Sunday, December 20, 2009

Week of December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Special Report: The Exotic Menace (Florida)



Bat Deaths: Some Species At Risk Of Becoming Endangered

By RINKER BUCK The Hartford Courant
December 21, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant

Read the full story here.


Law would target boats that spread invasive plants

By Dayelin Roman | Posted: Sunday, December 20, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the story at link.


Massachusetts ALB news

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


No comments: