A Scientist’s Journey to the Antarctic: A Princeton Hydro Blog Series

A trip to Antarctica has long been at the top of the bucket list for Sophie Breitbart, former Staff Scientist at Princeton Hydro, and her father. Ultimately inspired by the extraordinary spirit of adventure in “South: The Endurance Expedition,” the story of British explorer Ernest Shackleton‘s 1914 attempt to reach the South Pole, the two decided that it was time to make the journey to the white continent. What they experienced was far more than a travel dream fulfilled.

This two-part blog series takes us on an adventure to the southernmost continent and explores how changes to Antarctica’s ecosystem have worldwide impacts.

Part One: Antarctic Adventure

The National Geographic Lindblad Expedition trip began with a flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Sophie and her father met up with the other travelers and an expedition crew that consisted of an exploration leader, eight veteran naturalists, a National Geographic photographer, a Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor, an undersea specialist, a Global Perspectives guest speaker, and a video chronicler.

Ushuaia, Argentina

In Buenos Aires, the group, totaling approximately 140 people, boarded a private charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s southernmost city. After taking in views of the Martial Mountains and the Beagle Channel, which is commonly referred to as The End of the World, the group climbed aboard the National Geographic Explorer ship and set sail for a 10-day Antarctic adventure.

The National Geographic Explorer is a 367-foot expedition ship that accommodates 148 guests in 81 cabins. The Explorer is uniquely equipped with an ice-strengthened hull, advanced navigation equipment, a variety of exploration tools, and vast expanses of windows that provided the ultimate vantage point for spotting dolphins and sea birds as the ship left the Beagle Channel.

Before reaching the Antarctic, the ship would have to pass through the infamous Drake Passage, the body of water between Cape Horn in South America and the South Shetland Islands in Antarctica, where the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern seas converge. Because the currents in the Passage meet no resistance from any nearby landmass, they can be some of the choppiest waters in the world. Luckily for Sophie and the other Explorer travelers, the Drake Passage was cooperative for the most part and the journey through it was relatively smooth. (Editor’s Note: The journey back was another story.)

On day five of the journey, the ship arrived in the Antarctic Peninsula.

“The ice was so shocking and jaw-dropping,” said Sophie reflecting on her first impression of Antarctica. “I had never seen anything like it before. There were so many different shades of blues and whites and countless textures. It was truly incredible to see.”

With close to 24 hours of daylight, the exploration opportunities were endless. Sophie and her father participated in kayaking tours, expeditions on an 8-person zodiac boat, around the clock wildlife watching, and even a few hikes on the Antarctic Peninsula. There they saw indigenous rocks and artifacts, remnants of British research stations from the 1950s, and lots of wildlife, including nesting South Polar Skua Birds, penguins swimming and jumping out of the water, and a playful group of Leopard Seals.

Humpback and Killer whales skirted the ship as well. A Killer Whale research team aboard the Explorer took blow samples, which would be genetically sequenced, and shared  with passengers their aerial imagery findings, which they captured in order to record the whales’ dimensions, family structures, and health. Sophie and her father enjoyed a variety of whale sightings. During one of their kayaking expeditions, a large Humpback Whale surfaced just 10 feet away from them, then swam right underneath the kayaks and resurfaced, showing lots of playfulness and curiosity.

Check out this incredible video showing a fascinating strategy that killer whales use to hunt seals:

While Sophie struggled to choose a favorite moment from the trip, she quickly recalled the memory of kayaking along the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula among a field of stunning icebergs. “They each possess a unique mixture of color, density, shape, and size… like pieces of artwork, truly breathtaking in their composition and enormity.” Another easy highlight: “One day, the captain lodged our ship into an ice floe and we had a cookout complete with BBQ and lawn chairs. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Sophie described this journey as the “most amazing scientific field trip” she’s ever been on. It left her feeling inspired to continue her work as an environmental scientist and acted as a reminder about why it’s so important to continue to be involved with projects that conserve biodiversity and protect water resources.

Check out Part Two of this Princeton Hydro blog series.

 

Sophie Breitbart worked for Princeton Hydro from March 2016 until May 2018, first as an intern and then as a staff scientist. She is now pursuing her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, where she will study how urban development affects the ecology and evolution of interactions between the plant common milkweed, its herbivores, and pollinators.

Volunteers Pitch In at New Jersey’s Thompson Park

A volunteer effort, lead by the Middlesex County, New Jersey Parks and Recreation Department and the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, recently took place at Thompson Park.

Despite the rainy weather, 78 volunteers and members of the Youth Conservation Corps removed litter from the shoreline of Manalapan Lake, repaired fencing, made improvements to the park’s walking trails, weeded and mulched the park’s rain garden and native plant garden, and installed new plants in the rain garden.

The park’s rain garden was originally designed by Princeton Hydro Senior Water Resource Engineer Dr. Clay Emerson, PE, CFM. Rain gardens are cost effective, attractive and sustainable means to minimize stormwater runoff. They also help to reduce erosion, promote groundwater recharge, minimize flooding and remove pollutants from runoff.

By definition, a rain garden is a shallow depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses, and positioned near a runoff source to capture rainwater. Planting native plants also helps to attract pollinators and birds and naturally reduces mosquitos by removing standing water thus reducing mosquito breeding areas.

Rain gardens temporarily store rainwater and runoff, and filter the water of hydrocarbons, oil, heavy metals, phosphorous, fertilizers and other pollutants that would normally find their way to the sewer and even our rivers and waterways.

On the day of the volunteer event, Central New Jersey received 0.44 inches of rain.  “We got to see the rain garden in action, which was really exciting,” said Princeton Hydro Senior Project Manager Kelly Klein, who volunteered at the event.

Volunteers from the following organizations participated:

  • Edison Metro Lions Club
  • Hioki USA Corporation
  • Girl Scout Troop 70306
  • East Brunswick Youth Council
  • Monroe Middle School
  • South Plainfield High School
  • Rutgers University
  • Master Gardeners of Middlesex County
  • Foresters Financial
  • Princeton Hydro

The Middlesex County Parks and Recreation Department’s next public volunteer event is tomorrow (June 2) in Davidson’s Mill Pond Park.

The Princeton Hydro team has designed and constructed countless stormwater management systems, including rain gardens in locations throughout the Eastern U.S. Click here for more information about our stormwater management services.

New Book Aims to Protect and Restore Fish Migrations

Rivers are a critical natural resource and an essential element for the health and survival of billions of people and countless species. Flourishing populations of migratory fish are an important indicator of a healthy, coastally connected river and a robust aquatic ecosystem as a whole. Migratory fish help to maintain a balanced food web, support productive river systems, and provide income for people around the world.

Yet many migratory fish species are severely threatened primarily due to man-made obstacles like dams and weirs, which disrupt the natural flow of rivers and prevent fish migration. When fish can’t reach their habitat, they can’t reproduce and maintain their populations.

Photo Credit: “From Sea to Source 2.0”

A new book, titled From Sea to Source 2.0, explores the challenges that lie behind restoration of fish migration in rivers around the world and provides a practical guide to promoting the protection and restoration of fish migration. The book is a unique collaboration of over 100 international fisheries professionals and supported by river managers, governments, research institutes and NGOs including World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy. Geared toward practitioners, but also a wonderful resource for the general public, the book is comprised of inspiring stories from nearly every continent on the planet. Click here to download it for free.

“Ultimately our ambition is to contribute in a positive way to making a better world and a positive difference for migratory fish, nature and humans on local and global levels by inspiring new initiatives for and with people all around the world,” as stated on www.fromseatosource.com. “Whether the challenge is simply to increase access to spawning habitats through connectivity improvements for salmon, or to maintain the livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people dependent upon fish and fisheries in the great rivers of Asia, Africa and South America, we hoped our book would help to achieve these goals.”

Princeton Hydro’s Dam Removal Expert Laura Wildman, P.E. and Fluvial Geomorphologist Paul Woodworth are proud contributors to the book, helping to write the dam removal chapter, creating a dam removal flow chart for the book, and providing multiple photos utilized in the book. Princeton Hydro is also listed as a contributing sponsor.

“We’re so proud to be part of this incredible project with so many partners globally,” said Wildman. “We envision that this book will provide a valuable resource and inspiration for those in countries and regions where the importance of restoring riverine connectivity is newly gaining momentum. We hope it will help emphasize the importance of finding balanced and environmentally informed solutions when proposing additional utilization of public trust resources such as rivers.”

Approximately 40% of all fish species in the world reside in freshwater ecosystems, contributing economic and ecological benefits and value. It’s critical that we support efforts that aim to protect migratory fish species, reconnect rivers, sustain fish passage, and preserve free-flowing rivers through removing unnecessary dams, reconnecting floodplains, managing our water use, and managing hydropower for sustainable rivers.

Education and awareness building are key first steps in protecting rivers. From Sea to Source 2.0 seeks to inform, educate and inspire those who want to know more about how to meet the challenges of restoring fish migration in rivers around the world.  The book is regarded as a crucial resource in the ongoing fight to protect and preserve the enormous value of our waterways.

Get your free copy here.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of a dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Princeton Hydro Supports Creation of Stormwater Utilities in New Jersey

For Immediate Release: May 15, 2018

PRESS STATEMENT 

On behalf of Princeton Hydro, LLC, a leading water resources engineering and natural resource management small business firm in New Jersey, we support the passing of New Jersey’s stormwater utility creation bill, S-1073. If S-1073 is administered in a responsible manner, we believe that it will enhance water quality and reduce flooding impacts in New Jersey.

Since our inception, Princeton Hydro has been a leader in innovative, cost-effective, and environmentally sound stormwater management. Long before the term “green infrastructure” was part of the design community’s lexicon, our engineers were integrating stormwater management with natural systems to fulfill such diverse objectives as flood control, water quality protection, and pollutant reduction. Our staff has developed regional nonpoint source pollutant budgets for over 100 waterways. The preparation of stormwater management plans and design of stormwater management systems for pollutant reduction is an integral part of many of our projects.

We have seen the benefits of allowing for stormwater utilities firsthand. In Maryland, the recently implemented watershed restoration program and MS4 efforts that require stormwater utility fees have provided a job creating-industry boom that benefits engineers, contractors, and local DPWs. At the same time, Maryland’s program is improving the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, and stimulating the tourism and the crabbing/fishing industry.

New Jersey has the very same issues with our water resources as Maryland. Just like the Chesapeake Bay, our Barnegat Bay, Raritan Bay, and Lake Hopatcong have serious issues with stormwater runoff that is degrading our water quality and quality of life.  Our stormwater infrastructure is old and falling apart, and all stormwater utilities need continual maintenance to save money in the long run.

It is important to point out that this current bill is not a mandatory requirement, and would simply provide a mechanism for various levels of government (county, municipality, etc.) to collect a stormwater utility fee in order to recover runoff management costs.

This bill (S-1073) should not be reviewed only in the context of cost, as this bill meets all three elements of the  triple-bottom line of sustainability; social, environmental, and financial. Allowing stormwater utilities in New Jersey will create jobs, help reduce flood impacts, enhance water quality, improve our fisheries, and preserve our water-based tourism economy. 40 states have already implemented stormwater utilities, and we believe that it is time for New Jersey to join the ranks.

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NYSFOLA Awards Dr. Stephen Souza with Highest Honor at 2018 Annual Conference

The New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) Board of Directors awarded Dr. Stephen Souza, Founder, Princeton Hydro with its ‘Lake Tear of the Clouds’ Award. This award, named after the highest lake in the state, is NYSFOLA’s highest honor. It is only given to a person who has shown the highest dedication to New York’s lakes and watersheds, assisted NYSFOLA in its mission, and produced exceptional performance in his or her field of endeavor.

In bestowing this award to Dr. Souza, NYSFOLA recognizes his accomplishments and efforts in the management and restoration of lakes throughout the State of New York and his support of the initiatives promoted by NYSFOLA. The award was presented at the NYSFOLA’s 35th annual conference, which was held on May 4th and 5th at the Fort William Henry Hotel in Lake George.

During his acceptance speech, Dr. Souza said, “I am truly humbled and appreciative to have even been considered worthy of this award.  In accepting the ‘Lake Tear of Clouds’ Award, I want to extend my deepest thanks to NYSFOLA, the NYSFOLA Board of Directors, Nancy Mueller (NYSFOLA Manager), and all of you here tonight.  It is people like yourselves, who advocate for clean lakes, that have made my career so rewarding. I would be remiss if I also did not take the time to thank my wife Maria and my family for their support over the years and of course the dedicated lake scientists that I have the pleasure to work with day in and day out at Princeton Hydro. That of course includes Dr. Fred Lubnow, who I have had the pleasure of working side-by-side with since 1992, Chris Mikolajczyk and Mike Hartshorne, both of whom are here tonight, and the rest of my Princeton Hydro colleagues.”

Dr. Souza first attended the NYSFOLA conference in 1985, and has been working to assess, restore and protect watersheds throughout the state of New York for over 35 years. Some of the notable projects managed by Dr. Souza over that time include projects conducted at Honeoye Lake, Sodus Bay, Greenwood Lake and Sleepy Hollow Lake. He is currently working with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on a major statewide harmful algae bloom (HAB) management effort.

“We thank you for your longtime support of NYSFOLA and our member lake association, Steve,” said Nancy J. Mueller, Manager. “And, we congratulate Princeton Hydro on its 20th anniversary.”

ABOUT NYSFOLA

The New York State Federation of Lake Associations, Inc. was founded in 1983 by a coalition of lake associations concerned about water quality, invasive species, and other issues facing New York’s lakes. Today, more than 200 lake associations across the state are members of the only statewide voice for lakes and lake associations. NYSFOLA also has corporate members and individual members who support our efforts.

Celebrating Arbor Day with Friends of Exton Park

The Princeton Hydro Arbor Day planting team. Photo by George Tallman

Arbor Day dates back to the 1870’s in Nebraska, when journalist Julius Sterling Morton realized the ecological importance of trees, and proposed that all Nebraskans celebrate by having a day of planting. On April 10, 1872, the first Arbor Day was born. This tradition continued to spread from state-to-state, and after several decades, became a nationwide trend. Almost a century later, President Richard Nixon moved to officially recognize the holiday in 1970. Today, the tradition has spread worldwide, and has played a key role in environmental awareness.

To celebrate Arbor Day 2018, we teamed up with Friends of Exton Park. First, we joined their weekly morning bird walk at Exton Park to look out for spring migrants.  The group of about 25 people spotted some great birds including a Green-winged Teal, Great Blue Heron, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Virginia Rail,  Horned Lark, Yellow Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Carolina Chickadee.  The highlight of the trip was the American Bittern, who was perfectly camouflaged along the pond’s edge.

“American Bittern” by Dana Patterson

After the two-hour bird walk, we got into the Arbor Day spirit and planted 18 native trees and shrubs in Exton Park. Lead by our Landscape Architect Cory Speroff and Senior Limnologist Mike Hartshorne, the team identified the the perfect location for each plant, mostly along the main boardwalk trail leading into the heart of the park.

Overall, everyone had a great time enjoying the beautiful weather and celebrating Arbor Day.  At Princeton Hydro, we always work with our partners and clients to design sustainable landscapes with native plants that will thrive in local ecosystems.  At project sites, our goal is to create thriving habitat for wildlife and restore our natural landscape.  We were proud to sponsor these plantings for the Friends of Exton Park and thank their volunteers for organizing this event.

Enjoy the more photos from our event below. Special shout out to George Tallman of Friends of Exton Park for sharing some of his photos with us too.

 

 

 

 

 

Musconetcong River Volunteer Cleanup

The Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) held its 26th Annual Musconetcong River Cleanup on April 14. Volunteers conducted cleanup efforts at various locations all along the Musconetcong River from its start at Lake Hopatcong down to where it meets the Delaware River. Princeton Hydro, a proud sponsor of the event, has investigated, designed and permitted five dam removals along the Musconetcong River.

Princeton Hydro led a volunteer team near the Warren Glen Dam site and former Hughesville Dam site. The team picked-up garbage along the road and riverbank, and pulled trash from the riverbed. In 2016, we designed and oversaw the Hughesville Dam removal and streambank restoration project, which enabled the return of American shad to the river for the first time in decades.

“We enjoyed the beautiful, warm, and sunny Saturday morning bonding with our Princeton Hydro colleagues and friends, while giving back to the Musconetcong Watershed Association,” said Geoffery Goll, President of Princeton Hydro. “Our successful partnership with MWA on multiple dam removals in critical locations has expedited the restoration and protection of the Musconetcong River.”

MWA hosts cleanups throughout the year. If you have an idea for a volunteer cleanup day, please email info@musconetcong.org.

UPCOMING EVENTS: SPRING UPDATE FROM PRINCETON HYDRO

Throughout April and May, Princeton Hydro is participating in a variety of events focused on conserving, restoring, and protecting our precious water resources.

April 11: New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team 10th Annual Conference

Presented by the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, the 10th Annual New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team Conference is considered the most comprehensive state-wide forum on invasive species. The conference brings participants together to collaborate and address new and emerging invasive species issues from a state-wide perspective, and includes an exhibitor hall, networking opportunities and a variety of presentations and panel discussions on topics ranging from “Rare Bird Conservation” to “Foraging for Invasive Species” to “Herbicide Application Techniques.”

Princeton Hydro, a proud sponsor of the conference, will be exhibiting. We hope to see you there!

View the full conference schedule.

 

April 14: Musconetcong River Watershed Cleanup

As part of the 26th Annual Musconetcong River Cleanup on April 14th from 9 AM – 12 PM, Princeton Hydro will be leading a volunteer team at the Warren Glen Dam site. Friends and family welcome to join us!

For details, visit the Musconetcong Watershed Association’s event page.

 

April 18: The New England Chapter of the American Public Works Association Spring Conference

The New England Chapter of the American Public Works Association (NEAPWA) serves professionals in all aspects of public works and supports the people, agencies, and organizations that plan, build, maintain, and improve communities.

This year’s NEAPWA Spring Conference is being held at the Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, CT. The conference includes a tour of the stadium, an exhibitor hall, educational session, and technical workshops on topics, like “Water System Infrastructure Planning in Response to Drought Conditions,” “Leveraging GIS Technology with Municipal LED Street Lights,” and “Using Infiltration and Inflow to Work Smarter not Harder.”

View the full conference agenda.

 

April 26: Arbor Day Planting and Bird Walk at Exton Park

We’re celebrating Arbor Day on April 26th (one day early) with Friends of Exton Park. First, we’ll be on the lookout for spring migrants during a morning bird walk (8:30 AM – 10:30 AM). Then, we’ll show our Arbor Day spirit by planting a variety of native plants at Exton Park (11:00 AM). We hope you’ll join us!

Click here to RSVP.

 

 

May 4: New York State Federation of Lake Associations Annual Conference

The New York State Federation of Lake Associations will host its 35th Annual Conference at the Fort William Henry Conference Center in Lake George, NY.  This year’s conference, which is titled, “Protecting Our Lakes for 35 Years – Our Past, Present and Future,” will feature a diverse exhibitor hall, networking opportunities, a silent auction and a variety of educational sessions. Princeton Hydro is exhibiting and giving five presentations:

  • Nutrient Inactivation: A Pennsylvania Case Study
  • You Have Your Lake Data, Now What? Creating a Watershed Plan
  • One Watershed, Many Lakes: A Strategic Plan for the Kettle Lakes of Southern Onondaga and Northern Cortland Counties
  • Proactive Management of Harmful Algal Blooms
  • Hydrilla Control in Harveys Lake, PA

Read more.

2018 Watershed Congress Synopsis

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network hosted its annual Watershed Congress event, which is focused on bringing environmental enthusiasts together in an effort to advance the best available information and techniques for protecting and restoring watersheds. The one-day conference combines science, policy, and practical applications into one program that consists of an engaging keynote discussion, exhibits, poster sessions and 21 concurrent presentations covering a broad range of watershed topics.

Princeton Hydro gave two presentations during the event:

Ecology/Management of Cyanotoxin Producing Blue-Green Algae in the Schuylkill River 

Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Programs, presented on the basic ecology of nuisance blue-green algae and how to monitor, manage and prevent cyanotoxins particularly in potable water supplies.

As identified in the Schuylkill River Watershed Source Water Protection Plan, approximately 1.5 million people depend on the Schuylkill River watershed as a source of potable water. Elevated nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) loading can stimulate the growth of nuisance algal blooms in the river, and higher phosphorus concentrations can cause blue-green algae blooms (also known as cyanobacteria). Cyanobacteria produce cyanotoxins, which can cause serious health implications for humans, pets and livestock. Drinking water contaminated by very high cyanotoxin concentrations can actually be lethal.

Fred’s presentation covered the ecology and management of blue-green algae in a riverine ecosystem in order to prevent the potential impacts of cyanotoxins on potable supplies of water. He provided management actions within the context of USEPA’s recommended drinking water health advisories for select cyanotoxins. Participants also received general recommendations on what they can do to minimize their contribution to potential cyanotoxin-producing blue-green algal blooms in the Schuylkill River.

Click here to download a complete copy of Fred’s presentation!

If it’s a BMP, Will it Protect Water Quality?

Michele Adams of Meliora Design and Princeton Hydro’s Senior Project Manager, Dr. Clay Emerson, PE, CFM, taught an interactive presentation and group discussion on stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) and issues.

The presentation covered a variety of stormwater management topics and techniques, including the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Interim Final BMP 6.4.11 Draft Slow Release Concept, which allows for slow release when infiltration is not feasible. They also discussed evolving standards for bioretention/rain garden soils, the lack of requirements for construction oversight, inspection of stormwater BMPs, and the challenges of long-term stormwater BMP maintenance and performance.

Stormwater management has evolved from its peak-flow based infancy into a more comprehensive approach that addresses volume and water quality in addition to peak flow rate. The number of built examples of different types of stormwater management and green infrastructure has greatly increased in Pennsylvania. However, experience suggests that under the current state of practice, many stormwater management designs are not able to meet the goal of water quality protection.

The main goal of the session was to provide participants with the information they need to understand and ask the right questions in order to protect their watersheds as development occurs.

About the Watershed Congress

The Watershed Congress advances the best available information and techniques for protecting and restoring watersheds. The focus on networking across disciplines means that the Congress melds science, policy and practical applications into one program. Every year, a growing and changing group of individuals attends to gain new knowledge, acquire tools, and practice techniques that will allow them to take active roles in the stewardship of their natural resources. View selected presentations from previous Watershed Congresses.

 

Understanding and Addressing Invasive Species

Photo from: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, water chestnut bed at Beacon

Spring is officially here! Tulips will soon be emerging from the ground, buds blossoming on trees and, unfortunately, invasive plant species will begin their annual growing cycle. No type of habitat or region of the globe is immune to the threat of invasive species (“invasives”). Invasives create major impacts on ecosystems throughout the world, and freshwater ecosystems and estuaries are especially vulnerable because the establishment of such species in these habitats is difficult to contain and reverse.

This blog provides an introduction to invasive aquatic species, including information that will help you prevent the spread of invasives in the waterways of your community.

Defining Invasive Species

Invasive species can be defined as non-native occurring in an ecosystem that is outside its actual natural or native distributional range. Although the colonization of an ecosystem by non-native species can occur naturally, it is more often a function of human intervention, both deliberate and accidental. For aquatic ecosystems some species have become established as a result of the aquarium trade, fish culture practices and/or transport of plants and animals in the bilge and ballast water of trans-oceanic shipping vessels.

One of the primary reasons invasives are able to thrive, spread rapidly, and outcompete native species is that the environmental checks and predators that control these species in their natural settings are lacking in the ecosystems and habitat in which they become introduced. The subsequent damages they cause occur on many ecological levels including competition for food or habitat (feeding, refuge and/or spawning), direct predation and consumption of native species, introduction of disease or parasites, and other forms of disruption that lead to the replacement of the native species with the invasive species. As a result, invasives very often cause serious harm to the environment, the economy, and even human health. A prominent example is the Emerald Ash Borer, a non-native, invasive beetle that is responsible for the widespread death of ash trees.

As noted above, there are a large number of aquatic invasive species. Some of the more commonly occurring non-native aquatic plant species that impact East Coast lakes, ponds and reservoirs include:

Understanding How Invasives Spread

Either intentionally or unintentionally, people have helped spread invasives around the globe. This is not a recent phenomenon but rather something that has been occurring for centuries. “Intentional introductions,” the deliberate transfer of nuisance species into a new environment, can involve a person pouring their home aquarium into a lake or deliberate actions intended to improve the conditions for various human activities, for example, in agriculture, or to achieve aesthetics not naturally available.

Photo by: Tom Britt/CC Flickr, zebra Mussels adhered to a boat propeller“Unintentional introductions” involve the accidental transfer of invasives, which can happen in many ways, including aquatic species attached to the hull of boats or contained in bilge and ballast water. A high-profile example is the introduction of zebra mussels to North America. Native to Central Asia and parts of Europe, zebra mussels accidentally arrived in the Great Lakes and Hudson River via cargo ships traveling between the regions. The occurrence, density, and distribution of Zebra mussels occurred at an alarming rate, with the species spreading to 20 states in the United States and to Ontario and Quebec in Canada. Due to their reproductive fecundity and filter-feeding ability, they are considered the most devastating aquatic invasive species to invade North American fresh waters. They alter and diminish the plankton communities of the lakes that they colonize leading to a number of cascading trophic impacts that have especially negative consequences on fisheries. Zebra mussel infestations have also been linked to increased cyanobacteria (bluegreen algae) blooms and the occurrence of harmful algae blooms (HABs) that impact drinking water quality, recreational use, and the health of humans, pets, and livestock.

Additionally, higher than average temperatures and changes in rain and snow patterns caused by climate change further enable some invasive plant species to move into new areas. This is exemplified by the increased northly spread of hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillate), a tropical invasive plant species that has migrated since its introduction in Florida in the 1950s to lakes, rivers, and reservoirs throughout the U.S.

Regardless of how any of these invasive species first became established, the thousands of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species introduced into the U.S. have caused major ecological, recreational and economic impacts.

Measuring the Impacts of Invasives

After habitat loss, invasive, non-native species are the second largest threat to biodiversity. According to The Nature Conservancy, “Invasive species have contributed directly to the decline of 42% of the threatened and endangered species in the United States. The annual cost to the nation’s economy is estimated at $120 billion a year, with over 100 million acres (an area roughly the size of California) suffering from invasive plant infestations. Invasive species are a global problem — with the annual cost of impacts and control efforts equaling 5% of the world’s economy.”

Of the $120 billion, about $100 million per year is spent on aquatic invasive plant control to address such deleterious issues as:

  • Human health (West Nile Virus, Zika Virus)
  • Water quality impacts (Canada geese)
  • Potable water supplies (Zebra mussel)
  • Commercial fisheries (Snake head, lamprey, Eurasian ruffe, round goby)
  • Recreational activities (Eurasian watermilfoil, water chestnut, hydrilla)
  • Biodiversity (Purple loosestrife, common reed, Japanese knotweed)

Invasive species can change the food web in an ecosystem by destroying or replacing native food sources. As the National Wildlife Federation explains, “The invasive species may provide little to no food value for native wildlife. Invasive species can also alter the abundance or diversity of species that are important habitat for native wildlife. Additionally, some invasive species are capable of changing the conditions in an ecosystem, such as changing soil chemistry…”

Addressing Invasives

Our native biodiversity is an irreplaceable and valuable treasure. Through a combination of prevention, early detection, eradication, restoration, research and outreach, we can help protect our native heritage from damage by invasive species.

What Can We Do?

  • Reduce the spread
  • Routinely monitor
  • Document and report
  • Spread the word

Reducing the Spread:
The best way to fight invasive species is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. There are a variety of simple things each of us can do to help stop the introduction and spread of invasives.

  • Plant native plants on your property and remove any invasive plants. Before you plant anything, verify with your local nursery and check out this online resource for help in identifying invasive plants.
  • Thoroughly wash your gear and watercraft before and after your trip. Invasives come in many forms – plants, fungi and animals – and even those of microscopic size can cause major damage.
  • Don’t release aquarium fish and plants, live bait or other exotic animals into the wild. If you plan to own an exotic pet, do your research to make sure you can commit to looking after it. Look into alternatives to live bait.

Monitoring:
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation Water Chestnut prevention brochureInvasive plant monitoring is one of the most valuable site­-level activities people can support. Contact your local watershed organizations to inquire about watershed monitoring volunteer opportunities. For example, the Lake Hopatcong “Water Scouts” program was established to seek out and remove any instances of the invasive water chestnut species.

If you are a lake or watershed manager, the best way to begin an invasive plant monitoring project is with an expert invasive plant survey to determine which invasives are most likely to be problematic in your watershed and identify the watershed’s most vulnerable areas. Contact us to learn more.

 

Documenting and Reporting:
It’s important to learn to identify invasive species in your area and report any sightings to your county extension agent or local land manager. For example, in New Jersey there is the Invasive Species Strike Team that tracks the spread of terrestrial and aquatic invasives and works with local communities in the management of these species. Additionally, consider developing a stewardship plan for your community to help preserve its natural resources. Princeton Hydro’s team of natural resource scientists can help you get the ball rolling by preparing stewardship plans focused on controlling invasive species and protecting the long-term health of open spaces, forests habitats, wetlands, and water-quality in your community.

Spreading the word:
Many people still don’t understand the serious implications of invasive species. Education is a crucial step in stopping the spread of invasives, which is why it’s so important to talk with your neighbors, friends and family about the hazards and ecological/economic impacts of invasive species.

Also consider talking with your community lake or watershed manager about hosting an educational workshop where experts can share their knowledge about invasives specific to your area and how best to address them. Princeton Hydro’s Director of Aquatic Programs Dr. Fred Lubnow recently gave a presentation to the Lake Hopatcong Foundation titled, “Invasive Species in Watershed Management.” View it here.

 

We encourage you to share this article and spread your invasive species knowledge so that together we can help stop the introduction and spread of invasive species.