Early detection and prevention of aquatic invasive species

REGION – Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District has been awarded grant funding through Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation to support invasive aquatic species screening surveys at several ponds and river segments in southeastern Vermont. The funding, through DEC’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Program’s Grant-in-Aid grant program, has been awarded for “Southeastern Vermont Aquatic Invasive Species Project,” which will be coordinated and led by aquatic biologist Laurie Callahan.

invasive species
Water chestnut rosette on surface of river. Photo by Laurie Callahan

Most project activities will be paddling events that will occur between July and September of 2019. The paddling events will be open to public participation, mostly geared toward raising awareness about the threat of AIS in the Connecticut River and it’s watershed in southeastern Vermont. Callahan will provide instructions on how to recognize IAS and how to report possible sightings. During the events, participants will perform AIS screening surveys and document their findings. Project sites will range from sections of the Connecticut River in Vernon, Rockingham, Springfield to Weathersfield; a couple of sites along the Black River in Springfield; and two or three ponds in the southeastern region.

Invasive species are one of the leading causes of the loss of native plant species. Their presence and ability to dominate habitats can also have other unfavorable ecological impacts, along with substantial economic impacts.

Invasive Eurasian milfoil has been known to be at sites along the Connecticut River for almost 20 years. Curly leaf pondweed and European water nymph, additional IAS, have also been found at some of those same locations.

Starting in 2013, there has been a yearly manual harvesting effort to remove any water chestnut plants found in that area of the river in Vernon and Hinsdale. In 2013 almost 700 water chestnut plants were found and removed and, after multiple annual visits, in 2018 less than 20 water chestnut plants were found and removed. This site and manual harvesting effort are also part of Connecticut River Conservancy’s and USFWS Silvio Conte Refuge’s cooperators’ Paddle-with-a-Purpose initiative, and will be included in 2019 Southeastern Vermont Aquatic Invasive Species Project activities.

Two other species of invasive aquatic plants occur at sites in the Connecticut River or its watershed in Massachusetts – fanwort and hydrilla. Those are two species, if they are detected early, can be controlled and possibly eradicated by relatively simple techniques. If growth is beyond an early infestation stage, control becomes much more challenging.

For more information about the project and upcoming events, contact Margo Ghia at Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District at ghia.wcnrcd@gmail.com or Laurie Callahan at therivermist@hotmail.com.

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