August 31st, 2016 by admin
August 31st, 2016 by IISG
This story originally appeared on the Illinois Natural History Survey website.
When clearing out the foliage from an aquarium or backyard water garden this fall, keep water hyacinth and other invasive plants out of streams, rivers, and other waterways.
Water hyacinth has been described as “the world’s worst aquatic weed,” lovely in the garden, but a nuisance in the river, according to Andy Casper, director of the Illinois River Biological Station of the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois. At this time of year, the plant can be spread easily.
“Water hyacinth is the aquatic version of kudzu,” Casper said. “It grows faster than any other plant competing with it, quickly taking over a pond or river-bed.”
As the plant spreads out over a water surface, it blocks the sun, so native plants can’t survive. Fish that once hid amongst the underwater plants to hunt for their prey and young fish that hide from predators experience a changed habitat.
Additionally, in the fall as the water hyacinth dies, it sinks to the river bottom, decomposes, taking the oxygen out of the water in the process. Too little oxygen can lead to large fish kills in the winter when oxygen is naturally in short supply.
Deliberately dumping water hyacinth plants in the waterways will cause the plant to spread, as well as composting plants too close to a river, stream, or drainage ditch. Backyard flooding can also cause the invasive plant to spread into nearby surface water areas.
In one case in which plants spread, an individual composted water hyacinth plants on a pile at the edge of a yard located close to the river. The result was a big pile of water hyacinth down river, Casper said.
“All it takes is one good growing season, and the plants take over,” he said.
In a survey of the entire Illinois River from Hennepin, Illinois to Joliet, Illinois by airplane and boat, INHS staff discovered 15 individual water hyacinth beds in the river. In addition, fish surveys also showed that whole water hyacinth seeds were present in the digestive tracts of carp, indicating a threat of dispersal of the seeds to other areas. Seeds were present in 27 percent of the digestive tracts of the common carp examined, regardless of their proximity to water hyacinth beds.
For proper disposal of water hyacinth, place plants in a plastic garbage bag and throw them away. Keep all plant parts away from waterbodies because the seeds are tiny and can be missed by the naked eye.
Water hyacinth is an economically important plant for the water gardening industry. For this reason, the sale of water hyacinth has not yet been prohibited by the State of Illinois, as the debate continues on whether it survives a cold winter, according to Pat Charlebois, INHS aquatic ecologist. Many states, and the City of Chicago have prohibited the sale of this plant.
Water hyacinth is just one of many invasive aquatic plants that should not be discarded in waterways. Hydrilla, a formerly common aquarium plant, is another plant that carries a financial toll when it spreads uncontrolled. Plants such as these clog waterways, impeding boat navigation. With government cleanup, millions of dollars may be spent, and recreational areas may be closed, reducing recreation-based incomes.
“Hydrilla is such an aggressive plant and spreads so quickly that it can take years to completely remove it in lakes and rivers,” Charlebois said. “Because of this, the State of Illinois has an early detection and rapid response plan in place in case hydrilla shows up in an area.”
Charlebois and colleague Greg Hitzroth, INHS outreach specialist, are seeking to change the behavior of people who purchase and use plants for outdoor water gardens and indoor aquariums, encouraging them to dispose of all aquatic plants in sealed plastic bags in the trash. Consumers can find a list of Illinois’ invasive plants at TakeAim.org. The State of Illinois regulates some plants, but others, which are not regulated, can be just as much of a nuisance.
Consumers often look to retailers for advice on which plants to purchase and how to care for and dispose of them.
“We partner with retailers, educating them not only on which species should not be sold, but also giving them alternatives,” Hitzroth said. “We have had success with this effort because most retailers want to do the right thing.”
There’s a loophole in these efforts, though.
“A huge market for aquatic plants is offered for sale online, which can be difficult to regulate,” Charlebois said. “This is a sticky wicket because retailers in another state may not know which plants cannot be sold or shipped to customers in Illinois.”
Charlebois and Hitzroth have been working with wholesalers, retailers, scientists, hobbyists, consumers, and others and attending hobbyists’ tradeshows to create outreach material that aims to prevent the spread of aquatic invaders in trade.
They also worked on a statewide campaign about invasive species. Part of that effort is the Release Zero campaign, which aims to provide suggested alternatives to release plants based on published guidelines for teachers and water garden hobbyists from the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force.
More information about aquatic invaders in the market place (AIM) can be found at TakeAIM.org. Alternatives to the release of aquatics in trade can be found at ReleaseZero.org.
December 17th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Illinois, home to 25,000 acres and more than 29 actively managed water bodies, now displays over 120 signs bearing the Be A Hero—Transport Zero™ (BAH) message. The change from the older “Protect Your Waters” signage grew out of the recent statewide adoption of BAH as the primary invasive species awareness campaign in Illinois.
Illinois law was changed on January 1, 2013 to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic plants and animals by boats, trailers, and vehicles.
Dan Grigas, a fisheries ecologist at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, was heavily involved in getting the signs installed with the help of Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The signs also serve as an important reminder to boaters to follow the law that makes it illegal to leave a waterbody with aquatic plants or animals attached to a boat or trailer.
“We’re trying to keep everybody on the same message,” Grigas said. “And now that there are more signs in places where there’s boater access, people won’t be able to say to law enforcement, ‘I didn’t know.’”
In 2013, Pat Charlebois, IISG aquatic invasive species coordinator, and her team developed the campaign that encourages recreational water users to take simple steps—remove, drain, and dry—after a day on the water.
An IISG survey of boat show attendees found that people who have heard these messages are more likely to take action to prevent the spread of invasive species.
“We’re excited that DuPage has joined the campaign in such a big way,” Charlebois said.
“We gladly welcome new partners to Illinois’ Be A Hero campaign—terrestrial and aquatic!”
September 9th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
This has been a good year for Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. Working with our many partners, big projects reached their culmination, in some cases providing researchers and decision makers new ways to access data. And the spotlight was turned on Lake Michigan for research and education. Here are10 important stories from 2015.
The year started with big research news that southern Lake Michigan has high concentrations of plastic microfibers, which are likely from clothing that sheds in the wash. This news was picked up by media outlets around the world, including the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Guardian, and the Chicago Tribune.
2015 saw the release of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy
, which laid out a plan to reduce the flow of nutrients down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. This strategy was developed with input from a range of stakeholders, including government agencies and agricultural producers.
Be a Hero
is now the primary invasive species awareness campaign in Illinois. Recreational water users have heard this message, but now the campaign provides easy tips to help water gardeners, teachers, and aquarium hobbyists curb the spread of aquatic invaders. Plus, Be a Hero provides guidance to hunters, campers, and hikers to prevent the spread of species that threaten habitat on land.
The Grand Calumet River
in Indiana just keeps getting better. Another section of this long polluted waterway has been cleaned up through Great Lakes Legacy Act funding and that of many local and state partners. Remediation of the Kennedy to Cline Avenues section led to the removal of 1.1 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment.
Twice this year, it was Lake Michigan’s turn for ongoing projects that rotate yearly around the Great Lakes. First, the Lake Michigan Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative
(CSMI) brought together agencies and scientists to study the nearshore environment, which ultimately will help inform management decisions. CSMI is part of a larger binational effort to advance Great Lakes monitoring and research.
Second, this was the year for the Shipboard Science Workshop
on Lake Michigan, in which 15 teachers spent a week aboard the U.S. EPA R/V Lake Guardian
working with researchers and learning about Great Lakes science.
IISG has developed new tools to help scientists enhance their research and help decision makers, and others make informed choices. Great Lakes Monitoring
is a web application that provides the means for environmental data from across the Great Lakes region to be just a click away.
For communities looking to set water prices smartly, the Northeast Illinois Water and Wastewater Rates Dashboard
allows them to compare rates with communities in the region that have similar characteristics. Setting the right price for water is the first step in managing water supplies sustainably.
In our latest issue of The Helm, we report on a tool under development for critical facilities in Cook County to reduce flooding impacts
. Through answering a series of questions, facilities managers can assess how the building might be vulnerable to flood damage, and how this risk can be addressed.
Finally, IISG installed a second buoy
in the waters of Lake Michigan. This one is off the shores of Wilmette, Illinois, joining the first one in the Indiana waters near Michigan City. These buoys provide key information to the National Weather Service, researchers, boaters, anglers, and beach goers alike.
As we look forward to 2016, we thank partners, stakeholders, and many others that we worked with and supported to achieve noteworthy goals.
May 7th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
With the boating season winding down for the year, Clean Boat Crew (CBC) volunteers and site leaders can take a deep breath knowing they engaged a record number of boaters, anglers, and other water recreationists this year to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).
The CBC reached 4,431 water-lovers — 25 percent more than last year’s all-time high of 3,519 — at boat ramps and docks in 10 locations in Illinois and Indiana. The crews were out from Memorial Day weekend to August 9.
The program in its fifth year continued to educate about ways to prevent the transfer of AIS from one waterbody to another through simple cleaning techniques outlined in the Be a Hero – TransportZero™
- Remove plants, animals, and mud from all equipment
- Drain all water from your boat and gear
- Dry everything thoroughly with a towel
The crews distributed 8,000 pieces of outreach materials not only at busy marinas, but at several summer events: Gary’s Clean Water Days Festival, the Big Bass Bash, Hammond Marina’s Venetian Night, the Geoffrey Morris Memorial Fishing Tournament at North Point Marina, and Harbor Days at North Point Marina.
“The program continues to be well-received by the public, and more and more people recognize the message. But there’s still a lot of curiosity about it, which leads me to conclude that there’s still work to be done,” said Sarah Zack, an IISG organizer of the program.
April 27th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
INVASIVE SPECIES EDITION—Where we take a moment to explore the species that threaten the Great Lakes region.
What was originally seen as a decorative and easy-to-maintain aquarium plant is now one of the most noxious weeds in the U.S. Sold under the name “Indian star-vine” in the late 1950s, Hydrilla verticillata was first introduced after live samples were shipped from Sri Lanka to a Florida aquarium dealer. More than half a century after careless disposal into Florida’s waterways, hydrilla can now be found throughout the south and along the east coast, with populations extending inland to the Great Lakes region. Isolated communities have also been found in Idaho and Washington.
This spread is not surprising since hydrilla is unusually hardy and versatile. It can grow in as little as a few inches of water or as much as 20 feet. It requires very little light to thrive and is just as happy in a nutrient-rich environment as one deprived of nutrients almost all together. It can even grow in slightly salty conditions or in water as hot as 81°F. And while it can spread through seeds, hydrilla is also able to grow from stem fragments as well as tubers that can lie dormant for up to four years. Taken together, it’s little wonder that this perennial is found on every continent except Antarctica.
Hydrilla’s unique biological characteristics give it a leg up over many native plants in the Great Lakes region. For example, its early sprouting season and ability to grow rapidly leaves less light for natives later in the spring, making it harder for them to grow once they begin to sprout.
These same characteristics also make it a nuisance to other aquatic wildlife and humans. Growing as long as 30 feet, hydrilla vines form dense mats that alter the water’s pH and oxygen levels, which in turn makes it difficult for some fish species to reproduce and grow. These mats can also impede irrigation, hinder recreation, and clog water intakes to power plants.
Efforts to contain hydrilla have been historically cautious out of fear that the robust plant may mutate or develop a resistance to chemical herbicides—a fear that was realized when fluridine-resistant hydrilla was found in Florida. Today the Asian hydrilla leaf mining fly, weevils, and even the invasive grass carp are used to manage hydrilla invasions. These and other methods cost states millions of dollars a year.
In recent years, Illinois and Indiana have banned the sale, barter, and transport of hydrilla. Water gardeners, aquarium hobbyists, and others can learn how to recognize the plant—and distinguish it from the invasive Brazilian elodea—with our species WATCH card.
We’ll have more species spotlights on aquatic invaders throughout May in honor of Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Week.
April 14th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
The Wonder Lake Master Property Owners Association is reminding boaters, anglers, and water skiers to remove, drain, and dry after a day on the water to prevent the spread of invasive species. These Be a Hero—Transport Zero™ steps can now be found at 14 boat ramps around the Illinois private lake.
The signs were installed during the annual spring cleanup, one of many events hosted by the Wonder Lake Sportsman’s Club. And it’s just the latest effort designed to raise awareness of aquatic invasive species and how they spread.
The recent surge of outreach at Wonder Lake is largely driven by concern over invasive plants like Phragmites, a species that’s spreading quickly across the Great Lakes region. Plant life along the lakeshore is limited now, but an ongoing dredging project is expected to change that.
Randy Stowe, the lake manager, wants to make sure that the species that move in don’t pose a threat to habitats and recreation.
“We’ll be reaching out to those who own the land along the lake to educate them about invasive plants—how to recognize them, and what to do if you find one,” said Stowe. “We’re really trying to stay ahead of things.”
Learn more about how you can fight the spread of invasive species at TransportZero.org.
***Photo credit: Wonder Lake Sportsman’s Club
January 27th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
Last weekend, high school anglers from across the state gathered at central Illinois’ Clinton Lake to battle for one of the top honors in competitive bass fishing—the Big Bass award. But the teams participating in the Illinois Bass Fishing Club High School Open walked away with a lot more than awards and prize bags. The 150-plus competitors and coaches also left with “how-to” tips for stopping aquatic invasive species (AIS) in their tracks.
AIS prevention has become a fixture at this annual tournament, one of few in the state that allow students to hone their skills and learn about ways to carry their love of bass fishing into college. During the tournament’s four-year history, IISG specialists have joined teams at the Mascoutin Recreation Area to talk about the threat of invasive species and what anglers can do to halt their spread. Frequent announcements from Illini Bass Fishing Club members each year also remind students and parents alike of the importance of “leaving the lakes better than we found them.”
“No one cares more about Illinois’ fisheries than fishermen,” said Luke Stoner, former Illini Bass Fishing Club president and tournament director. “It’s our job to keep them as healthy as we can, and that includes fighting the spread of invasive species.”
This is not the only event where conservation has taken center stage. In fact, in the last decade, groups like the Shawnee MuskieHunters and Illinois Bass Federation have expanded their interest in casting technique, water safety, and fishing etiquette to become leaders in invasive species prevention.
Tournaments and club events give young anglers a chance to practice easy steps that prevent AIS from hitchhiking to new habitats and wreaking havoc on food webs and recreation. For example, removing plants, animals, and mud from all equipment, draining all water from your boat and gear, and drying everything thoroughly with a towel after a day on the water will help keep waterways clean and healthy. Throwing any removed plants and unused bait in the trash is also a simple way to join the fight against aquatic invaders.
“To be really effective, these practices have to become routine—the first thing you do after leaving the water,” said Sarah Zack, IISG’s aquatic invasive species outreach specialist. “That’s why it is so encouraging that Illinois anglers and boaters are learning these practices early and are being encouraged to share them with their friends and family.”
Learn more about IISG’s invasive species prevention program, Be a Hero – Transport ZeroTM, at TransportZero.org.
November 5th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Managing aquatic invasive species is no easy—or cheap—task. Plants and animals spread to new regions through a variety of routes, many of which involve human activities like fishing, boating, and gardening. Coupled with the fact that there are hundreds of new species poised to thrive in Midwestern environments, it is very difficult for natural resource managers to get a jump on these invaders.
But all that may be changing in Illinois due to a new database cataloging the presence of non-native species across the state. Created at Loyola University Chicago by then-graduate student Abigail Jacobs and ecologist Reuben Keller, the database brings together animal and plant sightings collected by the U.S. Geological Survey, Field Museum, Illinois Natural History Survey, and many other organizations and researchers. Its more than 20,000 records makes it one of the most comprehensive AIS databases in country.
The size and detail of the database reveals previously-unknown patterns in the movement of invasive species that will help natural resource managers better focus their control and monitoring efforts.
“We now have maps showing the number of AIS in each county and showing where species tend to be first recorded,” said Keller. “These are really useful for determining where managers should focus on controlling existing invaders and where efforts should go into monitoring for new invaders.”
“The database will make it easier to connect with audiences by talking about how the specific waterways and habitats they care about are being affected by invasive species,” said Pat.
***Photo: Purple loosestrife is one of many invasive plants cataloged in the database.
In Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, invasive species prevention is taking on a new look. To prevent the spread of the invasive invertebrates while a local harbor undergoes renovations, officials have adopted the Be a Hero – Transport Zero logo and slightly modified the message to encourage those involved in the reconstruction to follow a few easy before moving all docks and other infrastructure.
Closer to home, the outreach campaign developed by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is also expanding to include hunting, hiking, and other terrestrial pathways. Posters asking customers to “join the fight” can be found in outdoor supply shops in several Illinois cities, including Springfield. The message also made an appearance at this year’s state fair in August.
When it launched last year, Be a Hero – Transport Zero became the primary invasive species prevention message in Illinois. It’s simple call for boaters, anglers, and other recreational water users to “remove, drain, dry” before leaving a waterbody has been featured in magazines, broadcast on radio and television, and wrapped into outreach programs like Clean Boats Crew.
To learn more about aquatic invasive species and what you can do to prevent their spread, visit our invasive species page.