Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Week of August 31, 2009

Updated September 6

Schumer says he’ll seek more money to fight invasives

By NATHAN BROWN, Adirondack Daily Enterprise Staff Writer

Hilary_SmithTUPPER LAKE - Although many of the more harmful invasive species, such as the emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorned beetle, haven't been found in the Adirondacks, they are believed to be spreading through the state.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said on Thursday afternoon he will push for funding for his four-point plan to limit the spread of invasives and stop them before they get here.

"A stitch in time saves nine," Schumer said at The Wild Center.

Schumer said he will push to raise funding for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service by $35 million to combat the Asian longhorned beetle and $39.7 million for the ash borer. Schumer said federal help is needed to combat these pests, due to the limited resources of local governments and private groups to deal with them.

Schumer also said he would push for $3.1 million in stimulus for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to fight the ash borer, and $2.5 million more for the DEC to run educational programs to limit the spread of invasives.

"(Education) really stops these things," Schumer said. "People who love the outdoors care about it; they're willing to be educated."

These programs educate people on things such as not moving firewood from areas infected with these wood-boring pests.

Finally, Schumer said, funding for the Interagency Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, which coordinates federal responses to invasive aquatic pests, should be raised to $20.3 million, from its current level of $5.3 million.

"It costs literally pennies in the federal scheme of things, and it will save us millions," Schumer said of his plan.

Hilary Smith, of Saranac Lake, director of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, said invasive species are "on the rise and rapidly accelerating." She and Schumer mentioned several reasons for the faster spread, including the increase in commerce over farther distances and climate change, which allows invasives that need warmer climates to move farther north.

Smith said her program has more than 300 volunteers, who have surveyed more than 200 lakes for invasive plants, and she also spoke out about other efforts to map invasive species in the Adirondacks. For example, she said, volunteers have been tracking the spread of knotweed in the southwestern Adirondacks and garlic mustard in the Tri-Lakes area. They have also been working with anglers on the AuSable River so they clean their gear and waders and thus prevent the spread of invasive aquatic plants.

"We have the technology and information (to deal with invasives)," Smith said. "We just need the additional resources."

"She's our Paul Revere of invasive species," Schumer said.

Read the story at link.

Photo by Nathan Brown. Hilary Smith of Saranac Lake, director of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, speaks Thursday at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

Vermont's tools in fight against invasive pest include Internet TV

By BOB AUDETTE, Brattleboro Reformer

BRATTLEBORO -- By now, most people have heard of the Asian Longhorned Beetle and its threat to the area’s maple trees.

If the non-native pest, which was most recently found in Worcester, Mass., makes its way to Vermont, it could ruin the maple syrup industry, affect the fall foliage and tourism, put a strain on the hardwood harvest and have a devastating impact on the forest environment.

Helping to spread the word about the dangerous bug is vermonttv.net, an online "station" with eight "channels."

Vermonttv.net was started by Bill Heyman and Rick Garren, and is produced with the help of Kris Cain and Justin Looper.

The longhorned beetle could kill a third of the trees in the Green Mountain State, said Heyman.

"That’s just one bug."

And then there’s the Hemlock Woody Adelgid, another invasive species that threatens Vermont’s hemlock trees.

Not only could the bugs irrevocably change the Vermont landscape, they could devastate one of Vermont’s most important industries -- forest products.

The Asian Longhorned Beetle has caused tens of thousands of hardwood trees to be destroyed in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

"I went down to Worcester," said Heyman. "I couldn’t believe the devastation. I lost sleep over it."

In the video on vermonttv.net, Jim Esden, of the Vermont Department of Forests & Parks, talks about how to identify the Asian Longhorned Beetle and the devastation the beetle can cause. He shows viewers an animated view of the beetle and how to spot the first symptoms of infestation.

"We have certainly been using a variety of media," said Esden. "Vermonttv.net has been really helpful and cooperative. They’ve done a great job."

Read the full story at link.


Video: Bugs gone wild? Invasive species combatants can become pests themselves

By Frank MacEachern, Greenwich Time

In a small wooded section of northwest Greenwich, tiny weevils have been busily eating their way through the mile-a-minute vine in an experiment to see if the invasive plant can be controlled.

But the weevil is itself a non-native species to North America, and scientists warn that great care must be taken when foreign species are introduced.

One of those scientists, Daniel Simberloff, professor of environmental science ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, said numerous experiments in invasive plant control have gone awry.

He points to the cactus moth. It was successful in controlling the cactus pear in Australia. The pear, a non-native plant to that continent, was introduced in the 19th century. But it advanced rapidly and took over wide swaths of Australian farmland before the introduction of the cactus moth.

But that same moth, a South American native, poses a risk to the cactus pear industry in Mexico, Simberloff said. The moth was introduced in the Caribbean and has gradually spread north and may reach Mexico, he said.

"The Mexicans are very upset about this because the cactus pear is important to them both economically and culturally," he said.

In one of the most infamous disasters of biological control -- the use of species, including plants, animals and insects like weevils, to control invasive species -- farmers introduced the mongoose to Hawaii in the late 1800s to control rats that were feeding on sugar cane. Rather than control rats, the mongoose have preyed on the nests of endangered and threatened native birds.

In the past decade, researchers found that a parasitic fly, released as late as 1986 to combat gypsy and brown tail moths, is devastating the native silk moth population in New England.

Read the full story and watch the video at link.


Coast Guard Floats Rule on Invasive Species

The U.S. Coast Guard announced a proposed regulation today designed to prevent invasive species from entering U.S. waters. The rule would require ships to treat ballast water, which is pumped into tanks when leaving port and typically dumped at the incoming port, to kill microorganisms and larvae that come along for the ride. The Coast Guard says it "will work to elevate the priority" of research to figure out how effective the measure will be.

Ships are already required to exchange their ballast water at sea to get rid of any hitchhiking species, but the effectiveness varies quite a bit, depending in part on the ship's construction. The proposed regulation will require that ships have new technology on-board—such as filtration systems—that will reduce the number of organisms released in port to a standard set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2004.

"I'm feeling positive about this," says Allegra Cangelosi, principal investigator for the Northeast-Midwest Institute's Great Ships Initiative, which is working to reduce aquatic invasions in the Great Lakes. "These standards are a good guess at what is necessary to reduce risk of ship-mediated transfers to a manageable level." As of last month, IMO had approved eight kinds of treatment systems.

Under the proposed Coast Guard rule, new vessels launched after 2012 would need to have treatment systems that meet the IMO standard. Existing vessels will need to be retrofitted to meet that standard between 2014 and 2016, depending on the ship's size. The cost will likely run $1.18 billion over 10 years.

The Coast Guard is also considering a phase-two standard that would be up to 1000 times more stringent than the phase-one standard. By 2013, it will complete a review on the feasibility of achieving this standard—one live organism per 100 cubic meters of water. Another question is exactly how much benefit these standards will have, so the Coast Guard would like to see more research done by its staff and other agencies.

Comments are due within 90 days.

—Erik Stokstad

Read the story at link.


New York State DEC plans action to protect Catlin Creek and adjacent wetlands from Northern Snakehead

ALBANY, NY (09/01/2009)(readMedia)--

Continuing an aggressive approach toward invasive species, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will apply an aquatic pesticide to portions of Catlin Creek and adjacent wetlands to eradicate an invasive fish called the Northern Snakehead, Regional Director Willie Janeway announced today. The treatment, slated for October, will reclaim the Orange County waterway so that a healthy and natural fishery can be restored.

The action is a follow-up to successful steps taken to rid nearby Ridgebury Lake and Catlin Creek of more than 200 Northern Snakeheads in summer 2008. Acting on a tip from residents, DEC staff recently found two adult snakeheads at an impassable weir in Catlin Creek. DEC believes this follow-up application is the best course of action to assure this invasive species does not spread to other New York waters such as the Wallkill and Hudson Rivers.

DEC recently sent a letter to area landowners updating them on the issue and their intended action. In addition, DEC has scheduled a public meeting for 7 p.m., Sept. 16, at the Wawayanda Town Hall. "We appreciate the patience and cooperation of local residents and town officials as we continue to take steps to stop this aggressive invasive species," DEC Regional Director Willie Janeway said.

Native to Asia, the Northern Snakehead fish is an air breathing, aggressive freshwater predator. They can survive out of the water temporarily, travel short distances over wet land and have a wide temperature tolerance (For more info, go to: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/45470.html). They breed prodigiously, have no natural predators in the U.S. and, therefore, have the potential to be extremely destructive. [...]

DEC anticipates treating the entire area in one day. Because no native species of fish were re-stocked in the upcoming treatment area, few if any are expected to be killed. Animals without gills will not be impacted. Rotenone is an extract from several different tropical plants and breaks down rapidly after application with no lasting toxicity.

DEC is committed to restocking the area with fish after it is treated. The Department also plans to stock Ridgebury Lake this coming fall. Additional fish will also be stocked in Ridgebury Lake through a commitment of $10,000 by the Department. A mixture of species including largemouth bass, black crappie and minnows will be stocked to restore these waters with a healthy assemblage of fish for the future.

Read the press release a link.


Over time, garlic mustard loses its toxic edge

garlic_mustardCHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Like most invasive plants introduced to the U.S. from Europe and other places, garlic mustard first found it easy to dominate the natives. A new study indicates that eventually, however, its primary weapon – a fungus-killing toxin injected into the soil – becomes less potent.

The study, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is one of the first to show that evolutionary forces can alter the very attributes that give an invasive plant its advantage. In fact, the study suggests the plant's defenses are undermined by its own success.

Garlic mustard comes from a family of smelly, sharp-tasting plants that includes cabbage, radish, horseradish and wasabi. Unlike most plants, which rely on soil fungi to supplement them with phosphorous, nitrogen and water, garlic mustard gets by without the extra help, said Richard Lankau, a postdoctoral researcher at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) at the University of Illinois. Lankau led the study with INHS plant ecologist Greg Spyreas.

"For whatever reason, these plants just don't hook up with the soil fungus," Lankau said. Instead, garlic mustard produces glucosinolates, pungent compounds that leach into the soil and kill off many soil fungi, especially those native to North America. This weakens the native plants. As a result, garlic mustard now grows in dense patches in many North American woodlands, its preferred habitat. Those patches are often devoid of native plants.

Lankau began the new study with a seemingly obvious question: Once garlic mustard has vanquished most of its competitors, why would it invest as much in maintaining its toxic arsenal? He predicted – correctly, it turns out – that levels of glucosinolates in the plant would diminish over time.

"When you're in a situation where the only thing you're competing with is other garlic mustard, it may be that making lots of this chemical is not a very good idea," he said.

Thanks to a study of historic herbarium records conducted by co-author Victoria Nuzzo, of Natural Area Consultants, N.Y., the researchers had access to a 140-year record of the age of garlic mustard populations across the eastern half of the U.S. The team collected garlic mustard seeds from 44 locations, grew them in a greenhouse and tested glucosinolate levels in each. Those tests found that older populations – those that have been present in an area for more than 30 years – produced lower levels of the fungicidal compounds than those that got their start less than two decades ago, Lankau said.

Genetic studies suggested that these patterns were the result of natural selection. That is, the plants that produced less of the toxin were more likely to survive and reproduce in older populations.

The researchers then grew the garlic mustard in soil from native woodlands. After a time, they removed these plants and potted native trees in the same soil. The trees did best in pots that had held plants from older populations of garlic mustard, indicating, again, that the plants' toxin output had diminished over time, killing less of the fungus on which the native plants relied.

To determine if the decline in glucosinolate production was allowing native plants to return to areas previously dominated by garlic mustard in the wild, the researchers turned to a unique data set available in Illinois. The Critical Trends Assessment Program (CTAP) is a long-term initiative funded by the state Department of Natural Resources and administered by the INHS that monitors the status of plants, birds and insects across the state every five years. The CTAP began in 1997, and so data from the first two sampling periods were used (1997-2001 and 2002-2007)

Because CTAP includes data on plant abundance, including garlic mustard and native plants from across the state, the researchers were able to determine if native plants were declining or advancing in the presence of garlic mustard. Again, they found that older populations of garlic mustard – though still problematic – posed less of a threat to native plants than the newer ones did.

While this study focused on only one plant, the results indicate that some invasive plants evolve in ways that may make them more manageable over time, Spyreas said. This suggests that conservation efforts might be more effective if they focus on the most recently invaded areas, which – in the case of garlic mustard, at least – is probably where the most damage occurs.

This study was funded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The research team also included Adam Davis, of the Agricultural Research Service at the USDA.

Read the story at link.

Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, U. of I. News Bureau. Caption: Adam Davis (left) of the US Department of Agriculture, Illinois Natural History Survey, postdoctoral researcher Richard Lankau (center) and INHS plant ecologist Greg Spyreas found that the invasive garlic mustard plant produces lower levels of a defensive toxin after about three decades in a new location.


Japanese stiltgrass blight?

Russ Richardson is a forester in central West Virginia (WV) who has been involved with fighting the spread of Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) for most of the past decade.

A couple of years ago Russ started to notice that in some places the stiltgrass was dying.

This year in some portions of WV there is a massive die off of stiltgrass with 100% of some populations dying. Russ thinks that it could be a virus of some sort.

Russ has taken many photos of the changes in the stiltgrass plants. When the plants die the thatch is different and the stiltgrass is decomposing much more rapidly than when they go their full life cycle. There are many areas where there will be no seed produced this year.

Samples of the grass were taken to WVU in Morgantown, WV last week to see what was killing the plants.

Thank you for your thoughts or comments.

Russ Richardson, Certified Forester
Crummies Creek Tree Farm
PO Box 207
Arnoldsburg, WV 25234



Job opening for invasive species biologist

This position is with the New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP) in Albany, NY. The NY Natural Heritage Program is a partnership between The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) that facilitates the conservation of rare animals, rare plants, and significant natural communities. The program accomplishes this mission by working collaboratively with partners inside and outside New York to support stewardship of New York’s rare plants, rare animals, and significant natural communities, and to reduce the threat of invasive species to native ecosystems. The program combines thorough field inventories, scientific analyses, expert interpretation, and comprehensive databases on New York’s flora and fauna to deliver high quality information for natural resource planning, land use decisions, and conservation of New York’s biodiversity. The New York Natural Heritage Program is based in the Central Office of the NYS DEC in downtown Albany, NY.


• Graduate degree in science-related field and 3 years related experience or equivalent combination of education and experience
• Experience with ArcGIS core software products
• Experience in natural resources, biology, ecology or related field
• Experience with invasive species issues
• Experience in developing and managing multiple projects

View the notice here.


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