Invasive species gang up on native crayfish

By NATASHA BLAKELY

Capital News Service

LANSING — Invasive species in the Great Lakes are ganging up against native species.

A new study looking into invasive zebra and quagga mussels’ relationship with invasive rusty crayfish illustrates how the harm they cause together can be greater than either of them alone.

“What we found was that these invasive crayfish are really good at exploiting the resources provided by the (invasive) mussels,” said Mael Glon, who worked on this research while pursuing a master’s degree at Central Michigan University. “I don’t just mean eating them, because they are eating them, but they’re also eating what grows from what’s filtered from the mussels.”

The study was a collaboration between Central Michigan University (CMU) and Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. It tested how the presence of the invasive mussels affected the growth and activity of both the invasive rusty crayfish and the native virile crayfish. The study funded by Michigan Sea Grant found that the mussels’ presence led to increased growth and activity of the invasive crayfish, but not the native ones. Continue reading

Hobbyists not getting “do not release” message

By ERIC FREEDMAN

Capital News Service

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LANSING — A 12-year-old federal program designed to educate aquarium and water garden hobbyists about the risks of invasive aquatic species is falling short in the Great Lakes region, according to a recent study.

Hobbyists’ behavior is of concern because of the danger of intentionally or accidentally spreading an invader. For example, hobbyists may “transport aquatic hitchhikers that could provide a risk of invasion,” the study said.

“Aquatic plants and animals introduced through channels of trade pose a significant threat to Michigan waters,” the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development reported last year. “Invasive organisms available through trade can reach Michigan’s waterways via a number of pathways, including intentional release of pets or plants purchased via retail outlets and escape from private ponds and water gardens during floods or other disturbances.” Continue reading

Converting invasive plants to power plants

By SAM CORDEN

Capital News Service

Scientists [left to right] Drew Monks, Brendan Carson and Eric Dunston use a special harvester to collect cattails in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. Image: Sam Corden

Scientists [left to right] Drew Monks, Brendan Carson and Eric Dunston use a special harvester to collect cattails in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. Image: Sam Corden

LANSING — Researchers working in wetlands in Michigan have a new approach to invasive plants.

Instead of removing plants like phragmites and switchgrass, they harvest them. These plants are a threat to biodiversity, they say, but invasive plants can benefit farmers and even power homes.

Scientists are working in the middle of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge which has 10,000 acres of marshes, bogs, forest and farmland. Everywhere you look, there’s a hawk or a herring. Bushes rustle with rodents, and the air is filled with mosquitoes and a thick humidity. To put the size in perspective, Manhattan is roughly 15,000 acres. Continue reading

Drones may fight invasive species–with cameras

By NATASHA BLAKELY

Capital News Service

Phragmites australis is abundant throughout the Great Lakes region.

Phragmites australis is abundant throughout the Great Lakes region.

LANSING — Invasive plants can grow so thick and tall they hide the world’s greatest Lakes.

“In the lower part of the state it’s pretty bad,” said Laura Bourgeau-Chavez, a research scientist with Michigan Technological University. “We were doing work in Saginaw Bay, and there are kids who live there and they don’t even know there’s water there because the weeds are so tall.

“So they’re unable to take advantage of the fact that they live next to a Great Lake.”

Help is on the way. Continue reading

Invasives will be caught on screen for all to see

By KEVIN DUFFY
Capital News Service

LANSING – Michigan researchers are building a time machine to fight freshwater invasive species.
The project will let them navigate through a 150-year historical collection of plants and animals largely hidden among the storerooms of Great Lakes museums.

A $2.5 million federal grant will help move their collections from cupboards and shelves to a computer database through a process called digitization. Plant and animal specimens will be labeled and photographed for online access.

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This digitized hydrilla, an aquatic invasive, will be added to the online collection. Credit: University of Wisconsin Herbarium.

A cooperative of 28 Great Lakes universities, including 11 in Michigan, will bypass the need for research staff to spend hours in a collection room pulling samples of North American fish, plants and mollusks.
Continue reading