Beautiful Pawtuckaway faced with milfoil challenges

By Amy Miller

It was an exquisite day at Pawtuckaway State Park. I was circling Horse Island by kayak with my son, my third time paddling since waking that morning on the shores of Pawtuckaway Lake. Earlier I had come across a single loon, happily swimming past my oar. Now, as the woven gold sunset intensified behind the hills of southeastern New Hampshire, we came across a family of five loons all drifting calmly toward their nighttime concert. We also, less pleasingly, came across signs warning us of “Exotic Milfoil Spread.”Pawtuckaway Lake 2

Back on land, I checked out what was going on with this invasive plant that chokes natural vegetation in ponds and lakes across New England. Turns out Pawtuckaway had been free of this harmful intruder until last year. At that point, a small clump of milfoil was seen between the campsites of Horse Island and the houses across the inlet.

Pawtuckaway State Park is a jewel tucked into the countryside just a short drive from many large population centers. On any sunny weekend in summer, Pawtuckaway’s small beach is packed to capacity with people barbecuing, swimming, boating or just plain hanging out with their families. The much quieter campground down the road is likely to have every one of its 195 sites filled and its dirt roads bustling with youthful bikers spinning their wheels until it’s time for s’mores.

NH DES Kayak covered with milfoilPawtuckaway Lake is a 784-acre body of water in the Lamprey River Watershed. For years it has battled periodic bacteria overload from geese, development and general runoff. But until last year’s infestation, milfoil has not been a problem.

Unfortunately, efforts to get rid of the milfoil last year were not successful. Despite divers from the state Department of Environmental Protection removing the plants, the milfoil was back to the same spot this year, and even more widespread.

Fortunately, the lake has devoted friends. The Pawtuckaway Lake Improvement Association, which samples and monitors the water, has been teaching volunteers how to look for and even eliminate the intruder. When the environmental organization noticed last year that there was some milfoil in the South Channel of the lake, they began an inspection and education program.

Because the plant grows so rapidly and easily, the association is pleading for residents to carefully inspect their boats. Volunteer and paid Lake Hosts are trained to inspect boats entering the water and training materials can be found as well at at the NH Lakes web page.

To protect Pawtuckaway before it is too late, the association has asked residents to take a few particular steps like cleaning, draining and drying boats that have been in other waterways. A picture on the association web page shows bushy branches and leaves that are unnaturally bright green, especially the younger plants. Milfoil_in_Flower_small

But unless it is a floating fragment, the association recommends boaters leave it in place and report the finding to them. Floating plant fragments can be removed and disposed of in zip lock bags. The association also asked homeowners to check the lake bottom as far from shore as possible and as often as possible, especially on sunny, calm days when visibility is good. And residents willing to do a bit extra are invited to train as weed watchers.

The markers my son and I saw were there to outline where the milfoil was found. All boating, paddling or swimming was discouraged in that area. Even small pieces of milfoil that break off from the larger plants can drift and easily take root, quickly overwhelming a water body, making water activities impossible.

Luckily, my son and I turned around when we saw the sign, there to help protect the waters from any further spread of milfoil.

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Amy Miller works in the office of public affairs at EPA New England.

http://www.pawtuckawaylake.com/59-editorial-section/427-milfoil-alert-what-you-can-do-to-save-pawtuckaway

https://nhlakes.org/education/lake-host/

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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Non-Native, Invasive Species for Dinner? Bring Out the Melted Butter!

By Marcia Anderson

Recently, I discovered some really tasty invasive species on the dinner menu in lower Manhattan. Many non-native species can be really good eating if they can be caught and properly prepared. There is an innovative movement for eating invasive species taking place and they are showing up more and more on restaurant menus.

In 2014, 350 chefs and culinary professionals attended the 6th Annual Chefs Collaborative Summit in Boulder, Colorado. They collaborated on how to incorporate invasive species into menus, among other topics.

Consumption is not a quick fix or silver bullet for the problem of invasive species, but along with integrating other management measures, we could all be part of the solution. There is growing evidence that systematic removal of invasive species can be effective and that native species can recover if populations of invasive species are reduced. Invasive species are one of the top drivers of biodiversity loss, and there are plenty of recorded extinctions because of them.

How about Asian carp fritters as an appetizer or lionfish tacos?

Asian carp Photo: WVDNR.gov

Asian carp
Photo: WVDNR.gov

Asian carp are a delicacy in China and are threatened in the Yangtze River. Asian carp include four different species – the silver, bighead, grass, and black carp. These fish were brought to the United States primarily by catfish farmers in the 1970s to control algal blooms in aquaculture ponds. They are voracious eaters in dozens of waterways including the Mississippi River and some tributaries. Because they compete with some native fish, they are throwing off the local ecosystem balance.

Lionfish (Pterois volitans) was on the menu in a restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and found in many other US restaurants. It tastes like snapper or flounder and is light, fluffy, mild, and easy on the palette. The fact that it is not fishy keeps it on the menu. Lionfish are voracious predators of small fish and

Lionfish in the Caribbean. Photo: NOAA.gov

Lionfish in the Caribbean. Photo: NOAA.gov

crustaceans, eating multiple small fish per hour. They are decimating Caribbean island coral reefs, mangrove swamps and sea grass meadows. Their long, venomous spines are deadly to many would-be predators. Lionfish tacos are just one variation found on some Mexican restaurant menus. The conservative organization REEF produced The Lionfish Cookbook.

Years ago, I had my first taste of wild boar (Sus scrofa), or Eurasian wild pig, in New York City. The tenderloins actually tasted better than pork from farm raised pigs. In the wild, boars are ravenous and will eat almost anything, often causing massive erosion. They are dangerous to hunt or even be in close proximity to, as they will bite livestock, pets and children. Ecologically disastrous, wild boar are estimated to cost the Texas economy alone about $52 million in agricultural damage each year, according to Texas A&M University. The University of Georgia chapter of the Society of Conservation Biology regularly sponsors an annual Invasive Species Hog Roast to heighten awareness of the problem.

Northern Snakehead. Photo: Maryland.gov

Northern Snakehead. Photo: Maryland.gov

The Northern snakehead (Channa argus) is considered a delicacy in Chinese and Thai cultures and they really taste like chicken. A native of Asia, the snakehead is scaly, sharp-toothed, and gill fish that has the head of a snake and the body of a fish, which will eat virtually anything in its path, even taking a

bite out of unsuspecting bathers. More people across the US have decided to bite them before they bite us. The northern snakehead is known to the residents of Maryland as a potential ecological threat. Local fish markets sell whole, frozen snakeheads to restaurants and the public. There has been interest expressed in adding the snakehead to the U.S. list of injurious wildlife.

The invasive giant tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) is a delicious crustacean that can grow to be a foot or more long. Just think shrimp on steroids! Their pleasantly sweet taste is why mariculture farmers brought the prawns to the northern Gulf of Mexico from the coasts of Australia and southeast Asia. It is highly likely that the prawns may have started their Gulf invasion after escaping from an aquaculture operation or after hurricanes Katrina or Rita in 2005. Tiger prawn are voracious predators, have become a threat to local crab, shrimp and oyster markets and potentially could spread shellfish diseases to native species. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has advised fisherman that, when caught, these prawns should not be thrown back into any open waters. Either sell them, as they can fetch a higher price than many other shrimp, or throw them in a pot of boiling water for dinner.

American lakes, rivers and offshore waters are filling with destructive fish and crustaceans from other parts of the world that are wreaking havoc on fragile ecosystems. The good news is that many of them are potentially good food sources. Successful and sustained removal will require creative strategies that mobilize a range of stakeholders from consumers to industry.

For more on eating invasive species, go to the University of Vermont Gund Institute’s Eat the Invaders Facebook forum. Read more on what you can do to help manage invasive species from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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Weeds for Lunch: Helping the Environment Bite by Bite

By: Marcia Anderson

Imagine my surprise when I sat down to a nice lunch salad in a trendy restaurant and found garden weeds on my plate! This, I thought, was an interesting opportunity to take a bite out of the non-native species that negatively impact biodiversity.

There is an innovative movement for eating invasive species taking place. They are showing up more and more on restaurant menus. Many non-native species can be really good eating if they can be harvested and prepared properly. In New York City, New Haven, San Diego and Houston, dozens of chefs are putting invasive species on their menus.

There is growing evidence that systematic removal of invasive species can be effective in allowing native species to recover. It is not a quick fix or a silver bullet, but consumption, along with other integrated pest management strategies, could help. And it is surely a way to get people engaged in the problem that is homogenizing the world’s ecosystems. Here are some ways you can lend your palette to the cause of consuming invasive species.

Young sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) leaves are wonderful in salads, adding substance, and a slightly bitter taste when mixed with other greens. The older leaves can also be added to soups and stews. Sow thistle leaves are said to be a good source of vitamins A and C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus and iron. It is edible from the top of its bright flowers to the bottom of its taproot. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it as an herb in cooking and it was a popular food for their livestock. Sow thistle is found throughout North America.

Bonnie Million, National Park Service, bugwood.org

Lambsquarters (Photo: Bonnie Million, National Park Service, bugwood.org)

Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) is one of the most widely distributed plants in the world, tolerant of poor soils, high altitudes, and minimal rainfall and available even in urban areas. It is a versatile weed, with dozens of related and useful species that offer incredible amounts of nourishment to those who harvest it. Lambsquarters are part of the goosefoot family that also includes spinach, red beets, sugar beets and Swiss chard. Follow a New York City recipe story.

Fresh, young dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) greens are a tasty addition to your salad when topped with your favorite dressing. Harvest the greens before the plant flowers, or the leaves will be bitter. Try sautéing dandelions with olive oil, lemon and garlic for a spinach-like vegetable. Herbalists have treated many ailments with the dandelion for centuries.  According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, dandelions are thought to have many nutritional and health benefits.

Dandelions are also commonly used to make wine. In the Middle Ages, my ancestors made dandelions a key part of their morning ritual, in the same way that most Americans start their day with a strong cup of coffee. Dandelion tea is often used as a coffee substitute, made from the root of the dandelion plant.

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, bugwood.org

Autumn olive (Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, bugwood.org)

Did you know that in NYC autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) are abundant and the fruits are exquisite to eat? It is one of the best wild fruits to be found in northern cities, but is also one of the least known. Since 1830, autumn olive have been widely planted on strip mines and highway medians to contain erosion. They are a favorite food for many birds.  But birds, stuffed full of berries, have dropped their seeds as they fly, planting parks and gardens with countless autumn olive shrubs.

For two or three months a year across New York, autumn olives are heavy with scarlet fruit that taste something like a cross between a currant and a pie cherry. Under the silver-green canopy of the leaves, the red autumn olives are clearly identified by their silver-stippled skins. The cool fall air will ripen any bitter tasting fruit. They are delicious eaten out of hand, on salads, or gathered to be simmered into jams or jellies. They can also be dried, like currants or raisins. The juice can also be cooked down and spooned onto seared pork chops. Look for them near the Hudson, in Central Park, on the shores of Jamaica Bay, and on Floyd Bennett Field. Do not confuse autumn olives with Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), whose fruit is a mealy green-yellow drupe and is mealy tasting, at best.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is found in the moist shaded soil of forests, flood plains, roadsides, edges of woods and forest openings throughout most of North America. Garlic mustard pesto is awesome! Look for recipes in Kalamazoo Nature Center’s cookbook, From Pest to Pesto.

Damage from invasive species extends beyond the environment. A Cornell University study estimates that invasive species cause more than $120 billion in economic harm annually in the U.S. alone. No matter where you are located, there are plenty of non-native, invasive species wreaking havoc in local ecosystems. To help bring attention to the problem of invasive species, the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute published Eat the Invaders in 2012 and host a related Facebook forum. So, check out these new menu items and help the environment at the same time.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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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/

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Invasive Species

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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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.