principles of vegetation management, early detection and rapid response training as well as in-depth instruction on herbicide properties, biological, mechanical and chemical tools of weed control and hands on weed identification each day. Classroom, laboratory and field exercises will be utilized and the program is designed to encourage interaction between students and instructors. This year’s course will also offer different session workshops for novice and advance applicators.

Weed management professionals affiliated with NEWSS instruct and staff the course. This event is a not-for-profit activity and is sponsored in part by a grant from the U.S. Forest Service. To cover anticipated expenses and course training materials the course tuition will be $400.00 for a 4.0 day terrestrial course and $150.00 for a 1.0 day aquatic course or a discounted $500.00 for both courses. Students will need to cover travel, lodging and some meal expenses. The course is limited to the first 75 pre-registered applicants for the terrestrial portion of the course and the first 75 pre-registered applicants for the one day aquatic.

The announcement flyer and pre-registration documents are now posted on the NEWSS Website. We appreciate your assistance in disseminating this important and exciting information to potential registrants.


Melissa A. Bravo
Coordinator for NEWSS NIVM Short Course

Botanist/Weed Scientist
Bureau of Plant Industry Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110


Free seminar in Maryland - Conservation Partnering: Invasive Species Management as a Successful Watershed Protection Partnership

During this time of tightening budgets, it’s more important than ever to find innovative, efficient ways to produce lasting conservation results. This seminar will cover the whys and hows of using community partnerships to avoid dumping money into short-term projects and start managing for long-term success. We will focus on invasive species management as a jumping-off point for partnership conservation programs.

Location: Naval Support Facility Carderock — Building 40, 9500 MacArthur Boulevard, West Bethesda, MD, 20817

Date: Thursday, April 30th, 8:00am — 4:00pm

Who Should Attend: community members, students, nonprofit employees, military personnel, government officials, business owners, land owners and any other interested parties

More Information, Registration & Exhibitor Signup: Please email ConservationTrainingRSVP @ (delete spaces) or call Susan Reines Robinson at 240-247-0912. Registration is required; no fee.

Morning sessions:
Expert speakers will discuss strategies for maximizing resources through effective partnerships and building programs around invasive species management. Featured speakers will include L. Peter Boice, DoD Conservation Team Leader & Director of the Legacy Program; Bob Hoyt, director of the Department of Environmental Protection for Montgomery County MD; Mary Travaglini of The Nature Conservancy; & North American Pollinator Protection Campaign.

Afternoon sessions:
Attendees will split into small groups for interactive learning activities. Groups will tour Carderock natural areas, identifying invasive species and discussing management strategies. After the tour, groups will participate in an invasive species management planning class. Experts from the Wildlife Habitat Council, The Nature Conservancy and the US Navy will lead groups through a decision-making exercise to devise an invasive species management plan for an example scenario. The focus will be on allocating resources efficiently, setting priorities, and working within the confines of any budget.


Agricultural invaders

Inspectors at the Port of Wilmington intercept bugs, seeds, weeds that hitch rides with foreign produce

By Adam Taylor, The News Journal

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE -- A gust of wind in Costa Rica blows seeds onto a pineapple. A light in a warehouse in Chile draws a moth into a box of grapes. A locust in Afghanistan jumps onto a military jeep.

Threats to this country aren't always from the malicious hands of drug dealers, terrorists or human traffickers.

Just last week, inspectors intercepted a foreign weed and a non-native beetle at the Port of Wilmington, one of the busiest in North America for fruit imports. Foreign invaders are also an issue at Dover Air Force Base.

Had the tiny hitchhikers sneaked through, the damage could have been severe. The fast-growing weeds crowd out and kill native plants and the bugs eat everything in sight, killing crops and trees. The changes result in a chain reaction to the native habitat.

"Once an invasive plant or animal becomes established here, it becomes almost impossible to reverse," University of Delaware entomology professor Judith Hough-Goldstein said. "It's certainly something you want to avoid, because they wreak havoc and wind up displacing many of our native species."

There is a crew of six inspectors who work for Customs and Border Protection at the port who are agricultural specialists. Their job is to prevent foreign invasions.

The inspectors quietly make about 100 discoveries each year.

For the full article, visit Link


Wellsboro High School (PA) students include invasive species in national contest

WELLSBORO, PA. - Some local school districts are facing impending budget cuts because of the crumbling economy.

However, one school in the Northern Tier could see a sizable financial boost, thanks to a team of sharp agriscience students who are competing in a national contest.

Melanie Sanborn first learned of the Lexus Eco-Challenge, a contest co-sponsored by Toyota and Scholastic, through the internet. She thought it would be a great idea to enter her 11th and 12th grade students who are learning about the environment.

"It's an environmental contest where students are taking things that they learned in the classroom in soil, water and air quality issues, and they're applying that to their community by creating activism plans," said Sanborn.

So far, the team has won $20,000 by coming out on top in two of the challenges presented in the contest. Each challenge puts them $10,000 closer to the $50,000 goal.

Now, they are designing a native species garden to compete for the final leg of the competition.

"We designed it using some software we have," said 11th grade student Talia Cpiol. "I decided I wanted it to be completely native, so out of the 500 trees that were donated to our school by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, I had to research each one to make sure it was native to the area," she said.

The other half of this part of the challenge involves raising awareness about invasive species, like zebra mussels in local bodies of water, and giant hogweed plants, which can wreck ecosystems easily.

"We sent out some letters to a bunch of the hunting camps around just to let them know how not to spread the stuff," said teammate Cody Owlett, who is a senior this year.

The team also will be talking to local elementary school students about how to spot and avoid spreading invasive plants or animal species.

One of them is called "Japanese knotweed." It grows in thick, with leaves the size of paper plates, so it can overshadow other plants and steal needed sunlight.

The plant can grow as tall as 9 feet. "A lot of people try to cut it down," said teammate Caleb Krick, who is also a senior. "But in like a week, twice as much grows back," he said.

"When you're walking through it, you have to wipe off your pants and shoes to make sure you don't spread the seeds." It's a lot of work, but well worth it to the students and to the school.

"I'm going to college," said Krick. "I plan on putting it towards that," he said of the share of $30,000 he might receive when and if the team wins the final chapter of the Lexus EcoChallenge.

The school will receive $10,000 for classroom purposes, and Sanborn will receive $10,000 for her agriscience curriculum.The students find out around the first week of April if they have won. They are competing with about 20 schools nation-wide in this section of the competition.

Read the full story at Link.


Rhode Island town takes aim at invasive beach grass

Asian sedge is taking over dunes; eradication set to begin soon

By Ted Hayes,

MIDDLETOWN, RI — No one knows for sure how it got here, but one thing is certain: An invasive species of Asian beach grass that’s creeped up around Sachuest Beach over the last few years is causing big headaches for those in charge of overseeing the scenic stretch of waterfront.

Middletown town officials will take a big step toward fixing the problem Wednesday when they open four bids submitted by companies that hope to win the job of eradicating the grass. The job, to spray areas around the Sachuest Point Road dunes that have already succumbed to the fast-moving grass with herbicide, is expected to take months to complete. Once the bids are reviewed, the Middletown Town Council is expected to approve one on Thursday, April 6.

“We’d like to get started (spraying) soon after,” said Middletown town engineer Warren Hall.

That’s not a moment too soon, according to the chairman of the Middletown Beach Commission.

Rian Wilkinson has watched the grass — most likely Carex kobomugi — grow steadily across the beach’s dunes for several years now, and it seemed to grow fast last year. It’s cropped up along the campground area to boardwalks 1, 2 and 8, he said.

The low-clinging grass is easy to spot, lying low, yellow-green, in contrast to the taller, darker native grass it’s competing with. But it’s not just an aesthetic problem, he said. The grass chokes out the other species of native grass and since it doesn’t have deep roots, it will eventually lead the dunes’ erosion, he said.

“It just takes over everything else and the dunes suffer,” he said. “It seems to have dug in over the past few years.”

Town officials received approval from the state Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) last year to remove the grass. Mr. Hall said treating it could be a long process.

The grass will be sprayed with a Roundup-type solution with a surfactant and coloring agent added that will keep it from running off and will make it easy to determine where it’s been sprayed.

Officials plan to treat the grass at least three times. Mr. Hall said the first treatment in April should remove about 10 percent of the grass. The second should remove another 50 percent, and the third the remaining 40 percent.

“It’s one of those things where you don’t know how effective the treatments are going to be until you do it,” he said.

That will be the scope of this project, he said. Longer-term, though, a second phase will involve stabilizing formerly infected dunes with erosion control features, and then re-planting native beach grasses.

The project is being funded by the Town of Middletown. Mr. Hall declined to comment on the expected cost until after the bids have been reviewed.

Read the full story at Link.


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