Monday, November 28, 2011

November 28, 2011

Invasive species are a blight on U.S. landscape

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY

America is under siege — not by a foreign power, but by invasive species slowly working their way across the nation, leaving a sometimes-devastated and often-changed landscape in their wake.

Just as Dutch elm disease from Asia removed an iconic tree from the American landscape beginning in the 1940s, the emerald ash borer may conquer the ash tree in coming years. West Nile virus from Africa killed 57 Americans last year. And work crews often encounter giant Burmese pythons in South Florida.

The latest addition to the list of non-native creepy-crawlies is the hairy crazy ant. The tiny foragers are believed to have come from South America. They first got to the Caribbean in the late 19th century and are working their way through Florida and the Southeast...

Read the full story at link.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 23, 2011

Invasive plants endanger fragile ecosystem

By Joe Roetz, NBC2 Reporter


One of Florida's most dangerous predators doesn't have teeth, claws or the ability to attack people. At the same time, it's strangling native plants and driving away native animals.

Michael Knight and Jonathan Nash are scientists from the Audubon Society who spend their days in the Everglades hunting invasive, non-native plants...

Watch the video here.


Monday, November 21, 2011

November 21, 2011

Ecologist honored for creating Weed Warriors program to fight invasive species

By Associated Press, Published: November 19

ROCKVILLE, Md. — A Montgomery County ecologist is a weed warrior, and she wants you to be one as well.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay have honored ecologist Carole Bergmann for creating the Weed Warrior program, which trains volunteers to eliminate invasive plant species.

County officials say the program has trained more than 700 volunteers, who assist park staff in finding and removing invasive plants. Volunteers receive two hours of field training with a forest ecologist and complete an online course. The training consists of plant identification, removal and control techniques...

Online: Montgomery County Weed Warrior Program

Read the full story at link.


Canadians push back against NY ballast rules

Invasive species: Critics say regulations will hurt Seaway traffic


WASHINGTON — A top Canadian transportation official visits New York today to try to rally opposition to the state’s tough new restrictions on ballast water in the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Pierre Poilievre, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, said he plans to meet with “decision makers” and shipping industry representatives to corral opposition to New York’s ballast standard, aimed at keeping invasive species out of the Seaway but which shippers say could effectively shut down the international waterway.

“We do not believe the Seaway can remain open” if the rules are implemented as planned in 2013, Mr. Poilievre told reporters in a news conference call. “If New York goes ahead with these regulations, the economic damage would be massive”...

Read the full story at link.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 156, 2011

The Norway Maple: New York's Ultimate Weed

Peak season for most foliage may be past but now it's time to take notice of this invasive tree, writes environmentalist David Bedell.

November is leaf season in New York state, and we are all understandably busy with the leaves at our feet. With peak foliage long past, this isn't normally time to take stock of the leaves still in the trees. This week in particular, though, is just right for looking up: What you see will illustrate very clearly how much one invasive tree is impacting our community.

The Norway maple is one of New York's ultimate weeds. Imported from Europe, it is a large tree whose leaves are very similar to the native sugar maple. The Norway maple has, unfortunately, a few characteristics which make it invasive -- destroying native ecosystems, causing trouble in yards and gardens, and creating visual blight. The tree's dense canopy shades out virtually all other plants and its roots secrete chemicals that inhibit the growth of competitors. It spreads prolifically to form pure stands that are completely opague. If you have a spot in your lawn where grass will not grow, there is a good chance the Norway maple growing overhead is responsible. The dense canopy blocks views that a native tree's more open canopy would preserve. And most insidious, the diversity and function of our local natural places is replaced with a sterile monotony...

Read the full story at link.


Maryland investigating invasive Deep Creek Lake aquatic plant

Associated Press

OAKLAND — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday it is taking a closer look at an invasive aquatic plant in Deep Creek Lake that some area residents say could strangle the boating opportunities that make the mountain reservoir a tourist magnet.

Agency officials said at a public meeting that they will assess the distribution of Eurasian water milfoil across the entire lake over the next year and advise property owners on how to limit its effects.

“We realize that there’s been a lot of concern over the last year. People are complaining that it’s exploding over the lake,” said Bruce D. Michael, director of resource assessment.

The weed, called EWM for short, is a green, leafy plant with long, slender stalks. It grows in water up to 20 feet deep and forms dense mats that can entangle swimmers and hinder boats. It first arrived in Wisconsin in the 1960s and has become a nuisance nationwide.

Michael said EWM is found in virtually all Maryland lakes and the Chesapeake Bay but it only becomes a problem when it overruns other types of aquatic vegetation.

When that happens, Michael said, “there is no easy answer. We’re not going to be able to eradicate it.”

Some states have used herbicides to control EWM, and Wisconsin is experimenting with a bug, the milfoil weevil, that eats it...

Michael said a survey of six coves — a relatively small number — showed no expansion of EWM from 2010 to 2011.

Read the full story at link.


Ballast Regulations Pass U.S. House Vote

By Sarah Kellogg

The U.S. House approved legislation today that would establish a national standard for cleaning ship ballast water to kill aquatic invasive species, but environmentalists say the legislation is too weak to prevent new foreign species from invading the Great Lakes.

The ballast water language was included in a measure that would authorize the U.S. Coast Guard through 2014, providing some $26 billion dollars in funding to keep the service afloat over the next three years. The legislation, which was passed on a voice vote, now moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

New Ballast Rule Would Override Stricter Regulations

The ballast water provision would override stricter tribal, state and federal regulations, allowing ships on the lakes to comply with a single national standard rather than having to accommodate a patchwork of more than two dozen tribal and state rules as they move through the Great Lakes waters. Enactment of this legislation would preempt efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard to impose tougher national ballast water rules.

Under the bill, the federal government would adopt the International Maritime Organization's proposed standard, which would require vessel operators to install technology to limit the number of live organisms in their ballast water.

Read the full story at link.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

November 10, 2011

The pollinator crisis: What's best for bees

Pollinating insects are in crisis. Understanding bees' relationships with introduced species could help.

By Sharon Levy

Bees thrum among bright red blossoms on a spring day on Mount Diablo, near San Francisco Bay. Alexandra Harmon-Threatt, a young ecologist just finishing her doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley, lovingly identifies an array of native pollinators. She points out three species of bumblebee, each with a unique pattern of black and yellow stripes. There are bee-flies, members of the fly family covered in soft brown fur, which look and act like bees. Among the native insects are plenty of honeybees (Apis mellifera), the species raised by beekeepers worldwide and introduced to the Americas by English settlers in the seventeenth century. All these insects are drawn to a clump of red vetch (Vicia villosa), an invasive weed. Just down the road is a patch of native lupins, laden with purple blossoms. But the lupins bloom in silence: no bees attend them.

For the past three years, Harmon-Threatt has been studying the ways in which the native yellow-faced bumblebee (Bombus vosnesenskii) uses the plants growing in the area. By capturing bees as they visit plants and then sampling the pollen they carry, she has confirmed in unpublished work that they get much of their food from introduced plants. And by analysing the amino-acid content of pollen, Harmon-Threatt has shown that bee foraging behaviour can be driven by a craving for nutrients rather than an evolved attachment to a specific plant. Although many conservationists assume that introduced plants are always destructive, her work shows that it's not necessarily so from a bee's point of view. What matters to most bee species is the abundance and quality of pollen — and if an introduced plant, such as the red vetch, offers more protein-rich food than the natives around it, the bees will collect its pollen.

Harmon-Threatt is one of a growing group of scientists studying the evolving relationships between native bees and introduced plants. Their work is critical in a world where human actions have dramatically shifted the distributions of plants and are forcing a pollinator crisis...

Read the full story at link.


Officials demonstrate 'Marsh Master,' whack fire-prone phragmites on Staten Island

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- What’s taxicab yellow, weighs 6,000 pounds but can stay afloat in water by virtue of pontoon-like treads and boasts an 8-foot blade?

Apparently the answer to prayers of Oakwood Beach residents and other Staten Islanders, whose homes and property abut fire-prone phragmites that threaten their safety.

Called a Marsh Master, the noisy hunk of aluminum cut a wide swath through 9-foot-high phragmites on dead-end Kissam Avenue today, site of a 2009 Easter Sunday fire that ravaged homes.

The Marsh Master — which Dmytryszyn likened to a "modified lawnmower" — is on loan for two days from the Walkill National Wildlife Refuge in Sussex, N.J., in a city, state and federal government arrangement brokered by Borough Hall for demonstration purposes.

Dmystyszyn said Borough Hall will seek a federal grant in the range of $50,000 to enter into a contract with the National Parks Service to cut down phragmites every three months for the next two to three years in a pilot project, beginning this spring...

Read the full story at link.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November 8, 2011

Integrated Management of Nonnative Plants in Natural Areas of Florida

by K. A. Langeland, J. A. Ferrell, B. Sellers, G. E. MacDonald, and R. K. Stocker

Available here.


Let them eat carp: Illinois to feed pest fish to the poor


What do you do with a bony, ugly, jumpy, fat, fugitive fish that's taken over the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and threatens the ecology of the Great Lakes?

Grind them into fish sticks and feed them to the poor.

That's the latest strategy from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in its tussle with the Asian carp. The department plans to process tons of the fish and donate it to food banks, including the St. Louis Area Food Bank.

"We'll filet them and pull the bones out and turn them into fish sticks, or the equivalent of canned tuna," says Tom Main, acting deputy director at the DNR. "The fish actually taste pretty good."

Main has a lot of dead fish on his hands. The state pays commercial fishermen to pull Asian carp out of the northern Illinois River. It's in effort to keep them out of the canal and rivers that connect to Lake Michigan, which is, so far, nearly Asian-carp-free.

"We've pulled out 150 tons just this year," he says.

Great Lakes states fear that the carp may wreak havoc on the lakes' fishing industry, as its already done on rivers farther south...

Read more at link.


Friday, November 4, 2011

November 4, 2011

Ballast standard up for vote

AP environmental writer

TRAVERSE CITY --Environmentalists tried to rally opposition Thursday to a proposed national policy for cleansing ship ballast water to kill invasive species, contending it is too weak and would pre-empt stronger state and federal rules.

The U.S. House was expected to vote as early as today on the measure, which comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to release its own regulations of ship ballast — a leading culprit in the spread of invaders such as zebra and quagga mussels in the Great Lakes and ocean coastal waters.

Sponsored by Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a New Jersey Republican, the bill would adopt a standard proposed by the International Maritime Organization limiting the number of live organisms that would be permitted in ballast water. Vessel operators would have to install technology to meet the standard.

The shipping industry has pushed for a single nationwide policy, saying the current patchwork of more than two dozen state and tribal regulatory systems is unworkable because vessels move constantly from one jurisdiction to another...

Environmental groups said the bill would prevent the EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard, which is also developing ballast rules, from imposing standards tough enough to make sure no more exotic species reach the Great Lakes.

About two-thirds of the 185 invasive species in the lakes are believed to have arrived in ballast water. They've done billions in damages and are implicated in a variety of ecological problems, from runaway algae blooms to a shortage of plankton crucial for the aquatic food web...

Read the full story at link.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 2, 2011

Bug Battle: An Invasive Plant Now Faces Its Own Attacker

Insects From Asia Munch on Kudzu, a Vine That Has Grown on Some

The Wall Street Journal

GRIFFIN, Ga.—Patti Bennett was looking out the window of her home office one morning two years ago when a swarm of green bugs flew out of the neighboring kudzu patch.

"I thought, 'What the hell is that headed at my house?' It was like a horror movie," says Ms. Bennett, a 53-year-old insurance underwriter who lives about an hour from Atlanta. She killed hundreds of bugs with spray, while thousands more released a musty, bittersweet odor in defense.

She scooped some bugs into a Tupperware container of alcohol and handed them to the local Home Depot specialist, an exterminator and a county agricultural agent.

Ms. Bennett was one of the first people in the South to report seeing Megacopta cribraria, an insect native to Asia that likely stowed away on a flight in 2009 and entered the U.S. through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, entomologists say.

Often a new bug brings nothing but bites and headaches for entomologists who race to limit the damage. But battle lines are being drawn over Megacopta cribraria.

The bug, which has spread from North Carolina to Alabama, kills kudzu—a picturesque but pesky green vine that was itself an Asian import. Over the next decade, the bug could munch up to a third of the eight million acres of the kudzu that blankets the South, says James L. Hanula, an invasive plant specialist with the U.S. Forest Service in Athens, Ga....

Research on the kudzu bug has trumped fire-ant and pecan weevil projects at the quiet Griffin campus. "We have an insect that had not been reported in the New World," Mr. Gardner says. "Many entomologists go through their career and never have that experience."

The bugs have recently started venturing out of kudzu patches as they seek places to hibernate for winter. In Georgia, the bugs have been smashing into windshields, lighting on exterior walls and smelling up soccer games and outdoor parties....

Read the full story at link.


Invasive Plant Distribution Maps - Northern Region

Posted: 02 Nov 2011 12:18 PM PDT

Posted by USDA's National Invasive Species Information Center --

The Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program of the USDA Forest Service has created a series of downloadable invasive plant distribution maps for its Northern Region (includes 24 states). The distributions on these maps portray the spatial distribution of the plants based on observations from the FIA program. Check out our Plant Species Profiles which now includes this data.


Loopholes in the regulation of invasive species: genetic identifications identify mislabeling of prohibited aquarium plants

Ryan A. Thum, Amanda T. Mercer and Dustin J. Wcisel

Biological Invasions Online First™, 31 October 2011


Numerous invasive aquatic species introductions can be traced to the aquarium trade. Many potentially harmful aquarium species may be difficult to identify based on morphology alone. As such, some prohibited or invasive species may be available for purchase if they are mislabeled as species without restrictions. Here we compare molecular identifications to internet vendors’ identifications for accessions of a popular genus of aquarium plants that are difficult to distinguish morphologically (Myriophyllum; watermilfoils). Specifically, we identified the extensive mislabeling of M. heterophyllum—an invasive species in the northeastern and western US. Furthermore, genotypes of M. heterophyllum found in our aquarium survey have also been found in invasive populations, suggesting their potential introduction through escape from aquaria, water gardens, or nurseries. Two additional taxa were sold under incorrect names. Finally, our survey revealed that Myriophyllum taxa present in the aquarium trade generally have poorly known distributions and ecologies, and therefore their invasive potential is unknown. Our study confirms that molecular identification methods can provide a valuable tool to survey commercial pathways for potentially harmful species that are otherwise difficult to identify.

Keywords Aquarium trade – Myriophyllum – Taxonomy – Invasion – Water gardening – ITS


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November 1, 2011

Atlantic Salmon returning to central New York’s Salmon River

Associated Press

PULASKI, N.Y. (AP) — Native Atlantic salmon are once again reproducing in the wild in central New York’s renowned Salmon River, where anglers travel from across North America and overseas every autumn to reel in hatchery-bred Atlantics as well as non-native chinooks, cohos, brown trout and feisty steelheads that swim upstream from Lake Ontario.

After more than a century without a wild-breeding population, this is the third year in a row that researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey have found young Atlantic salmon in the river, said USGS scientist Jim Johnson. When the young mature, eggs will be taken from some to propagate at the USGS research lab in Cortland, he said...

Lake Ontario once supported the world’s largest freshwater population of Atlantic salmon. But the fish vanished in the late 1800s as a result of overfishing and habitat destruction. Government agencies in the U.S. and Canada have maintained an Atlantic salmon fishery by the annual stocking of millions of hatchery fish, but the fish haven’t been able to reproduce in the wild because of a thiamine deficiency caused by eating alewives, an invasive species. Alewives contain an enzyme that destroys thiamine, also known as Vitamin B1.

“After Atlantic salmon and lake trout were extirpated, there was no longer a major predator to eat the alewives in Lake Ontario and the population exploded,” said Fran Verdoliva, Salmon River program coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Pacific salmon — chinook and coho — were brought in from hatcheries to control the alewife population in Lake Ontario in 1968, and brown and steelhead trout were added in the 1970s.

“The sport fishery developed out of what started as biological control of invasive species,” Verdoliva said...

It’s unclear why Atlantic salmon are now reproducing in the wild, but a decline in the number of alewives coupled with a rise in numbers of another invasive species called the round goby may have something to do with it.

“Gobies are high in thiamine,” Verdoliva said. When salmon eat gobies, it may increase their thiamine level, countering the ill-effect of alewives, he said...

Read the full story at link.


See an interesting slide show about Common Reed in the Southeastern US by Bill Overholt et al. at link.