@TODAYshow: Goldfish have taken over a lake in Boulder, Colorado

April 9, 2015

Been seeing tamarisk beetle kills in S. Nev. Updated map also shows ’em converging on New Mexico

February 27, 2015

2014 Tamarisk leaf beetle distribution map via the Tamarisk Coalition

2014 Tamarisk leaf beetle distribution map via the Tamarisk Coalition

From the Tamarisk Coalition website:

Each year, with the help of numerous partners across eleven states and Mexico, TC produces an annual distribution map that notes the presence and absence of Diorhabda spp. from sampling sites across the west. These data in no way represent all locations where the tamarisk beetle may exist, but give a broad perspective of beetle dispersal, providing land managers with information that may help with their integrated pest management plans, restoration strategies, and funding opportunities. If you would like to participate in the program, or help fill any “gaps” you may see in current data on the map, please visit our tamarisk beetle monitoring program page.

For 2014, TC would like to thank more than 30 partners directly involved in providing this year’s data, and more than 60 that have provided data during the span of TC’s involvement in tracking beetle locations across the west. This year showed rapid population expansion in Kansas, Oklahoma, and eastern New Mexico, with a slowing of spread along the Rio Grande in New Mexico, and a “stall” in southern Arizona. This decreased expansion, as compared to movement the last few years, is most likely indicative of the Northern Tamarisk Beetle (Diorhabda carinulata) reaching the southern limits of its physiological constraints along the Colorado, Little Colorado, and Rio Grande. There are three other species of tamarisk beetle in North America, and this year was the first time that all four species were recorded in a single state, New Mexico.

The production of the Annual Tamarisk Beetle Distribution Map is generously funded by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

More tamarisk control coverage here.

Bureau of Reclamation: This map shows where invasive mussels have infested or been detected in our reservoirs or facilities

February 26, 2015

More invasive species coverage here.

2015 Colorado legislation: HB15-1006 (Invasive Phreatophyte Grant Program) makes it out of committee #coleg

February 3, 2015



Click here to read the bill.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

A House panel (House Committee on Agriculture, Livestock, & Natural Resources) unanimously approved a bill Monday to help local communities get rid of invasive species such as tamarisk and Russian olive trees because they drink up precious water.

While it may seem like that’s a good idea, not everyone was enamored with the measure, HB1006, as drafted, because it doesn’t go far enough.

It isn’t good enough just to get rid of the invasive plants, called phreatophytes. Native phreatophytes, such as cottonwoods and aspen, must be used to replace them to guard against erosion and maintain the animal habitat, those opponents said.

“Simply eradicating existing phreatophytes under the term ‘invasive’ implies that we’re going to have additional problems with flooding, with sedimentation, that we’re going to have some of the same problems that led us into the issues we have with tamarisk,” Jennifer Bolton, a lobbyist for the Audubon Society, told the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee.

But other supporters, including the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said the measure is tied to the state’s existing laws dealing with noxious plants.

As a result, the Colorado Department of Agriculture is required to consider the entire health of a watershed, and not merely taking out a few noxious weeds here and there.

Chris Treece, external affairs director for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, said he’s not worried both of those things won’t occur.

“The clear purpose of this bill is to provide the resources to those who have the expertise, who have the programs set up, and would allow for the exercise of those programs,” Treece told the committee. “All of those programs … prioritize the proper removal, the proper weed control, the proper rehabilitation and restoration of the riparian area.”

Regardless, the committee tacked an amendment onto the bill to ensure that awarded grants include not only removing invasive species, but also encouraging the growth of native ones.

Coram also amended the bill to ensure that the funding for the grants — $5 million a year in each of the next five years — will come from severance tax revenues and not from the state’s general fund.

While some Western Slope lawmakers balked at that idea, given recent protestations against a proposal to use severance tax money to help offset any taxpayer refunds, Coram said these grants are for water projects, and that’s where some of the severance tax revenues are intended to be used.

The bill heads to the House Appropriations Committee for more debate.

More invasive species coverage here.

Grand Junction to hire Colorado Youth Corps Association youth to remove tamarisk #ColoradoRiver

January 13, 2015


From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The city of Grand Junction will use the $15,000 it recently received from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) to remove tamarisk and Russian olive from the undeveloped Matchett Park area.

Because the GOCO funds were awarded as part of a Colorado Youth Corps Association program, the city will hire 10 youth ages 14 to 25 to complete the work, which is expected to take two weeks and to begin this spring.

The brush must be removed before moving forward with the master plan for the Indian Wash area, according to city officials.

Mesa County is one of 14 counties throughout the state in which Colorado Youth Corps Association programs will take place this spring and summer.

The projects, which will employ 200 youth from across the state, will enhance Colorado’s trails, parks, open spaces and wildlife habitat.

The overarching goal is to employ youth and young adults to work on critical outdoor recreation and land conservation projects in partnership with local governments and open space agencies.

All projects throughout the state will be completed with GOCO funds, portions of which come from Colorado Lottery proceeds.

For information about the Matchett Park project, call Traci Wieland at 254-3846 or email traciw@gjcity.org.

For information about the youth corps, call Jeff Roberts with the Western Colorado Conservation Corps at 241-1027 or email jroberts@mesapartners.org.

More tamarisk control coverage here.

The BBC looks at Didymo (rock snot)

January 1, 2015


From the BBC (Larry O’Hanlon):

It began with a few small strange patches of slime, clinging to the rocks of the Heber River in Canada. Within a year, the patches had become thick, blooming mats. Within a few years the mats had grown into a giant brownish-yellow snot. And within a few decades this snot had spread around the world, clogging up rivers as far away as South America, Europe and Australasia.

This snot, which is still flourishing today, is caused by a microscopic alga, a diatom that goes by its scientific name Didymosphenia geminata. It has become so notorious it has its own moniker, Didymo. People have been blamed for the sudden, global explosion of this tiny organism, unwittingly carrying the algae from river to river on fishing gear, boats and kayaks. The huge snots it forms have wreaked havoc in waterways, forcing governments and environmental organisations to initiate huge and costly clean-up operations.
But underlying the snots’ strange appearance is an even stranger story. About Didymo itself, about what it is, and how it behaves.

Scientists are now discovering that the sudden appearance of Didymo may not have been so sudden after all.

Its blooms aren’t really blooms – instead they are more of an elixir-induced metamorphosis. And Didymo seems to ignore the usual rules followed by invasive species. It even appears likely that this little diatom may not even be a significant problem itself; instead the brownish-yellow snot it forms may be a symptom of greater changes underway in freshwater systems around the world.

Malignant morphs

The diatom was first spotted in 1988, a few patches of alga within Heber River, in Vancouver Island, British Columbia. By 1989, several kilometres of river were covered in thick mats of the stuff, a surprise since the rare alga was not thought to grow this way. Today, Didymo coats the rocks of streams and rivers around the globe, from Quebec in Canada, Colorado and South Dakota in the US, Poland and Norway in Europe, even reaching Iceland, Chile and New Zealand.

Normally diatoms or other algae bloom when water is rich in nutrients, feeding an explosive increase in reproduction. This has a massive detrimental impact on freshwater systems. After diatoms increase in huge numbers, they also die in huge numbers, creating a surge in decay that depletes oxygen in the water. That suffocates freshwater animals such as insects, crustaceans and fish. Algal blooms essentially create an aquatic apocalypse.

But intriguingly, none of this applies to Didymo. When it creates huge snots, it’s not actually reproducing, scientists have discovered. Instead, it’s morphing, from something benign to something malignant. Each single-celled organism exudes long stringy stalks of mucous that entangle, creating the mats and snots that coat rocks.

“We usually think of massive cell division in a bloom,” says ecologist Cathy Kilroy, of New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd, in Christchurch. “That’s not the case here.”
The water conditions which cause this transformation are also unexpected. “Most algal blooms are attributed to too much nutrients,” explains diatom researcher Sarah Spaulding, of the US Geological Survey in Colorado.
“This is the first time it’s attributed to too little nutrient.”

Didymo, it turns out, only turns malignant when waters are very low in phosphorus, a nutrient often associated with pollution by detergents and fertilisers. It’s this paucity of phosphorous that causes the stringy stalks to grow, not the alga trying to reproduce, says Kilroy, whose experiments helped establish the connection…


Didymo is also pulling a second surprise on scientists. For decades, it was thought that people spread the diatom around the world, the alga hitching a ride on the tackle, nets and wading boots of fishermen, and boats and boating equipment. To counter the threat, river users have been encouraged to clean their gear between visits.

But Didymo may not have been spread across the globe after all. It may have been there all along, believe Brad Taylor of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, US and Max Bothwell of Environment Canada’s Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, BC.

The two diatom researchers have just published a study in the journal BioScience. It reveals fossil and historical evidence that Didymo has long existed on every continent except Africa, Antarctica and Australia. Fossilised forms of Didymo, for example, can be found in at least 11 countries in Europe, across North America and Asia, and in South America.

“The idea that D. geminata is a recently introduced species or a native species expanding its range has been accepted and promoted,” say the scientists in their study. But that idea is wrong, they argue. And it explains why legislation banning certain types of wading gear, thought to help spread algae, has had no impact on the spread of Didymo’s brown snot into new rivers. Because Didymo was already there…

Catastrophic or not?

However, to fishermen and boaters wrestling with Didymo’s brown, or sometimes yellow or green snots, its origins are academic. They want to know what it’s doing to the waterways, whether it’s hurting fish or invertebrates such as the insects on which fish depend.

Even here though, the diatom continues to surprise. Research has shown that the alga boosts numbers of small insects, such as midges and gnats, while reducing numbers of larger insects, such as mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies. “That seems to be a universal change in these streams,” says fisheries biologist Daniel James of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where Didymo appeared in 2002.

James’s research has focused on the diets of freshwater fish, and whether they have less to eat due to the presence of brown snots. But the reduction in larger insects hasn’t so far caused a problem, as the fish are just eating more of the smaller insects.

While the fish of South Dakota seem unaffected by Didymo, which covers around a third of the riverbeds studied by James, he cautions that may not be so in other places, such as in New Zealand. There the snots can blanket the whole river.

However, on the whole, Didymo doesn’t yet seem to have caused the ecological catastrophe that so many feared. “At first there was a huge concern about how Didymo was going to affect fish,” says James. “But it’s more of an annoyance.”

It can cause some problems for irrigation systems, says Kilroy. But its biggest impact seems to be aesthetic. “The main effect of Didymo is how it changed the appearance of rivers and streams,” she says. “It’s not toxic. It really doesn’t do anything really awful.”

The real invaders

So what then, is the real meaning of the Didymo phenomenon worldwide? The true significance of the brown snot taking over the world’s rivers may not be the snot itself, but what it tells us about our own, human impact on freshwater ecosystems.

Bothwell, Taylor and Kilroy have collaborated on new research recently published in the journal Diatom Research. They propose a few mechanisms by which humans may have altered the world’s rivers, creating the opportunity for Didymo.

First, the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal has increased the amount of nitrogen compounds on the atmosphere. That nitrogen causes soil organisms to better use phosphorous in the soil, meaning less phosphorous runs into rivers and streams. That creates the more phosphorus-free water beloved by Didymo.

A second mechanism, which has the same effect as the first, is the increasing addition of nitrogen-rich fertilisers to soils by agriculture and forest managers.

A third involves climate change, and the way it changes the timing of growing seasons and melting of snow. This might somehow also reduce the amount of phosphorous entering freshwater ecosystems, the researchers say, again creating the environment in which Didymo brown snots can flourish.

It could be that different mechanisms are the cause of Didymo blooms in different places around the world, or that they are working in synergy.

But whichever turn out to be at work, the research seems to suggest that we have met the invaders, and they are not brown snot-causing Didymo diatoms. They are us.

More invasive species coverage here.

Quagga mussels seem to have made it downstream of Glen Canyon Dam — John Fleck #ColoradoRiver

November 19, 2014


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