Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012 8) Controlling invasive species

We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast! 

Invasive species pose some serious threats. They can displace native fish and wildlife and change native habitats, harming fish, wildlife and plant resources. Invasive species can also pose a risk to human health. In 2012, the Service worked to reduce the impacts that invasive species are having across the Northeast Region. A few projects that we worked on this year:

The first collection of hydrilla verticillata
in Tonowanda Creek.  Credit: USFWS
In September, staff at the Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office discovered hydrilla verticillata, a highly invasive aquatic plant, in the New York State Canal System in Tonawanda, N.Y. Hydrilla crowds out waterweeds and other essential plants, slows water flow and can clog lakes and rivers, enough to even eliminate swimming or boating. The pest is confirmed within one mile of the Niagara River, and thus the Great Lakes. The extent of its possible impacts to the Great Lakes remains unknown, but monitoring elsewhere suggests the plant can become quite a nuisance in waters up to 25 or 30 feet deep. The Service’s Lower Great Lakes office is leading a rapid assessment team of state and federal agencies to determine the actual reach of the plant in the Tonawanda Creek and Niagara River corridor, which will help establish potential response options.  

Galerucella beetles helped control invasive purple loosestrife in seven Northeast states in 2012.
Credit: Katrina Scheiner

At the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex, biologists reared between 17,000 and 33,000 Galerucella beetles to control purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), an invasive wetland plant. The beetles feed on the leaves of purple loosestrife and reduce the growth and reproduction of the invasive plant. Purple loosestrife can lead to a decrease in plant diversity, resulting in a loss of wildlife diversity. Working with state partners and other organizations, Galerucella beetles were also released in six other Northeast states, including New Jersey, where the beetles were released in bog turtle wetlands.

Sea lamprey wound on an Atlantic salmon.
The sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) is a predatory fish that attaches to a host fish and feeds on it. Native to the Atlantic Ocean, a single sea lamprey can impact 40 or more pounds of fish in its life as a parasite. The Service's Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Resources Office continued to evaluate and manage sea lamprey in Lake Champlain through state partnerships with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. A number of techniques are used before determining an appropriate control strategy in a particular area. After permits are granted, control strategies are planned in detail among all three partners. The evidence of success is visible during pesticide treatments, but ultimately realized through decreased wounding rates and a healthier fishery.

Learn more about invasive species


  1. It is getting harder and harder to find a landscape that is not yet infested with invasive plant species. Just down the street from my home in northern Vermont, a drainage ditch along Vermont highway 2A is among the many source locations now extant for purple loosestrife.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Alan! Because of our wildlife responsibilities, the Service is very concerned about the impacts that invasive species are having across the nation. Invasive plants and animals can have many impacts on fish and wildlife resources, including degrading native habitats and competing with our native wildlife.

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