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invasive species

Invasive hitchhikers found in laker ballast water

Jun 3, 2018
USFWSmidwest / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

A new study may settle a debate over whether ships that travel between the Great Lakes, but don't go into the ocean, can transport invasive species.

These ships, known as lakers, are exempt from regulations that require ocean-going vessels to maintain ballast water treatment systems.

Samples from ten U.S. and Canadian flagged lakers taken during the summer of 2017 in western Lake Superior turned up six species of non-native zooplankton that had not been found in the area previously. 

Lake Michigan
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Lake Michigan’s E. coli and swimming advisories are down from previous years. A recent study says that’s both good and bad.

The study looks at Lake Michigan’s beaches from 2000 to 2014. You can read the full study here.

Chelsea Weiskerger, a PhD student at Michigan State University who co-authored the report, says the lower E. coli numbers mean that beaches are cleaner and safer for recreational use.

The Marmorkreb, or marbled crayfish, can clone itself.
Golden library, courtesy of the MDEQ.

There are five new invasive species on the “least wanted list.”

That’s a list the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers puts together. The leaders of the eight states and two provinces on the Lakes decide which species pose the highest risk.

Sharon / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Have you seen any stink bugs in your house? Over the last few years, the brown marmorated stink bug has invaded the southern half of the Lower Peninsula. The invasive species is more than just a nuisance. It’s a threat to crops, too.

Amy Irish-Brown, a senior educator at Michigan State University Extension, and Jim Engelsma, president of J. Engelsma Orchards, Inc., joined Stateside to discuss the characteristics of stinkbugs that make them so difficult to monitor, control, and predict.

Japanese knotweed is a prohibited invasive plant species in Michigan.
USDA Forest Service

Invasive species tend to do well in new places, and they can push out native species. There’s an assumption that they do better in the same kind of environment as the country they came from.

But scientists have found that some invasive plants can change and adapt to new continents and new climates.

NOAA

 A new report finds governments are not making “sufficient progress” toward insuring the “drinkability, swimmability and fishability of the Great Lakes.”

The report, entitled the First Triennial Assessment of Progress on the Great Lakes, comes from the International Joint Commission, or IJC.   The IJC is a bi-national organization created under the Boundary Water Treaty of 1909.

The triennial assessment released today was required under a 2012 agreement.

The report finds not enough progress in reducing pollutants, including phosphorus which is creating cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Erie.  A bloom three years ago forced Toledo to shut off its water for two days.

Grass carp
USGS

There are several federal agencies in charge of trying to control Asian carp, and they just came out with their latest report to Congress on how those efforts are going.

St. Lawrence Seaway
Kunal Mukherjee / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Even among those who live in the Great Lakes State, there is a lot of confusion about the health of the Great Lakes.

Some believe that because the lakes are clearer than ever, they’re more healthy, when in fact that clarity is due to invasive species killing off the bottom of the food chain.

A grass carp.
Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

Scientists say they've confirmed the discovery of grass carp eggs in a tributary of Lake Erie.

Grass carp are among four species of Asian carp that pose a threat to the Great Lakes. The most feared are silver and bighead carp, which eat plankton and could destabilize food chains. But grass carp are also a problem because they eat huge amounts of valuable plants.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission says state, federal and university scientists analyzed eggs collected from the Sandusky River in Ohio earlier this summer.

They've now concluded they were grass carp eggs.

Invasive plant Japanese stiltgrass
Tom Potterfield / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state Department of Natural Resources says an invasive grass from Asia has been found in Michigan for first time.

The DNR said Friday that Japanese stiltgrass was recently found on private property in Scio Township, near Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County.

The invasive plant originates in Asia and is a thin, bamboo-like grass with jointed stems and well-spaced leaves.

The DNR is asking landowners and others spending time outdoors to be on the lookout for Japanese stiltgrass and to report its location to the state agency.

Bloody red shrimp under a dissecting scope
NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab

Around the Great Lakes, millions of dollars are spent to fight invasive species like Asian carp. But when scientists find a new animal or plant in the area, it’s not always clear if it’s harmful or helpful.

A silver carp laying on top of a cooler.
COURTESY OF ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a long-anticipated study on ways to prevent Asian carp from spreading from the Mississippi River system to the Great Lakes through a manmade canal.

Tammy Newcomb, a senior water policy advisor for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, joined Stateside today to explain which kinds of Asian carp threaten the Great Lakes and why. 

Sea lamprey
Michigan State University

The sea lamprey is an invasive fish with a round mouth like a suction cup. It latches onto big fish like lake trout and salmon, drills its razor sharp tongue into them, and gets fat drinking their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime.

We spend about $20 million dollars a year to control lampreys. One of the main ways people do that is with a pesticide, but researchers are working on other ways to control the invasive species.

Asian longhorned beetle
USDA

Officials want you to help them look for a tree killer.

It’s called the Asian longhorned beetle. It has a shiny black body with white spots, really long antennae, and sometimes, blue feet.

It’s not in Michigan yet, as far as anyone knows. But there are infestations in Ohio.

Courtesy Seth Herbst

A couple weeks ago, this guy in Kalamazoo County sees something a little odd: what looks like a tiny lobster, trying to cross the road.

He takes a picture of it, and sends it to the man who’s been dreading this moment: Seth Herbst, the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the fisheries division at the Department of Natural Resources.

“And as soon as I saw that photo, it was a clear as day that that was a red swamp crayfish,” Herbst sighs. But his day was only going to get worse. Later that very morning, he heard from another person in that same area – Sunset Lake in Vicksburg – who saw a red swamp crayfish walking around in their yard.

This was bad news.

A freshwater jellyfish. This species is clear and smaller than a penny.
Wikipedia Commons

A recent Facebook post has gone viral in the Great Lakes region. A few weeks ago, an Ontario woman posted a video and photo of a small, umbrella-shaped sea creature she says she caught in Lake Erie — a freshwater jellyfish. The video has been viewed more than a million times.

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Creative Commons

A new federal bill up for a vote in Congress Thursday could hurt efforts to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species.

An amendment to a Coast Guard bill would loosen regulations against ballast water discharges by cargo ships. Experts say this is one way that invasive species enter new environments.

Marc Smith is Regional Conservation Director for the National Wildlife Federation. He says the harm from invasive species is well known.

Center for Lakes and Research / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Volunteers will help monitor several Michigan trout streams for the invasive New Zealand mudsnail.

The tiny snail made its first Michigan appearance in 2015, when it showed up in the Pere Marquette River. Since then, it's been spotted in the Boardman and Au Sable rivers.

They reproduce in great abundance and gobble food needed by the native invertebrates that are food for trout and other fish.

Courtesy of Scott Brown

Michigan has the largest population in the world of starry stonewort, an invasive macroalgae that stifles native plants and fish. 

Starry stonewort loves the clean, clear, and calcium carbonate rich waters of Michigan’s inland lakes. It grows in dense mats which can range in thickness from a few inches to a little over six feet.

US Forest Service

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan agency is seeking public comment on a proposed quarantine of an insect from Asia that has caused the death of millions of hemlock trees across North America.

  The Holland Sentinel reports hemlock woolly adelgid has been detected in three counties in western Michigan in the past few years.

Joe Connolly / Cornell University

There’s a new creature in the Great Lakes and it has “cyclops” in its name.

It’s called Thermocyclops crassus. It’s a kind of zooplankton.

Elizabeth Hinchey Molloy is with the EPA’s Great Lakes Program Office. She says it's extremely small.

“It’s less than one millimeter, so smaller than the dot a pencil makes,” she says.

Allyse Ferrara and Doug Stange pose with an alligator gar.
Courtesy of Allyse Ferrara

It has scales so tough Native Americans once used them as arrowheads.

It can grow longer than a horse, and it loves to munch on Asian carp.

It's the alligator gar!

This ancient fish is found in the south, but they're being restocked in rivers and lakes as far north as Illinois in hopes they might control Asian carp and, in turn, protect the Great Lakes. 

Sea lamprey
USFWS Midwest / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing to wage battle against invasive sea lampreys in a stream near Alpena.

Sea lampreys are eel-like creatures that attach themselves to other fish and suck their blood. An adult can kill around 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime.

Officials plan to use a chemical treatment to kill sea lamprey larvae in Long Lake Outlet between June 27 and July 1.    

A closeup view of spotted wing drosophila, collected by researchers near Traverse City.
Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center

A pesky insect that loves to invade fruit has found its way to northern Michigan’s cherry orchards. Scientists have had their eye on spotted wing drosophila since it arrived in the U.S. from Asia in 2008. 

A coffee leaf infected with Hemileia vastatrix, or coffee rust
wikimedia user Smartse / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

For many of us, the day doesn’t really start until we polish off that steaming cup of coffee.

But a fungus called "coffee rust” is putting that luxury in jeopardy. It’s attacking coffee plants across Mexico and Central America, and in recent years has caused more than $1 billion in crop losses and cost thousands of workers their jobs.

Two University of Michigan professors have been studying coffee in Mexico for nearly 20 years. They want to understand just how this fungus spreads and how best to shut it down.

Susan Ellis, USDA APHIS PPQ / Bugwood.org

It's called a swede midge.

A tiny insect that has the power to cause some big problems for farmers. And now this pest has turned up on several organic farms in Sanilac County.

Zsofia Szendrei is a Michigan State University associate professor who specializes in arthropod farm pests.

She joined us today to talk about the scope of the midge population and what's at stake for Michigan's vegetables. 

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

This week, the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to write new rules for the ballast water in ships.

Four environmental groups sued the EPA over its current ballast water rule.

Invasive species can get into the Great Lakes in ballast water. Salties are ships that cross the ocean, and lakers are ships that travel only within the Great Lakes. In the decision, the judges criticize the EPA for exempting lakers from certain regulations. 

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

There are more than 180 species in the Great Lakes that are not supposed to be here.

Euan Reavie is a researcher with the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

“Duluth-Superior harbor is the most invaded freshwater port in the world,” Reavie says. “This is kind of the end of the water road for a lot of ships that come in here.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The spotted wing drosophila is a nasty invasive fruit fly that's turning into a nightmare for Michigan berry growers.

Blueberries and cherries are major cash crops in the state.

Kevin Robson is a horticulture specialist with the Michigan Farm Bureau. He says the fly showed up in Michigan five years ago.

Rebecca Williams/Michigan Radio

Invasive species love to sneak a ride on boats.

There are more than 180 exotic species in the Great Lakes, and we help move them around.

Jo Latimore is an outreach specialist with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.

“Research has shown that boats and trailers moving from one lake to another are the number one vector, the number one pathway of invasive species moving from one water body to the next,” she says.

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