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.


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