Controlling the spread of invasive plants: a national effort — one-day symposium, Aug. 30

08/19/05

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 — Kudzu, the Japanese vine introduced into the United States in the 1930s to help control soil erosion, worked so well that it eventually became known as the "vine that ate the South." Efforts to control Kudzu and more than 1,100 other invasive plants, which the National Park Service says are overtaking about 4,300 acres of public land every day, cost Americans at least $34.7 billion annually. More than a dozen researchers will discuss strategies for coping with this problem during a one-day symposium, "Control of Invasive Species," on Tuesday, Aug. 30, at the 230th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society. The symposium begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Washington Convention Center, room 209C. Selected highlights include:

Which is worse, creep of the giant salvinia or attack of the killer tomatoes? — Determining which non-native species are the greatest threats has been a challenge. But new online data could help scientists readily assess which of these invaders are the most menacing to native plants and ecosystems. The Invasive Species Assessment Protocol, developed by NatureServe, a nonprofit conservation group, in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy, is an online list of non-native plants. The downloadable list will eventually include information about all invasive plant species now found outside of cultivation in the United States. The protocol evaluates each species in four categories: ecological impact, current distribution and abundance, trend in distribution and abundance and management difficulty. This information could help focus management and funding efforts, assist with planting decisions and make the public more aware of the most problematic species. So far, nearly 400 non-native species have been evaluated. (AGRO 75, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 9:20 a.m.)

Send a strike force deep into the woods — Invasive plants infest about 2.6 million acres within national parks and are a major threat to our nation’s wildlife refuges and national forests. In response, The National Park Service, National Wildlife Refuge System and the U.S. Forest Service have developed plans to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to invasions of non-native plants. These plans include the establishment of Exotic Plant Management Teams (EPMT) by the National Park Service. Modeled after the approach used in wildland fire fighting, these teams provide highly trained, mobile strike forces of plant management specialists who assist in the control of exotic plants. The success of these efforts and the challenges that remain will be discussed in three presentations during this symposium (AGRO 87, AGRO 88, AGRO 90, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 1:05 p.m.; 1:25 p.m.; and 2:05 p.m.)

Even the giant Gila monster wasn’t this nasty — Introduced from Eurasia in about 1917, the giant hogweed is not only an environmental hazard, but poses a public health threat as well. Exposure to its clear, watery sap can cause severe skin irritation, swelling and blisters that can last for several months. Contact with the eyes can lead to temporary or, in some cases, permanent blindness. A survey and eradication program is underway in western Pennsylvania and the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service is encouraging a coordinated effort to eliminate the plant, which can reach heights of 15 to 20 feet, throughout the Northeast. (AGRO 91, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2:25 p.m.)

Sometimes they come back, but not if we can help it — A local success story, the Anacostia Watershed Society — a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to restoring and protecting the Anacostia River — has developed a program to eliminate a dozen non-native plants from the watershed. Using a combination of mechanical controls and a minimal amount of chemicals, the Society hopes to rescue the native ecosystem from these invasive plants. In addition to an intense initial clearing, the program includes annual maintenance to root out plants that may have been missed, plants emerging from seed and invasive plants migrating from other areas. (AGRO 95, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 4:05 p.m.)

Other invasive threats:

  • In California, yellow star thistle, a Mediterranean native, infests more than 20 million acres, or 22 percent of the state.

  • In Florida, hydrilla, an aquatic plant imported from India in the 1950s for use in aquariums, has filled more than 65,000 acres of lakes, rivers, streams, and drainage and irrigation canals.

  • Eurasian water milfoil has spread throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed and to at least 33 states east of the Mississippi since it was first detected on the Potomac River in 1942.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with a multidisciplinary membership of more than 158,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishes numerous scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

— Doug Dollemore

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