Thursday, June 30, 2011

Water Weeds

Aquatic invasive animals are not the only species that cause problems in Tennessee and the southeastern United Sates. Invasive plants can cause just as many problems. Aquatic plants are introduced outside their native range by being transported on boat propellers and boat trailers or from home aquariums.

There are many ecological and economic problems associated with invasive plants. An overgrowth of an invasive plant can block the sun from native species, causing them to die and reducing plant biodiversity. The corresponding increase in dead plant material at the bottom of a lake or pond can result in the loss of all oxygen in the water as bacteria break down the dead plants. This process is called eutrophication. Invasive plant species can also crowd and degrade bottom habitat for fish and invertebrates.

Many invasive plants, like Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), can form large mats. These mats often jam propellers and ruin boat engines. The mat may grow so thick that the water becomes inaccessible to boaters and swimmers. Plants can also foul anglers’ equipment. Some aquatic invasive plants are vectors for diseases that impact native wildlife.

To prevent the spread of invasive plants, check, clean, and dry. Check all parts of a boat and other equipment for plant fragments. Some of these species, like Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) can reproduce by fragmentation. One small piece of the plant will grow into a full plant. Properly clean all gear before transporting either home or to another body of water. Let all equipment dry for 48 hours before using it another area.

Read the following stories from Chattanooga Times Free Press to learn about what is being done to control populations of invasive plants in local waters.

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