Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31, 2011

West Nile Virus Linked To American Robin

By Kaitlin Vogel

The deadly West Nile virus that has killed five Californians this summer and sickened another 197 began with the infection of a species that thrives around people: the American Robin.

This shocking discovery was made by UC Santa Cruz biologist Marm Kilpatrick. He calls these birds “super-spreaders” because its numbers have increased along with the popularity of lawns at homes, parks and schoolyards. And although the virus can infect a wide range of animals, the robin seems to play the most major role in transmission.

"Just like other invasive species, the virus starts adapting to its new environment," Kilpatrick said, The Oakland Tribune reports.

Research shows after the virus arrived in New York in 1999, it began evolving to create a new and distinct strain. More than 1.8 million people have since become infected in North America, with about 360,000 sicknesses and 1,308 deaths, according to Kilpatrick.

The average American tends not to worry about the outbreak of exotic diseases across the world. However, the nation's leading health officials are becoming more concerned. Migrating birds fly across North America, carrying disease with them. As a result, medical and agricultural inspectors are always on the lookout to spot new threats...

Read the full story at link.


CBS Sunday Morning Features Invasive Species

Watch it here: link


16-Foot-Long Burmese Python Devours 76-Pound Deer

By Katie Kindelan

When it came to eating his last meal, a 16-foot-long Burmese python in South Florida did not mess around.

The humongous, slithering snake devoured a 76-pound female deer right before the snake was captured and killed last Thursday in western Miami-Dade County in the Everglades.

Workers from the South Florida Water Management District came across the surprising, and surprisingly large, discovery on Thursday as they were removing non-native plants from a tree island.

Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission captured and killed the python, one of the largest ever found in South Florida, with a shotgun.

The deer was reportedly already dead when the snake consumed it. Autopsy results showed the python had a girth of 44 inches after eating the deer, found still fully intact, inside his belly...

Read the full story at link


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There's trouble in the bat cave

By Dan Ashe
The Sacramento Bee

It's October, which means that bats are once again having their annual star turn, popping up on classroom bulletin boards and store windows across America. But this year, actual living bats in North America aren't so abundant. They are being decimated by a deadly health epidemic.

The disease causing this die-off is called white-nose syndrome, and it is infecting hibernating bat populations across the Eastern states. In the four years since it was first detected, white-nose syndrome has spread quickly from a cave in upstate New York, the epicenter, to 16 states and four Canadian provinces. It has killed more than 1 million bats.

Biologists in New York first started to notice dead and dying bats with unusual symptoms in 2007. Named for a fuzzy white fungus that often grows on the muzzles, wings and tail membranes of infected bats, white-nose syndrome had never been seen in North America. As winter wore on, more and more bats were affected by the disease, and biologists watched helplessly as the bats prematurely left their caves and died in droves in the ice and snow in the Northeast.

Scientists worked quickly to identify the culprit, a newly found fungus associated with the disease, Geomyces destructans. European biologists noticed that many bats also had a white fungus but they were not dying. Genetic comparison confirmed North American and European fungi were a match.

Scientists hypothesize that the fungus was accidentally introduced into the New York cave by a human, and American bats, unlike their European counterparts, have little or no resistance to the disease.

Exact reasons are unknown. Physical differences may play a role (European bats tend to be bigger). It's also possible that European bats co-evolved with the fungus, allowing them to develop resistance, or that environmental differences cause the fungus to behave differently in North America.

Global travel has made the introduction of foreign plants, animals and pathogens as easy as dropping anchor or hopping on a plane. Importers, anglers, explorers and even gardeners can easily transport invasive pathogens on clothing and footwear, or in shipments of goods...

Read more at link.


ScienceShot: Case Closed on Bat Fungus

by Daniel Strain

A potential bat killer is guilty as charged. Scientists say they've finally fingered the culprit behind the deadly bat disease known as white nose syndrome: the fungus Geomyces destructans. Disease experts had previously cultured the fungus from the white dustings that cover the noses and wings of infected bats. But it wasn't clear whether the potential pathogen was the main cause of the epidemic, which has spread plaguelike throughout the northeastern United States, or just a side effect. In a study published online today [October 26, 2011] in Nature, researchers spread G. destructans samples onto healthy little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), and all developed tell-tale lesions within several months...

Read the full story at link.


Ash borer found in trap in southern Albany County, New York

Associated Press

ALBANY -- State officials say an emerald ash borer has been found in a southern Albany County trap, the first discovered north of a major infestation in the Hudson Valley.

Michael Bopp, a Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman, says Tuesday the destructive beetle was stuck to a purple trap in Selkirk...

Read more at link.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 19, 2011

Hard-to-kill 'beach kudzu' threatens sea turtles, native plants

Funding may doom war on leafy invader

By Bo Petersen

Less than a decade ago, very few people had heard of beach vitex. But it infested the Lowcountry [of South Carolina].

The ornamental planting was carpeting dunes like kudzu, sending runners down the beach where the tide could pick up tens of thousands of seeds and move them somewhere else. Vitex was eroding dunes and killing sea turtle hatchlings and native plants, such as sea oats and seabeach amaranth.

The stuff had infested more than 200 spots along the length of the coast, including the dunes of homes on Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island and Folly Beach. Its purple flowers are gorgeous. It smells like eucalyptus. So even the people who were planting it as dune landscaping had no idea anything was wrong.

Beach vitex is now under control but not eradicated. The task force created to do that job, though, has run out of funding and effectively will cease at the end of the year. In the spring, sprouts will turn up on some dunes, even on beaches where the plant has been cleared. What happens then nobody can say for sure...

Read the full story at link.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 18, 2011

US food supply threatened: Foreign insects, diseases got into US post 9/11

Associated Press

FRESNO, Calif. — Dozens of foreign insects and plant diseases slipped undetected into the United States in the years after 9/11, when authorities were so focused on preventing another attack that they overlooked a pest explosion that threatened the quality of the nation's food supply.

At the time, hundreds of agricultural scientists responsible for stopping invasive species at the border were reassigned to anti-terrorism duties in the newly formed Homeland Security Department — a move that scientists say cost billions of dollars in crop damage and eradication efforts from California vineyards to Florida citrus groves.

The consequences come home to consumers in the form of higher grocery prices, substandard produce and the risk of environmental damage from chemicals needed to combat the pests.

An Associated Press analysis of inspection records found that border-protection officials were so engrossed in stopping terrorists that they all but ignored the country's exposure to destructive new insects and infections — a quietly growing menace that has been attacking fruits and vegetables and even prized forests ever since...

Using the Freedom of Information Act, The Associated Press obtained data on border inspections covering the period from 2001 to 2010.

The analysis showed that the number of inspections, along with the number of foreign species that were stopped, fell dramatically in the years after the Homeland Security Department was formed.

Over much of the same period, the number of crop-threatening pests that got into the U.S. spiked, from eight in 1999 to at least 30 last year...

Read the full story at link.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 6, 2011


The New York State Senate and Assembly passed legislation that will help protect the residents of Staten Island from phragmites fueled fires. The bill (S.4377/A.7463), authored by Senator Andrew Lanza and Assemblyman Michael Cusick, requires the Department of Environmental Conservation to establish a residential fire break permit for the borough of Staten Island, and allows property owners to cut and remove phragmites from their property. The entire Staten Island delegation cosponsors the legislation.

"For too long, DEC was more concerned with protecting these non-native invasive weeds then they were about enacting policies that protect residents and their property,” said Senator Lanza. “This bill will prevent the DEC from thwarting property owners the right to protect their property. Homeowners should not have to ask permission to protect their homes and lives. This bill will empower private homeowners with the ability to remove this dangerous weed from their properties without waiting on the ‘OK’ from DEC.”

“This is common-sense legislation,” said Assemblyman Michael Cusick. “Property owners have the right to diminish fire-starting risks that pose a threat to their homes. This is about the safety of our citizens and our community.”

“DEC policies and the weeds’ propensity for fueling summer fires put the lives and property of Staten Islanders in jeopardy while forcing local first responders to risk their safety to battle these often fierce blazes,” said Assemblyman Lou Tobacco. “By allowing homeowners to remove this hazard from their property and by replanting our wetlands with native vegetation, our legislation will greatly reduce summer fires and protect the lives and property of Staten Island homeowners.”

"I am happy we were finally able to pass common sense legislation to fix a situation that for many residents of Staten Island has become a nuisance and a danger,” said Senator Diane Savino. “Hopefully this legislation will give the residents of South Beach and others around the Island a new tool for fighting brush fires."

Assemblyman Titone said, “During the summer months dangerous brush fires fueled by phragmites are all too frequent on Staten Island. Allowing our residents to create a fire break is a common sense approach to saving homes and reducing risk to our first responders.”

"As a representative of Staten Island's east shoreline, I have seen my district suffer from brush fires as a result of these dangerous weeds time and time again. With this law, homeowners will now be able to protect their property and lives," said Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R,C-East Shore). "This legislation is a true victory for the people of Staten Island, and its passage is a perfect example of the wonderful things that our delegation can accomplish when we work together.

The legislation was signed by the governor on Aug. 3 and expires Dec. 31, 2012.

Read a press release at link.


City Closes Cayuga Inlet in New York Due to Hydrilla

By Laura Shepard
The Cornell Daily Sun

Mayor Carolyn Peterson closed the Cayuga Inlet to all boat traffic and declared a state of emergency on Wednesday in order to eradicate hydrilla, an invasive plant that officials worry will spread to Lake Cayuga, by applying an herbicide.

Hydrilla was first sighted in the inlet on Aug. 4 and has already covered 95 acres of waterways in the City of Ithaca, including Cascadilla Creek and State Marine Park. Some areas are completely covered in dense plant material, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s website.

Shutting down the lake will prepare the inlet for herbicide treatment and help to prevent the plant from spreading, according to Prof. Holly Menninger, natural resources. Menninger is a senior Extension associate and coordinator of the New York Invasive Species Research Institute.

“It’s important to get boats to stop moving, and the only way to do that is to shut down the inlet,” said Roxy Johnston, watershed coordinator for the City of Ithaca.

Johnston said that boat owners inadvertently transport hydrilla by cutting and fragmenting the plant, enabling it to spread faster....

Reactions to the inlet closure were mixed. Some officials said they wish the city closed the inlet earlier.

“It’s about time, isn’t it?” said Wade Wykstra, commissioner of the Board of Public Works and chair of the Ownership Committee for the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Plant, who is also running for mayor. “The use of herbicide makes me nervous, but I also have an idea of the harm hydrilla will do, not just to Cayuga Lake, but to all of the lakes. I know what the herbicide is and, in this case, I trust the judgement of the people who’ve decided to use it.”

According to Johnston, some believe that if the city had taken action earlier, boat owners would not have had to struggle with the decision to voluntarily comply.

Some boat owners will have to reschedule plans to move their boats to marinas at the north end of Cayuga Lake, Menninger said.

“[Hydrilla] affects all of the marinas in town in terms of being able to do business, and not in a good way,” said Dennis Montgomery, the owner of two businesses operating out of the Ithaca Boating Center.

Read the full story at link.