Monday, March 30, 2009

Week of March 30, 2009

Updated 4/2

Economic Stimulus Could Boost Invasive Species Management

On February 17, President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 to stimulate the economy by creating jobs and building infrastructure.

As of March, implications for invasive species management were unclear. The stimulus package includes more than $3 billion for agencies and programs that will directly affect natural resources. The ARRA spending mandates are very broad and include concepts such as habitat restoration, watershed improvement, forest health protection, and wildland fire management that may allow funding to flow toward invasive plant management.

States and federal agencies face a May 3 deadline to begin reporting how ARRA dollars will be allocated. Until that time, governors are coordinating state allocations, while regional and national offices of the federal agencies are evaluating needs and deciding how to distribute funds.

Information about individual state and federal ARRA programs – how the dollars are being allocated and progress toward goals – can be found at This website is the primary online portal through which the government will continue to report how ARRA funds are being spent "in a timely, targeted, and transparent manner," according to the President.


Book makes case for native plants

By Bill Cary • Gannett News Service

People in the gardening world are calling Douglas W. Tallamy's book on native plants the next "Silent Spring," Rachel Carson's 1962 book that warned of the dangers of chemical pesticides and helped launch the modern-day environmental movement.

In his book, "Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens" (Timber Press, 2007, $27.95), Tallamy argues that native plants are vital to the survival of our ecosystems because they sustain native wildlife. When native plants disappear, so do the insects that have evolved with them, thus depriving birds and other animals of the food they need to survive.

Tallamy, professor and head of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Del., has spent years studying insects and the many ways they interact with plants. This food web helps to determine the diversity of our ecosystem...

...We've put nature into neat little quadrants and many of these are filled with invasive species, he said. Look at the narrow strips of land next to our highways - many are overflowing with invasive porcelain berry and bittersweet vines that are pulling down the native trees and choking out everything else.

When we load up our ecosystem with pretty plants from China or Europe, our native insects can't eat them. From the insects' point of view, we might as well stick plastic flowers in our yard instead of peonies or lilacs.

Nationwide, 100 million acres have been invaded by alien plants, and that's expected to double in the next five years...

Read the full article at Link.


Agricultural agents in NJ wage war on bugs, plants, and disease

By Judy Peet - The Star-Ledger

All Alba Lugardo wanted was her chicken tamales.

She stood sobbing at international customs inspection at Newark Liberty International Airport as agents explained why they seized her vittles. Lugardo didn't care about the big picture; she just wanted the comfort food she brought in her carry-on luggage from Ecuador for her pregnant daughter in Newark.

But invasion can come from the most unlikely places.

To Lugardo, a tamale is a meal. To federal bug and germ hunters, uninspected foreign meat wrapped in corn husks is a possible carrier of avian flu that could sicken hundreds and destroy the livelihood of thousands of chicken-farm workers in Delaware. It is quite a stretch, but one that Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at every U.S. port of entry make daily in the fight against tiny alien predators.

Ten days ago, Newark agents announced they discovered a plant bug never before seen in the U.S. Botanists don't know if it is a killer, because, like most of the estimated 30 million insect species on the planet, it has never been studied...

...Every day, inspectors in Newark intercept on average more than 100 bugs, according to customs reports. About once a month, they come across a species never before seen in the U.S. The stowaway found 10 days ago was hiding in a bunch of Israeli thyme, said Thomas Henry, the USDA botanist who examined the insect.

It is of the Miridae family, but the species is unknown. Henry said that of the estimated 30 million bug species worldwide, only 1.5 million have been fully classified. It is definitely not one of the 90,000 species native to the U.S., Henry said.

Read the full article, with video, at Link.


Birds vanishing in the Lehigh Valley, PA

By Christopher Baxter - The Morning Call

An unprecedented study of United States bird populations suggests development in the Lehigh Valley during the past decade has contributed to the steep decline of local species, signaling a deterioration of the region's environment.

Of the 132 most prevalent birds found in Pennsylvania, one-third show significant declines during the past 40 years, mirroring national trends, according to the study's raw data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey.''

The report, ''The State of the Birds,'' released this month by the U.S. Department of the Interior, found that about one-third of the nation's 800 species are endangered, threatened, or in decline.

...suffering precipitous drops in population are Eastern forest birds, which in Pennsylvania include the golden-winged warbler, down 6.7 percent annually since 1967; the wood thrush, down 2.3 percent annually; and the Eastern towhee, down 2 percent annually.

Those species rely on large tracts of pristine hardwood forest, a statewide specialty increasingly under attack by suburban sprawl, invasive species, and deer overpopulation, said Nels Johnson, director of conservation with The Nature Conservancy of Pennsylvania...

Read the full article at Link.


Connecticut has key role in search for cause of white-nose syndrome in bats


The rapid spread from the Northeast to the South of the deadly white-nose syndrome in bats is more than a crisis that once again puts Connecticut at the center of a major outbreak like Lyme disease or West Nile virus.

The race to solve the white-nose mystery before the scourge reaches the large bat populations of the American South has set off a frenzied, CSI-like drama in veterinary and pathology laboratories from Italy to Wisconsin. Connecticut is playing a crucial role by compiling data on the syndrome and sending samples of diseased bats to important university and government diagnostic clinics.

The syndrome, first discovered in New York state in 2006, is a condition in which the heads, legs and wings of hibernating bats are coated with a white fungus that scientists have identified as a rare form of geomyces, a fungus usually found in cold, dry environments, such as the tundra in the Arctic.

Earlier this month, biologists from the state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed, after visits to bat caves in Litchfield County, that as many as 90 percent of Connecticut's bats have died...

...Al Hicks, a mammal specialist who runs the endangered species program for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, led the team of field biologists who first discovered white-nose in bats. He considers it telling that the first site where white-nose was found was Howe Caverns in New York's Schoharie County, a popular tourist site where more than 200,000 visitors a year ride elevators down to a deep cave that houses hibernating bats on the far end.

"We've known since 1983 that there is a very similar geomyces fungus on bats in Europe but that it has not killed them in large numbers like here in the U.S.," Hicks said. "Someone from Europe might have carried that fungus into Howe Caverns on their shoes. This might have introduced a fungus from another continent that American bats had not yet developed resistance to."...

Read the full article at Link.


Annapolis, Maryland bans invasive plants

By Tyeesha Dixon,

The City of Annapolis would impose restrictions on invasive plants if a bill the City Council is considering passes.

The bill would prohibit 97 species of invasive plants ... on "lots or parcels within the city unless completely contained to control growth and prevent encroachment." It would also limit growth of grass, weeds and other rank vegetation to one foot high.

The bill includes exceptions to the height requirement, including agricultural property, natural wooded areas, public parks, and recreational property and unimproved areas of more than three acres.

At Monday's public hearing, Ward 2 Alderman Fred Paone, the bill's sponsor, said he introduced the bill because of neighbor disputes regarding unruly bamboo. Paone said he started to learn of constituents' problems with bamboo and kudzu, in particular, in June.

David Prosten, chairman of the 1,400-member Anne Arundel County chapter of the Sierra Club, told the council that the group supports the bill.

Read the full story at Link.


Swamp studies snag honors for two students in New York

By Roger Muehlig,

BERGEN, NY -- Two Byron-Bergen Central School students are headed for a state science competition in Albany in June with award-winning projects related to an endangered snake and an invasive weed in the Bergen Swamp.

Seniors Kelsey Hill and Daniel Madziarz won high honors for their projects at the Central Western Section of the Science Teachers Association of New York State's 2009 Science Congress at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, the school district said.

Hill's presentation, "Survey of the Invasive Species Eurasian species Phragmites Australis in the Bergen Swamp," also earned her a U.S. Army certificate of achievement, a U.S. Air Force certificate of achievement and an MP3 player, the district said.

Hill and Madziarz were mentored by Stephen Locke, a science teacher at Byron-Bergen and a trustee and vice president of the Bergen Swamp Preservation Society, which owns the 1,900-acre rare plant and wildlife preserve that stretches across the northern half of the town and into the neighboring town of Byron.

Locke said the two students volunteered for their projects, received no extra credit for their work and probably put in more than 500 hours of time each.

Hill's effort showed that an invasive species of phragmites, which originated in Europe, and the native species that came from New England were both in the swamp. Both like high-salt wetlands, Locke said, but Hill did a nice job of documenting the differences between the two and showed that the European species was taking over, occupying 27 percent of the swamp's open land.

Hill, who would like to pursue environmental writing in college, perhaps at Ohio Wesleyan, is not only the first to scientifically state the takeover is occurring, Locke said, but created a computer data-base to manage eradication of the invasive species.

The daughter of David and Lesle Hill said she spent about 16 hours a week in the swamp last summer and another 15 hours or so a week formulating her report.

"It was pretty hot out there, but it was worth it," she said.

Read the full story at Link.


Cazenovia, NY bans phosphorus fertilizer to reduce AIS

By Alaina Potrikus, The Post-Standard

Cazenovia leaders want homeowners to know that most soils in the lake watershed contain adequate levels of naturally occurring phosphorus and should not be affected by the town's ban on fertilizers with the nutrient.

The town board in January passed the area's first ban restricting the use of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers in hopes of creating a less-fertile environment for algae and other aquatic plants, such as the weed Eurasian watermilfoil, that annually plague Cazenovia Lake. Village leaders are considering a similar resolution in support of the local law.

The community has been making plans all winter to tackle the growing problem of invasive species such as milfoil. The town, in conjunction with the village and the Cazenovia Lake Association, is applying for a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to apply the herbicide Renovate to portions of the lake in hopes of knocking back the milfoil population, which has skyrocketed in recent summers.

While local officials work to solve the environmental and financial ramifications of the milfoil, Town Supervisor Liz Moran said, the phosphorus ban is something area homeowners can do to help prevent future weed growth.

The ban will be enforced by the town's code enforcement officer, and Moran said officials hope "the majority of residents recognize that, although not a magic bullet, a phosphorus reduction plan is an easy way for everyone to display good stewardship of the lake and contribute to the long-term health of this precious resource."

Read full story at Link.


Lake Placid, NY to use beetles to combat purple loosestrife

By HEATHER SACKETT, for the Adirondack Enterprise

LAKE PLACID - "If you can't beat 'em, let the beetles eat 'em." This slogan of the Ausable River Association will be put to the test this summer, when Lake Placid will attempt to combat an invasive species with hungry beetles.

The golden loosestrife beetle (Galerucella pusilla) will be released into four dense stands of purple loosestrife on the shores of Mill Pond and Power Pond. The project's aim is to keep the tributaries of the Ausable River free from the invasive species. Mill and Power ponds are on the Chubb River, which feeds into the Ausable. The program is funded by a grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

According to the association's director Carol Treadwell, no purple loosestrife has been recorded in the West Branch of the river between Lake Placid and Wilmington - and the association wants to keep it that way.

According to director of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program Hilary Smith, purple loosestrife is one of the most widespread invasive plants in the country.

"Our concern is because the Adirondacks have a lot of prime habitat for wetland invasives," Smith said. "If you're finding it along river complexes, it can be spread downstream."

The beetles, which eat only purple loosestrife, are used after other labor-intensive control methods like hand cutting and pulling the plants and spot applications of herbicide have failed to keep a population of purple loosestrife in check.

The beetles, which are light brown in color and four to six millimeters long, will be released this spring by a team of volunteers, headed up by Treadwell. Right now, they are being raised in a marsh near Utica.

Read the full article at Link.


Cape May County hopes stimulus funds flow to Lower creek


LOWER TOWNSHIP - Cape May County is asking for $2 million in federal stimulus money to help restore Cox Hall Creek in Lower Township.

The watershed, which covers 1,940 acres, is clogged by phragmites marsh reeds that hinder the creek's ability to drain and pose fire hazards when the stalks are dry. Poor water flow at Cox Hall Creek also presents concerns about mosquito breeding habitat.

County freeholders are applying for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coastal and Marine Habitat Restoration Project grant, which would use federal stimulus money.

The $2 million proposed project would involve placing two culverts in the area to allow saltwater to flow in from the Delaware Bay to kill the invasive phragmites, said County Administrator Stephen O'Connor.

Federal funding would also pay for studies on a second phase of the proposed project.
That phase involves installing new pipes with tidal traps leading directly into the Delaware Bay to create a constant, controlled level of water, O'Connor said.

Read the full story at Link.


National ANS Database now part of NYIS.INFO

I'm very excited to report that the aquatic invasive/aquatic nuisance species database of the National Aquatic Nuisance Species Clearinghouse (NANSC) is now a part of the NY Invasive Species Clearinghouse (NYIS.INFO). The database is a searchable annotated catalog of the NANSC international library of research, public policy, and outreach education publications pertaining to invasive marine and fresh-water aquatic nuisance species that are found in North America. It is also the home of North America's most extensive library of publications related to the spread, biology, impacts and control of zebra mussels.

The Aquatic Invasive Species Database (Link) can be searched via an extended outline search or via a powerful full text search feature.

Charles R. O'Neill, Jr.
Sr. Extension Specialist
Cornell University/New York Sea Grant
Director, NY Invasive Species Clearinghouse Director, National Aquatic
Nuisance Species Clearinghouse Coordinator, Cornell Invasive Species Program
Morgan II, SUNY College Brockport, NY 14420


Share your phragmites samples and location data

Dr. Bernd Blossey at Cornell University is soliciting contributions of samples and data on native and invasive locations of common reed (Phragmites australis). In particular, Blossey is hoping to receive more data from western states, which currently are poorly represented in his database. Blossey and his colleagues will use the data to prepare a distribution map so that more targeted searches can be done in certain states. They also hope to launch a web-based approach that will allow volunteers or states to update data remotely.

Contact Dr. Bernd Blossey


Volunteers needed to root out invasive plants in Virginia

By John Hopkins, The Virginian-Pilot

The local chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society will join the Chesapeake Arboretum and interested volunteers on May 2 to uproot nonnative growth in the area during the first statewide Invasive Plant Removal Day.

They will target English ivy and ligustrum, also known as privet, at the arboretum's urban forest in Chesapeake, said Barbara Gelzer, the arboretum's coordinator. Statewide, various other groups will take on similar tasks in their own communities.

The Virginia Native Plant Society and the Virginia Master Naturalists are sponsoring the statewide event. Activities are being coordinated now and interested people can learn more by going to


Very cute biological control agents on Long Island


The Town of Hempstead has a new set of grass cutters for the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve in Merrick, and they go by the names Sleepy, Sneezy, Bashful, Happy and Doc.

The five are Nigerian dwarf goats and their assignment will be controlling weeds and overgrowth at the 50-acre preserve.

The puppy-sized goats, between 4 and 6 weeks old, spent Monday in their pen, grazing on goat pellets. By autumn, town officials hope the five will be chowing down grass and weeds.

We'll let them eat to their hearts' content," said Town Supervisor Kate Murray. "Basically, they're going to be our natural lawn mowers."

But the goats won't have free rein of the preserve: They will either be tethered to a line, tended on leashes or kept inside a movable fence.

And although the animals are considered gentle, children will not be allowed to pet them."

There's an overabundance of caution at this point," Murray said. "They're young, they're unpredictable and it's not really their purpose.

"The town paid $1,200 for the five goats, which were born at the Long Island Zoological Society in Manorville. The town expects to save money that would have been spent on labor, gas, lawn mowers and line trimmers. Officials also touted the goats' value to the environment, as their carbon footprint will be smaller than that of lawn care machinery.

It's not the first time the preserve has turned to unusual methods to respond to issues at the facility. Four years ago, guinea fowl were brought in to control ticks. They feed on insects and, since their arrival, the preserve hasn't had any reports of ticks, Murray said.

The preserve hopes the goats will thrive -- and perhaps add to their ranks.

"We figure with one boy and four girls, nature might take its course," Murray said.

Read the full article and see some very cute photos at Link.


Phragmites' last stand?


For more than a century, North American scientists, engineers, environmentalists, sportsmen and others have fought the invasion of a foreign form of the common reed, Phragmites australis, and lost...

...After a decade of studies, scientists at Cornell University have narrowed a field of 150 different species of fungus, pathogens and insects down to four moths that, if released into the wild here, could potentially attack and kill the invasive form of phragmites.

Bernd Blossey, associate professor at the university and lead researcher on the project, said any release of the species would not be for another three to five years, since they are currently being carefully studied in Rhode Island and Switzerland.

Nevertheless, he said initial studies have been very promising, and the moths the researchers are studying seem to have a singular interest in eating the one species of phragmites that has plagued this area.

"The biological control of plants has been around for 120 to 150 years," Blossey said, "but for phragmites, it's extremely novel and no one has tried that."

In southern New Jersey - what Blossey called "the middle of the storm" in the invasion - other techniques have mostly centered on burning, chopping, mowing or spraying with herbicide the large stands of phragmites found here.

These attempts, particularly spraying, have not only been met with much public resistance, but they also usually only serve to push the reed back rather than eradicate it altogether. Most require continuous maintenance as the reed creeps back in, making them more expensive and time consuming.

But the moths that Blossey is studying have a long history of being effective phragmites killers. They are all found in Europe, where the form of phragmites that has taken over marshes here also came from, and they have adapted a particular taste for the plant - one is even called a Reed Leopard.

In Europe they are so proficient they are sometimes considered pests, but that's only because the form of phragmites that is considered invasive here provides valuable habitat overseas.

Whatever species is eventually released to attack the foreign variety of phragmites will have to leave that native species alone, which Blossey said is the main concern now as studies of the moths are continued.

Read the full article at Link.

For more information, visit InvasivePlants.Net.


Exotic species at the 36th Natural Areas Conference

September 11-18, 2009
Vancouver, Washington

In association with the Natural Areas Association, the National Association of Exotic Pest Plant Councils will host an Invasive Exotic Species track at the 2009 Natural Areas Conference in Vancouver, Washington. The theme for the September 15-18, 2009, conference is “Living on the Edge: Why Natural Areas Matter.”

All NAEPPC chapters are invited and encouraged to submit some aspect of their work in a contributed paper or poster. Submission of abstracts and other information about the conference is available online at the Natural Areas Conference web site. Please note the April 30, 2009 deadline for abstract submission.


New Hampshire lake group tackles invasive milfoil

By Eric Parry,

HAMPSTEAD, NH — Residents around Big Island Pond believe a 30-foot pontoon boat — complete with a pump, hoses and a perforated deck — in Skip Lanouette's front yard is their best hope of fighting an invasive weed that has spread across the lake for the past decade.
Lanouette and a group of residents from around the lake are converting the boat into a harvester that will help scuba divers remove milfoil from the pond.

There have been attempts to rid the lake of the milfoil in the past, but pulling the weeds by hand and stuffing them into bags was a tedious process that didn't accomplish much.

But with this new tool, Bob Patterson, who is leading a team of 15 divers, said a lot more of the lake should be free of the weed that spreads quickly and can choke natural vegetation.

"What took us a whole month by hand last year can take us a day with the harvester," Patterson said.

While two divers are in the water pulling weeds, a 4-inch-wide hose attached to one of the divers will suck the weed into large holding tanks on the deck of the boat. The holding tanks and deck have been fitted with a tight mesh that will collect the weed in bags, but will allow the water to drain back into the pond.

At most, divers will only have to go down 12 feet because the weed doesn't grow any deeper than that in the lake, Patterson said.

To make sure they collect it all, volunteers armed with pool skimmers will circle the boat in kayaks to trap any small pieces of the weed that float to the top.

"A little 2-inch piece can float away and start a new colony somewhere else," Patterson said.

After the milfoil is bagged and tagged, volunteers will then send a complete report back to the state Department of Environmental Services. The report will include how much of the weed was collected, where it was growing, water temperature and air temperature.

About 60 volunteers are involved with the project, helping to retrofit the boat with benches for the divers, hooking up the hoses and spending weekends navigating the boat around the lake. So far, 135 dives have been scheduled starting at the end of the month and continuing every weekend through the summer.

"The volunteerism on the lake is incredible," said Paul LaRochelle, who was one of the neighbors who helped Lanouette install the pump last weekend.

The boat was purchased earlier this year with the help of the lake association, donations from residents and the New Hampshire Lakes Association.

But even with this new tool, the state DES is suggesting a chemical, 2-4-D, be used to assist in the cleanup.

Amy Smagula, a DES limnologist, said the combination of the hand pulling and herbicide treatment will eliminate the weed faster than either technique alone.

"Fifty acres is a little daunting when you're trying to physically remove it," Smagula said.

Still, residents know the lake will never be completely rid of the weed.

Read the full story at Link.


Southeast Herbicide Applicator Conference

University of Florida
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Sep 22-24, 2009
Edgewater Beach Resort
Panama City Beach, Florida

Training for those who conduct weed control in canals, lakes, water retention ponds, golf course ponds, rivers, parks, highway rights-of-ways, transmission lines, and are responsible for vegetation management along right-of-ways and in natural areas, and use biological control techniques to suppress aquatic weed growth.


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