Invasive Species

Invasive Species Awareness Week Kicks Off This Week: Get Involved With Long Island Sound Stewardship Days

By Victoria O’Neill and Mark A. Tedesco

Volunteers help remove invasive plants from a Long Island Sound Stewardship Area as part of a volunteer Stewardship Day in 2012. Photo credit: Larissa Graham.

Volunteers help remove invasive plants from a Long Island Sound Stewardship Area as part of a volunteer Stewardship Day in 2012. Photo credit: Larissa Graham.

Look out fellow New Yorkers! We’re under invasion! Invasive species are everywhere.

An invasive species is an organism that is not native to an ecosystem and can have detrimental effects on the environment, the economy, and even human health. Invasive species can be plant or animal, can come in all shapes and sizes, and can be found on land, sea, or air. Human activity is the primary reason for the spread of invasive species. People can accidentally or intentionally spread species through the use of ornamental plants, the pet trade, ballast water in ships, and through cargo.

Luckily, there is a group solely focused on the prevention, eradication, and management of invasive species. The New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse has focused on all things related to invasive species since 2008. To learn more about the Clearinghouse, click here: http://www.nyis.info/?action=identification

Stop the Invasion - Protect New York From Invasive SpeciesThis year, New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse partners are hosting the first annual Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) during July 6-12, 2014. ISAW’s mission is to promote knowledge of invasive species to help stop their spread by engaging citizens in a wide range of activities across the state and encouraging them to take action. Several free events are taking place during the week throughout the state.

Recognizing the threat that invasive species have on the quality of the coastal habitats of Long Island Sound, the Long Island Sound Study (LISS) and its partners, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation and Town of Brookhaven, have stepped up to the challenge and will host three Stewardship Days focused on invasive plant species removal during ISAW. Stewardship Days are volunteer opportunities at LISS Stewardship Sites, sites designated as holding ecological and recreational importance to the LIS estuary. LISS Stewardship Day events during ISAW will take place on July 10 at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook, NY, and July 11 and July 12 at Caumsett State Park in Huntington, NY. Our target species will be Perennial Pepperweed at West Meadow Beach and Swallowwort at Caumsett State Park. Aside from invasive species removal events, upcoming Stewardship Day events this year will include beach clean-ups, native planting, and native seed collection events.

Calling all New Yorkers, near and far, to action against these invaders! Grab your gardening gloves and favorite trowel and join us at one of our ISAW events! To find out more about the LISS Stewardship Day events during ISAW and to register for the events, visit the LISS website:  http://longislandsoundstudy.net/2014/06/volunteer-stewardship-days-this-july/

To find out more about other ISAW and ISAW events in other areas, visit: http://www.nyis.info/blog/

About the Authors: Victoria O’Neill is the New York Habitat Restoration Coordinator for the Long Island Sound Study. She works for the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission and is housed in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Bureau of Habitat Protection in East Setauket, NY.

Mark Tedesco is director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Office. The office coordinates the Long Island Sound Study, administered by the EPA as part of the National Estuary Program under the Clean Water Act. Mr. Tedesco is responsible for supporting implementation of a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound, approved in 1994 by the Governors of New York and Connecticut and the EPA Administrator, in cooperation with federal, state, and local government, private organizations, and the public.  

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Invaders in the Great Lakes

By Marguerite Huber

Smaller zebra mussels cover a larger native mussel

Zebra mussels cover a native mussel. Image courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

I grew up in Chicago, where Lake Michigan, or simply “the lake” as we locals refer to it, is a part of everyday life. I swam in it. I ran next to it. I drank the water from it. I even paddle boarded on it.

As fond as I am of Lake Michigan, it and all the other Great Lakes are facing a big challenge. They have been invaded by more than 190 species of aquatic plants and animals not native to the area, and at least 22 fishes and 16 aquatic invertebrates pose a high risk of invading the Great Lakes in the near future.

These invasive species can be introduced deliberately or accidentally through ballast water discharge from commercial vessels, recreational boating and fishing, and pet aquarium releases. These species cause significant ecological and economic impacts in the Great Lakes. For instance the cost to the Great Lakes region from invasive species is over $200 million dollars annually!

EPA researchers have been studying how to monitor and detect aquatic invasive species through two different studies in the Duluth-Superior Harbor area, the largest Great Lakes commercial port and one under intense invasive species pressure. A Great Lakes-wide early detection program is required by 2015 under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

The goal of the research was to evaluate sampling designs that would help develop an efficient early-detection monitoring program for invasive species. To do so, researchers conducted intensive sampling to create a data set that could be used to explore different monitoring strategies.

One study concluded that species detection can be enhanced based on sampling equipment and habitat, making it an important step towards improving early detection monitoring. They found the most efficient strategy was to sample the mix of habitats or gear that produce the most species, but to also sample across all habitats.

In this study, researchers found high occurrences of certain invasive species such as zebra mussel and Eurasian ruffe.

In another study, researchers focused on determining the effort required for early detection of non-native zooplankton, benthic invertebrates, and fish in the Harbor. To do so, the research team tallied and identified roughly 40,000 zooplankton, 52,000 benthic invertebrates, and 70,000 fish during sampling.

In the early detection study, the researchers detected 10 non-native fish species and 21 non-native aquatic invertebrate, some of which were new detections for the Great Lakes. The central finding was that detecting 100% of species is unrealistic given resource limitations, but monitoring at a level that can detect greater than 95% of the species pool is possible. At this level of effort, there is better than a 50% chance of finding a very rare species, such as one that was recently introduced.

Overall, EPA’s invasive species research is yielding a substantial advance in the ability to design monitoring and early warning systems for aquatic invasive species. Together with prevention methods, that should go a long way in maintaining the biological integrity and sustainability of the Great Lakes. That would be welcome news for anyone who relies on “the lake” for their livelihood, their drinking water, or for a place to paddleboard.

 

About the Author: Marguerite Huber is a Student Contractor with EPA’s Science Communications Team.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

What to Say about Ramps

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Amy Miller

No matter how much you beg, I won’t tell you where I found them. I won’t even direct you to the state where the ramps were growing. Ramps colonies are top secret. This recently trendy delicacy, which may be described as wild leek, is not always easy to find.

You can make ramp tarts, ramp grits, fried ramps, or ramps & eggs. They can be roasted sautéed, pickled, or puréed. They can be put raw in salads or stir fried.

Ramps, officially allium trioccum, are part of the lily family, which includes garlic, leeks, and onions. Slightly resembling scallions, they have a white bulb at the bottom, and below that are the roots. And they are among the first greens available in spring.

No matter where you live in the US, ramps may be growing wild. They’ve been around for a long time in the east, from Canada to Georgia.

Until the 1980s, though, ramps were not part of northeastern restaurant culture. The buzz began in food writing circles, and in 1983, a recipe for a ramp tart and cheddar-enriched ramps grits soufflé appeared in Gourmet magazine.

Now, the spring bulb is threatened with overharvesting. Lawrence Davis-Hollander, an ethnobotanist who lives in the Berkshires, sees a problem so serious he put out a “Ramp Action Alert.” Quebec banned ramp harvesting in 1995 and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park banned harvesting in 2004.

The problem is that overharvesting will reduce sustainability of ramps as well as their ability to reproduce. Even harvesting 25 percent could require 10 years to recover. In 2011, Davis-Hollander estimated over 2 million ramps plants were harvested for culinary purposes.

Wild food specialist Russ Cohen, who also lives in the Berkshires, has noticed whole patches being decimated. He also noticed that when ramp colonies are disturbed, the areas are susceptible to invasive species. Apparently, it’s not hard to wipe out an entire plant species, even one as common as ramps. According to Davis-Hollander, ginseng once was just as common as ramps are now. Yet it’s now virtually extinct from many woods, and generally scarce.

Ramps lovers who don’t want to give up the habit can follow some simple rules from Davis-Hollander: don’t take more than a fifth of the leaves and don’t dig out the bulbs. Also, enjoy ramps you find in woods, but don’t buy them commercially.

In other words, everything in moderation.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, eight chickens, chicken-eating dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Invasive Species

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

By Ashley McAvoy

What do zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), kudzu (Pueraria lobata), and the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) all have in common? They’re all invasive species to North America, meaning they came from somewhere else. You’ve probably heard of at least one of these because of their major impact on our environment. For example, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, there are patches of land that are completely covered by kudzu. Every year when I drive by one of these kudzu clusters, they seem to take over more forest and grasslands. Invasive species beat our native species to food and water and completely change the environment for the worse. They cause a decrease in native species and an increase in erosion. It’s important that we remove invasive species and limit them spreading in our environment before they do more damage.

Ok, so we understand that invasive species are bad, but how did they get here? Usually, they’re released unknowingly. For example, boats carrying zebra mussels on their hulls unintentionally brought them into the Great Lakes. On the other hand, sometimes people bring them in deliberately. Kudzu was introduced by a government-sponsored program to prevent erosion, but as time passed, it became obvious that it worked too well as a ground cover.  The European starling was brought into North America for a completely different purpose. It is rumored that they were released in the late 1890’s in an effort to introduce all the birds mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare.

Regardless of how these non-native species got here, we need to take precautions to prevent a further invasion of our neighborhoods and parks. Take some time to become familiar with the native plants and animals in your area.

  • Learn about what belongs. The more you know about the plants that grow naturally in your neighborhood, the more you can help prevent the spread of non-native species.
  • Plant native species of plants in your garden.
  • Never release unwanted pets into the wild; they can wreak havoc on native plants and animals.
  • Take the Invasive Species Challenge for National Invasive Species Week.

The more we know about invasive species, the more we can stop the ones that don’t belong.

About the author: Ashley McAvoy is an Intern with the Office of Web Communications for spring 2013. She is a double major in Environmental Studies and Hispanic Studies at Washington College.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Showcasing Natives at the Philadelphia Flower Show

By Bonnie Turner Lomax and Nancy Grundahl

It’s once again time for the tradition that is the Philadelphia Flower Show. An annual rite of spring, the Philadelphia Flower Show provides a respite from the mid-Atlantic winter, taking visitors to an indoor retreat of gardens, flowers, and far-away places.  The sights and scents are spectacular!  The theme for this year’s show reflects the “Brilliant” gardens of Great Britain.

"Native plants on display"EPA is once again exhibiting at the show.  Our exhibit is entitled “Before the Invasion.”  To those of us of a certain age, the “British Invasion” may conjure up visions of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and others.  However in this case, the invasion refers to invasive plants.

“Before the Invasion” will showcase plants and flora which are native to the mid-Atlantic region.  What did our forests and wetlands look like before foreign plants were introduced?  Although they may be “Brilliant,” in appearance, many non-natives can be invasive, crowding out the natives and disrupting the local ecosystem.
Our exhibit will give you ideas as to how you might use native plants in your landscape at your home and business.  Native plants are a joy.  Since they have been growing and thriving in the area for years, they are well-adapted to our local soils and climate. They tend to require less care; less water; less fertilizer; and less pesticides.  And many are very beautiful.  It is just that you may have never seen them before.

So even though “London is Calling” you towards exotic and invasive plants, when it comes to landscapes and gardening, the best thing is to “Let it Be” and go natural.  You’ll get a lot of “Satisfaction” and the environmental benefits will be in a word “Brilliant.”

About the Authors:
Bonnie Turner-Lomax came to EPA Region’s mid-Atlantic Region in 1987 and has held several positions throughout the Region.  She is currently the Communications Coordinator for the Environmental Assessment & Innovation Division.

Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy is currently the Web Content Coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Around the Water Cooler: Invasive Species Along for the Ride

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

"Floating dock washes up on the Oregon coast."

Floating dock washed up on the Oregon coast.

It’s been nearly two years since the earthquake and tsunami wreaked havoc on Japan, yet debris and material continue to wash up on the shores of our west coast, even today. Last summer, part of a dock washed up on a state park beach in Oregon, and in December, another dock piece was found on a remote beach in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in Washington.

Invasive species, like seaweed, crabs and other marine animals, attached to this traveling debris and material can cause problems here in the United States.  The wrong invasive species could devastate the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, which is the most diverse coastal ecosystem on the west coast.

Invasive species can disrupt native plant communities and crowd out native species. They can also change the habitat, affecting species in addition to those they may directly displace. Once established in an ecosystem, invasive species are difficult to eliminate.

We won’t know what direct effects these invasive species will have on our ecosystems until we can identify them. Researchers typically wait until the tide goes out to scrape samples off the washed up debris. Of course, that’s time consuming and labor intensive.

But researchers at EPA have been working with other scientists around the world on a technique called DNA barcoding to rapidly and accurately identify species from water samples. Instead of finding and counting species which may not visually be distinct, DNA barcoding relies on identifying species-specific sequences of genes. Scientists and researchers around the world are gathering this information and adding it to a database that can be used to quickly identify invasive species and ways to protect ecosystems.

 Read more about protocols and DNA barcoding here.

 About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry loves water, clean beaches, hot sun and good seafood. She communicates the Safe and Sustainable Water Resources research that EPA scientists and engineers work on so that others can enjoy clean water, clean beaches, hot sun and good seafood, too.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Looking for Sea Monsters

By Phil Colarusso

Tunicates covering native eel grass. Photo by Dann Blackwood.

As a diver for EPA, I am often asked, “what’s the scariest thing you’ve ever seen underwater?”  Most people expect the response to be sharks or stingrays.  They are generally disappointed and perplexed when I say sea squirts.

Let me explain.  Sea squirts, also known as “tunicates,” are seemingly benign-looking gelatinous, filter-feeding animals.  They grow in large colonies or as individuals.  They don’t bite, sting or even generally move, once they have attached themselves to a solid object, like a rock or pier.

So why the concern?  Well, here in the northeast, like many other places in the U.S., we’ve been experiencing an invasion of non-native tunicates.  Mooring lines, piers, boat bottoms, rocks, shellfish, and even eelgrass have been overgrown by various invasive sea squirts.  Anything that does not move quickly is at risk of being engulfed by the rapidly reproducing and growing colonial species of sea squirts.

Sea squirts are prolific filter feeders, processing more water per unit body weight than oysters, blue mussels or quahogs.  Very few animals feed directly on them because they are not a native species.

Our dive unit has been studying the impact of these invasive species on the ecology of coastal salt ponds on Martha’s Vineyard.  We initially became interested in this topic while doing eelgrass restoration work, when we noticed large numbers of eelgrass shoots covered with exotic sea squirts.

Tunicates cover a boat hull. Photo by Dann Blackwood.

As part of our study, we quantified the abundance of invasive sea squirts in a number of coastal ponds on Martha’s Vineyard.  We quantified the short term impact of the presence of sea squirts to eelgrass by measuring plant growth, size and morphology and sugar concentrations (end product of photosynthesis).  Finally, we measured light reduction by sea squirts.

We found that sea squirts reduce the amount of ambient light that reaches the plants by between 70-80 percent.  Plants covered with sea squirts grew at a much slower rate and had fewer leaves per plant, so the presence of sea squirts was having a measurable negative effect on eelgrass.

We recently began a new study designed to look at the impact that sea squirt feeding may have on the normal food web dynamics in these coastal salt ponds. We will be using stable isotopes to construct food webs in a test pond with an abundance of sea squirts and compare that to a comparable pond without sea squirts.

The sea squirts are likely competing with native commercial shellfish species (scallops, mussels, quahogs, oysters) for food.  Our concern is that an explosion in the abundance of the exotic sea squirts could result in upsetting normal food web dynamics, potentially reducing populations of commercially important shellfish.

The scariest things in the ocean don’t always look that way!

About the author: Phil Colarusso is a marine biologist in the EPA Region 1 Coastal and Ocean Protection Unit and a member of the  EPA New England Dive Unit. He’s been with EPA since 1989.

Read more about the latest in EPA scientific diving at facebook.com/EPADivers.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

The Welcoming Coquí

Photo of a coquí frog. Héctor Caolo Álvarez-Photographer

By Lina Younes,

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

For me, there are very few things that make me feel more “at home” when I visit Puerto Rico than when I listen to the melodious voice of a small little frog called the coquí. Call it nostalgia, call it idyllic musings, but when I hear the nocturnal coquí chants I am transported to my youth in Puerto Rico. So, recently when I returned to the island for the first time in nearly three years, I was very excited when I heard a lone coquí welcoming me on the afternoon of my arrival. It is hard to explain to others who have not grown up with that nocturnal symphony, but it filled me with a sense of internal peace in spite of all the surrounding urban activities at that time. I said to myself: “I’m home.”

There are numerous species of these small amphibians on the islands of Puerto Rico which belong to the Eleutherodactylus genus which in Greek means free toes. When I was growing up, the popular notion was that the coquí frog “could only live in Puerto Rico.” However, over the years I have found out that over 700 different species occur in other areas including Florida, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, and even Hawaii.  Yet, in the islands of Hawaii they are an invasive species unlike their Caribbean cousins.

Although the coquí in Puerto Rico seems to have adapted quite well on the islands of Puerto Rico in spite of the urban sprawl, one of the species, the coquí llanero was recently identified by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) as a threatened species in danger of extinction. FWS is currently taking steps to protect the species in its habitat, a wetland in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Although you might not notice it by the abundance of coquí chants at night, there has been a decline in the coquí population over the decades. Some of the coquís have also been adversely affected by a certain fungus that attacks their vulnerable skin.

The song of the coquí has inspired numerous poems, songs, and artistic expressions in Puerto Rico. I love listening to

Photo of a coquí frog. Héctor Caolo Álvarez-Photographer

the coquí chants especially after it rains. You can actually hear distinct voices and calls back and forth as if they are having a conversation. I still remember fondly falling asleep with the lull of the coquí. Hope you can enjoy it one day.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

The Green Monster

By Brenda Reyes

“Mom there is a green monster in the patio.” The loud voices of my 5-year-old and 2-year-old neighbors made me run to the patio to see what was happening next door. As startled as I was, so was their mother and my gardener, who was working on my yard that day. The “green monster” was a gigantic 4-foot green iguana who was climbing on the power and electricity pole between our houses and eating avocados from a tree.

While one might think I live in a rural area, I live less than five minutes away from the CEPD office in a suburban/urban area which is next to Ft. Buchanan, a military facility with lush vegetation. This kind of iguana is also known as Iguana iguana. Native to Central and South America, it was introduced to Puerto Rico in the 1970s as a result of pet trade. It has been threatening native biodiversity and impacting infrastructure, agriculture and human safety for the last decade. There is no management program to control this reptile that is becoming more widespread and dominant in other areas around the island as they have no natural predators. The introduction of exotic species impacts biodiversity.

In urban and suburban areas-like the one in which I live-green areas have enormous economic and aesthetic value. Having these spaces help us maintain and support overall environmental health as humans have long depended on these for recreational and commercial activity. Just like the iguanas, there is a new frog in town menacing native biodiversity: the Cuban Frog. Bigger than our native Coqui and smaller than a regular toad or frog, this species is taking over our green spaces. It was about four months ago that I started noticing that our mixed breed dog, Chocolate, was leaving small dead frogs by the side yard. While frogs are deadly for dogs, I saw Choco playing with these almost daily. On a closer inspection with my 6-year old son, we discovered this was a different kind of frog. Three weeks later an article in a local paper identified this amphibian as the new invasive species.

Like iguanas and frogs we have also seen monkeys roam near our yard. They are known to steal fruits from the trees in the houses. We also have South American macaws that fly every morning making a lot of noise. Their population has grown in the Guaynabo area for the last 13 years. While they are quite a spectacle with their bright yellow and blue feathers, they have taken over the top of palms where other native birds also make their nests.

EPA belongs to the National Invasive Species Council, a working group of 13 federal agencies designed to prevent and control invasive species. For more information of what invasive species are in your area and what is being done about them please visit http://www.invasivespecies.gov/

About the author: Brenda Reyes has been a public affairs and community relations specialist out of EPA’s Caribbean Environmental Protection Division (CEPD) office in Puerto Rico since 2002.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Japanese Tsunami Debris and Potential Invasions In Western North America

By Chris Janousek, Melanie Frazier, Henry Lee II

"Floating dock washes up on the Oregon coast."

A large floating dock from Japan recently washed up on the Oregon coast, bringing a host of non-native species with it.

When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan’s coast on March 11, 2011 it resulted in the loss of nearly 20,000 lives and billions of dollars in damage.  One result of this devastation was an estimated 25 million tons of debris, much of which was swept into the Pacific Ocean as the tsunami receded.  The refuse that did not sink formed a floating field that scientists predicted would arrive on the North American coastline in 2013.

One surprising early arrival was a large floating dock that washed ashore June 5, 2012 on Agate Beach, about five miles north of our EPA research lab in Newport, Oregon.

Seaweed and Invertebrates

Invertebrates and seaweeds flourished on the side of the floating dock.

The dock, about the size of four large rental trucks (roughly 20 meters long and six meters wide), was covered with organisms not native to North America, including sea stars, barnacles, mussels, amphipods, and algae.

One organism of particular concern was a ruffled kelp, Undaria pinnatifida.  The species, also known as ‘wakame,’ is a seaweed used in Japanese soups and salads, and is also classified as one of the world’s top 100 worst invasive species by the Global Invasive Species DatabaseUndaria has not become established in the Pacific Northwest, but has invaded coastal waters in California.

Invasive species are one part of EPA’s effort to understand threats to natural ecosystems.  Along with partners from the U.S. Geological Survey, we are building an “Atlas of Nonindigenous Marine Species in the North Pacific” to catalog marine and estuarine invaders in the U.S., Canada, and Asia.

The Atlas will help risk managers assess the likelihood of new invasions by geographic location and species.  This type of information will be an invaluable resource for monitoring the arrival of invasive species from Japan or other parts of the world.

While the dock represents an unusual threat to the outer coast and estuarine ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest, the degree of risk depends to a large extent on the specific Japanese species transported and whether they have already invaded the U.S. west coast.

Biologist shows Japanese kelp

An Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist shows a sample of a Japanese kelp.

Most marine invaders are introduced into new areas of the world’s coastline by ballast water discharged from ships or by transport on boat hulls.  The Japanese dock demonstrates that debris from last year’s tsunami may be a significant additional way for non-native species to arrive in North America during the next couple years.

About the authors: Ecologists Chris Janousek, Ph.D., Melanie Frazier, Ph.D., and Henry Lee II, Ph.D., study the current status and stressors of coastal ecosystems. All three work at EPA’s Western Ecology Division laboratory in Newport, Oregon.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.