Monday, February 22, 2010

Week of February 22, 2010

Venerable New York IPM Program On the Ropes

Southern IPM blog, "IPM in the South"

The New York IPM Program, one of the first state IPM programs and a model for many others, faces extinction. After three decades of impact developing crop protection methods and teaching farmers how to use them, enhancing environmental protection, human health AND profitability, the program faces the budgetary axe of Governor Paterson, whose new budget zeroes it out.

Read more at link.


Welcome to NEON

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) will collect data across the United States on the impacts of climate change, land use change, and invasive species on natural resources and biodiversity. NEON is a project of the U.S. National Science Foundation, with many other U.S. agencies and NGOs cooperating.

NEON will be the first observatory network of its kind designed to detect and enable forecasting of ecological change at continental scales over multiple decades. The data NEON collects will be freely and openly available to all users.

For more information, go to NEON, Inc.


New paper on evaluating ecological impact of alien plant species

Magee, T., Ringold, P., Bollman, M., & Ernst, T. (2010). Index of Alien Impact: A Method for Evaluating Potential Ecological Impact of Alien Plant Species. Environmental Management DOI: 10.1007/s00267-010-9426-1



Feds outline plan to nurse Great Lakes to health

By Associated Press on Feb 21st, 2010

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The Obama administration has developed a five-year blueprint for rescuing the Great Lakes, a sprawling ecosystem plagued by toxic contamination, shrinking wildlife habitat and invasive species.

The plan envisions spending more than $2.2 billion for long-awaited repairs after a century of damage to the lakes, which hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh water. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the document, which Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, was releasing at a news conference Sunday in Washington.

Read more at link.

View the Action Plan at the Great Restoration Initiative website.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Week of February 15, 2010

Invasive snail may damage diet of rare Everglades bird

February 4, 2010 by Tom Nordlie

snailKnown as the island apple snail, it could threaten an endangered bird, the Everglades snail kite. The kite normally feeds on native apple snails the size of a golf ball. But in recent years, those snails have declined in historically important kite habitat and the birds have fled.

Many kites now dwell at Central Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga, which is filled with the invasive snails. The mollusks grow larger than a tennis ball and kites have difficulty holding them. Researchers warn that young kites there may be malnourished.

The study was published in the current issue of Biological Conservation.

Read more at link.

Photo by: Tyler Jones/University of Florida/IFAS


Closing the carp highway

NY Times Editorial

The Asian carp, a large and ravenous invasive species, has been making a so-far-unstoppable migration up the Mississippi River. It now has come to within a few miles from the Great Lakes. Unless serious measures are taken — soon — it looks as though the carp will likely break through, using canals that connect the river to Lake Michigan.

To stop the carp, the federal government has announced plans to spend $78.5 million for more waterway monitoring, flood prevention, electric barriers and fish-killing chemicals. It also plans to limit the carp’s access to the Great Lakes by opening the canal locks less often to industrial barges.

The governor of Michigan and other officials in Great Lakes states say the plan does too much to protect Illinois’s barge industry and too little to protect the lakes. They say that the Great Lakes’ ecology — and the $7 billion fishing industry that depends on the lakes — already have been damaged severely by invasive species like mussels. They warn that it could be ravaged by an exploding carp population.

Will the carp make the leap and destroy the Great Lakes? It’s hard to know, but the risk isn’t worth taking.

History shows that it never pays to underestimate the ability of aggressive, opportunistic creatures to outhustle competitors. That’s what Chicago did on its way to becoming a great city — by forcing the Chicago River to reverse its flow, carrying sewage and industrial waste away from its water supply, Lake Michigan, and into the Mississippi, never mind the outrage it caused downstream. And that’s the highway the Asian carps are using to flow the other way.

We hope the federal plan works but sympathize with Michigan’s attorney general, who called it a collection of “half-measures and gimmicks.” The problems and pain that canal closings will pose can be fixed or eased if necessary with Washington’s financial help. If the carp takes over the Great Lakes, that can’t be undone.

Read more at link.


Aquatic Invasive Species Workshop

March 30, 2010
9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Location: 7770 Green Lakes Rd., Fayetteville, NY 13066

Presentations include:

1. Introduction to Aquatic Invasive Species and Oneida Lake Issues. Presented by Ed Mills, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, and former Director of the Cornell Biological Field Station at Shackelton Point on Oneida Lake.

2. Invasive Aquatic Macro Fauna. Presented by Tom Hughes, Natural Resource Steward Biologist for New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation.

3. Invasive Micro Fauna. Presented by Geof Eckerlin, a PH.D student at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry.

4. Invasive Aquatic Plant Species. Presented by Kate Haggerty and Chase Chaskey from the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation.

5. Prevention and Management. Presented by Tyler Smith with the Adirondack Park Invasive Species Program.

6. Restoration and Monitoring. Presented by Carl Schwartz with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Cortland, NY.

Registration Fee: $25. Please make checks out to: Sisters of St. Francis.

Lunch is included in price of workshop.

Mail to: Sisters of St. Francis
c/o Sr. Caryn Crook
7770 Green Lakes Road
Fayetteville, NY 13066

Any questions email Sr. Caryn Crook at caryncrook[at]


Monday, February 8, 2010

Week of February 8, 2010

Updated 2/12. Latest news is at the bottom of this week's blog.

Today: Friday 2/12 Asian Carp meeting via live web stream

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, on behalf of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, will hold a meeting in Chicago on Feb. 12 to discuss plans and get recommendations on Asian carp control efforts. The committee will answer questions and listen to comments from the public.

When: 3:00 – 6:00 p.m., Friday, Feb. 12
The meeting will be available via live web stream at:


Invasive Species Thriving in Period of Climate Change

February 5, 2010

According to a study by Harvard University scientists, invasive species appear to thrive during times of climate change, meaning the species could become more prevalent and more destructive.

The study suggests that the invasive species are more apt to thrive because they're better able to adjust to the changing timing of annual activities such as flowering and fruiting.

"These results demonstrate for the first time that climate change likely plays a direct role in promoting non-native species success," says study author Charles C. Davis, assistant professor in organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard.

One of the control elements for the study was a dataset from author Henry David Thoreau, who cataloged the plants of Walden Pond in the 1850s. His meticulous notes, including flowering times and species occurrences, were compared to present-day conditions at Walden Pond, where plants now bloom as much as three weeks earlier due to early spring thaws.

"In the United States alone the estimated annual cost of invasive species exceeds $120 billion," says Davis.

Read more about this story at Environmental News Today:

Latest Invasive Species news - link


Government Weighs Costs of Fighting Invasive Species

1/30/2010, 12:58 p.m. EST
Juliet Eilperin
The Associated Press

(AP), The Washington Post

Which is worse? Closing two locks on a critical waterway that's used to ship millions of dollars' worth of goods from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi basin? Or allowing a voracious Asian carp to chow down on the native fish sustaining a Midwestern fishing industry that nets $7 billion a year?

And how do you put a price tag on the damage caused by the Burmese python and other constrictor snakes that are strangling the precious ecology of the Everglades? [...]

Read more at link.


Obama proposes steep cut in Great Lakes initiative

Press-Gazette Washington Bureau • February 7, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would lose more than one-third of its designated funding under President Barack Obama's 2011 budget proposal.

The president's budget would provide $300 million for the initiative — $175 million less than what Congress approved and Obama endorsed in the Interior Department spending bill for the current fiscal year. That's a 36.8 percent reduction from the original $475 million.

In his explanation of the reduction, Obama pointed out that because the program, which is being administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, is new, most of the money for 2010 had not been obligated and likely won't be spent until 2011.

Read more at link


How Mapping Helps Us Manage Invasive Species, Feb. 21, 2pm

Mapping is fundamental for planning control projects, tracking management efforts and identifying new introductions. Nearly 300 invasive plant species occur in the mid-Atlantic region. A new system, the Early Detection Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS), is available to help invasive plant workers easily report and track invasive plant infestations.

Jil Swearingen has worked as IPM and Invasive Species Specialist for the National Park Service's National Capital Region, Center for Urban Ecology in Washington DC since March 1995. She provides support to the region’s parks on management, prevention and monitoring of pest insects, plants and pathogens. She created the "Weeds Gone Wild" Web site and the WeedUS Database and is co-creator of the Invasive Plant Atlas of the U.S. Jil is lead author of "Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas." The talk, which will be held at Rockville Library, is free and open to the public.

Directions and parking:

RSVP Steve Lonker at steven.lonker[at] or 301-351-6985.

When Sun Feb 21 2pm – 3:30pm Eastern Time
Where 21 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD (map)


Court Upholds New York State's Tough Ballast Water Rules

ALBANY, New York, February 5, 2010 (ENS) - A New York State appeals court has dismissed a challenge brought by shipping interests against the state's new ballast water requirements, intended to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes. In a ruling Thursday, a three judge panel of the court upheld the authority of states to adopt ballast water rules that are more protective than federal standards.

Ballast water is taken on by cargo ships to compensate for changes in the ship's weight as cargo is loaded or unloaded, and as fuel and supplies are consumed.

When a ship takes on ballast water, organisms native to that water are also taken on board. When that ballast water is discharged into another body of water, those organisms are released, often harming the native species of the new ecosystem.

"Today's court decision is an important victory in the ongoing saga to protect our majestic Great Lakes from invasive species," said Marc Smith, policy manager with National Wildlife Federation, which intervened in the case on the side of New York State.

Read more at link.


New York State DEC hiring people to control giant hogweed

DEC Forest Health and Protection is looking to hire up to 12 people to control giant hogweed plants (an invasive plant that can pose a serious health threat to humans) throughout central and western NY on private and public lands. These 5 month positions will start April 26 and will be located out of one of several Regional DEC offices in Regions 7, 8 and 9 (Allegany, Avon, Bath, Cortland, Reinstein Woods (Depew), West Almond).

Six positions are available for the chemical control program. This control method involves applying herbicide to giant hogweed plants at sites 0.6 acres to 5.5 acres in size. These 5-month positions begin in April. We are looking for 2 NY State Certified Commercial Pesticide Applicators (hired as labor supervisors) and 4 NY State Certified Commercial Technicians.

Six positions are available for the manual control program. This control method involves cutting through the root 5" below the soil which kills the plant completely. Root cutting is recommended for sites with less than 200 plants as a very effective, though labor intensive, control method.

Positions available are for Labor Supervisors, Forestry Technicians 1 or Laborers, depending on qualifications.

The contact person for further information is Naja Kraus: (Naja is on maternity leave and will not be available to answer questions until after March 2.)

Naja Kraus
Forest Health & Protection Program Botanist NYSDEC Div. of Lands & Forests
21 South Putt Corners Road
New Paltz, NY 12561
-Tuesdays & Wednesdays-


Cold snap kills pythons, lizards, fish in Everglades

By David Fleshler and Lisa J. Huriash
Sun Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Vultures circled over Everglades National Park's Anhinga Trail, where thousands of dead nonnative fish floated in the marshes.

About half the Burmese pythons found in the park in the past few weeks were dead.

Dead iguanas have dropped from trees onto patios across South Florida. And in western Miami-Dade County, three African rock pythons — powerful constrictors that can kill people — have turned up dead.

Although South Florida's warm, moist climate has nurtured a vast range of nonnative plants and animals, a cold snap last month reminded these unwanted guests they're not in Burma or Ecuador any more.

Temperatures that dropped into the 30s killed Burmese pythons, iguanas and other marquee names in the state's invasive species zoo.

Although reports so far say the cold has not eliminated any of them, it has sharply reduced their numbers, which some say may indicate South Florida is not as welcoming to invaders as originally thought.

Read more at link.


Feds pass on surest solution to Asian carp advance

The Associated Press

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — With marauding Asian carp on the Great Lakes' doorstep, the federal government has crafted a $78.5 million battle plan that offers no assurance of thwarting an invasion and doesn't use the most promising weapon available to fight it off.

The surest way to prevent the huge, hungry carp from gaining a foothold in the lakes and threatening their $7 billion fishing industry is to sever the link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin, created by engineers in Chicago more than a century ago.

The strategy released by the Obama administration this week agrees only to conduct a long-range study of that idea, which could take years. The government also refuses to shut down two navigational locks on Chicago waterways that could provide an easy pathway for the carp into the lakes, although it promises to consider opening them less often.

Instead, the plan outlines two dozen other steps, from strengthening an electric barrier designed to block the carp's advance to using nets or poisons to nab fish that make it through. That's an expensive gamble that may not keep enough carp out of the lakes to prevent an infestation.

Read more at link.


Brief History: Invasive Species

By Laura Fitzpatrick

Not since jaws has a piscine predator caused such a commotion. Asian carp--which grow up to four feet long, feast ravenously on other species' food and have a nasty habit of leaping from the water to wallop unsuspecting fishermen--are threatening to take a bite out of the Great Lakes' $7 billion fishing industry. To reassure jittery local governments, the White House held an Asian-carp summit Feb. 8 and pledged $78.5 million to help keep the fish--brought to the U.S. in the '70s to rid catfish farms of algae--at bay.

Until humans learned how to build ships, the problem of invasive species--nonnative flora and fauna that can quickly overrun an ecosystem--was virtually nonexistent. With the dawn of global trade, transporting critters to new continents was encouraged. Beginning in the 16th century, farmers in North America introduced wheat, rice, soybeans and cattle, among other imports, which today make up huge portions of U.S. food production.

But some arrivals have been devastating. Gypsy moths, brought to Massachusetts in 1869 by a would-be silk farmer, managed to escape and strip the leaves from millions of acres of forest. Descendants of some 100 starlings unleashed in New York City in 1890 now number 200 million, crowding out native birds from coast to coast. The Japanese vine kudzu was transplanted to the U.S. to prevent erosion; it has since run roughshod over 10 million acres (4 million hectares) in the Southeast. Beginning with the Plant Quarantine Act of 1912, the U.S. has implemented a series of laws to strengthen its eco-defenses, many seeking to prevent dangerous wild things from reaching American soil (a more realistic goal than controlling them once they arrive). Worldwide, invasive species cause an estimated $1.5 trillion in damage every year, nearly 5% of global GDP.

Read more at link.


Restoring grasslands at Mashomack Preserve

The Nature Conservancy, Long Island, New York

Only about 8,000 acres of grassland are left on Long Island, about 10% of what existed when European settlers arrived.

Grasslands are obviously threatened by human development but also by nature, as both native and non-native invasive plant species colonize open areas. Invasive species diminish the diversity of a field by crowding out native plants or even changing the environment. For example, oriental bittersweet grows over and smothers nearby vegetation, and studies show Japanese barberry raises the pH of the surrounding soil making it less acidic and therefore inhospitable for many wild species. The loss of native plants sends shock waves through an ecosystem affecting pollinators: bees, butterflies and moths, and their predators: birds, frogs and spiders, and so on up the food chain.

Read more at link.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Week of February 1, 2010

Trends in Invasive Alien Species

A publication on the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (BIP) indicator, Trends in Invasive Alien Species has for the first time highlighted the status and impact of invasive alien species. The publication “Global indicators of biological invasion: species numbers, biodiversity impact and policy responses”, looked at 57 countries and found that, on average, there are 50 non-indigenous species per country which have a negative impact on biodiversity.

The Trends in Invasive Alien species indicator, developed by the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP), forms part of the 2010 BIP indicator suite and falls under the CBD focal area, Threats to Biodiversity. The indicator is comprised of 5 sub-indicators including the newly developed Red List Index (RLI) for impacts of invasive alien species.

View the publication>>

More information on the Trends in Invasive Alien Species indicator>>


Manage pathways to block invasive species.

An excellent article by Dr. Dave Strayer of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies appeared in the Poughkeepsie [NY] Journal on January 31st, entitled: Ecofocus: Manage pathways to block invasive species. This essay is just one in a series from the Cary Institute occurring in the paper every 2 weeks. You may also be interested in checking out the rest of the EcoFocus Archive.

Charles R. O'Neill, Jr.
Sr. Extension Specialist
Cornell University/New York Sea Grant
Director, NY Invasive Species Clearinghouse
Coordinator, Cornell Invasive Species Program


Top 10 Invasive Species

As officials fight to keep the fearsome Asian carp from making its way into the Great Lakes, TIME takes a look at other species that have overstayed their welcome

Asian Carp
By CLAIRE SUDDATH Tuesday, Feb. 02, 2010

They're heeeeerree. Well, maybe. Asian carp DNA — but thankfully, no actual fish — has been found in water samples taken from the Chicago river near a pumping station in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Ill.

In the 1970s, catfish farmers used these hardy foreign carp to remove algae from their ponds. But over the decades, floods that caused catfish ponds to overflow have released the species into the Mississippi river basin. Asian carp can grow to 4 ft. (1.2 m) in length and weigh over 100 lb. (45 kg), and have a tendency to leap out of the water, injuring fishermen and the occasional newscaster. With no natural predators and a predilection for killing off other marine life by eating all the plankton, the carp have overrun the Mississippi and are swimming towards the Great Lakes, the world's largest freshwater ecosystem. An elaborate system of barriers was constructed in 2002 to keep them contained, but the Wilmette DNA sample indicates that the fish have most likely found away around it. In December 2009 the state of Michigan filed a lawsuit against Illinois, which refuses to close the locks along Chicago's waterways. Despite the threat to the multibillion dollar fishing industry, the Supreme Court ruled against Michigan on Jan. 19. Chicago's waterways will remain open for now.

See all 10 invasive species at Link.


Report warns of new species in Lake George, NY

Staff Report
December 22, 2009

LAKE GEORGE -- A new clam and an invasive plant species were found in Lake George, according to releases from the Lake George Association.

Brittle naiad, an invasive plant, was found this summer growing near a launch at Dunham's Bay Marina, the release said. The plant crowds out native plants and creates conditions adverse to fish and waterfowl.

"We don't know the extent of this plant's growth in the lake yet, but it is a safe bet to say that there probably just isn't one," the release states.

The plant, originally from Europe, is tolerant of cloudy water and can grow to around 5 feet in length.

The European fingernail clam was also found in the lake, in Hague and the area of Snug Harbor Marina, but according to the LGA release, it is not of great concern.

A statement released by the association on Tuesday said the small clam was found in Oct. 2007 and 2008 after also being documented in the Great Lakes, the Hudson River and Lake Champlain.

The release states the clam was likely introduced to Lake George by boats.

"There have not been any harmful impacts documented from this species, so it is termed non-native or exotic, and not invasive," the release states. "But that is not to say that we shouldn't keep our eye on it and keep in mind to always clean our boats so as to avoid transporting anything - native or not - into Lake George."