How’s the Fishing? Tips for Managing Your Lake’s Fishery

The fishery of a lake is an intrinsic, incredibly dynamic element of a lake system, and managing a lake’s fishery can be a very complex endeavor. There is actually a lot more to it than simply stocking game fish. Although there is no “one way” in fisheries management, there are key guidelines that can be followed to maximize the recreational potential of your lake’s fishery and increase the success of your fishery management and stocking efforts. Over the past two decades, Princeton Hydro has been working with lake, pond, and reservoir managers to help them to align water quality, fishery, and ecological goals.

Princeton Hydro’s Founder, Dr. Steve Souza, recently gave a presentation on fisheries management at the Spring Meeting of the New Jersey Coalition of Lake Associations (NJCOLA). We’ve compiled a few essential elements from his presentation and have made the complete presentation available for free download.

Let’s dive in!

Benefits of a Healthy Fishery

Recreational fishing is an outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. When children are introduced to fishing, it helps cultivate a connection to the environment, thereby promoting outdoor activity and environmental stewardship among today’s youth.

Anglers have always served as important advocates for the conservation of natural resources. The sale of fishing licenses financially supports wildlife habitat conservation and enhancement as well as the protection and improvement of water quality. This increases the ecological services and functions of lakes and adds to their societal and recreational benefits.

A healthy fishery can have significant positive impacts on water quality. In a balanced, healthy fishery the ratio of forage and game fish affects the entire food web, helping to maintain the proper balance of zooplankton and phytoplankton. The “top down” ecological control associated with a balanced fishery minimizes algae blooms, sustains good water clarity and stable water quality. However, when the fishery is out of balance, the water quality and overall ecological health of the lake often suffers.

Before You Stock, Know Your Lake and Start with a Baseline

Before you do any fish stocking, it’s best to conduct a fishery survey. A fishery survey provides the vital data needed to design a stocking and management plan.

A balanced lake fishery is dependent on good water quality, ample habitat, and the correct ratio of predator and prey fish species. A properly designed and implemented fishery survey generates the data needed to quantify the overall composition of the existing fish community (predator vs. prey), the make-up of the forage (food) base, and the density and robustness of the lake’s top piscivores (prized game fish).

The resulting data helps identify if your fishery is balanced, which fish to stock, and how many of each species to introduce. It will also provide the benchmarks needed to solidify your management goals and, later on, help determine if the goals are being met. To stay on track, we recommend that a comprehensive fishery survey be conducted once every three years. Be sure to use the correct types and combination of “active” and “passive” sampling gear and thoroughly sample both the open water and nearshore areas of the lake.

The survey should include the collection and analysis of water quality data, and the mapping of available habitat. Water column water quality “profiles” provide vital information pertaining to the lake’s thermal and dissolved oxygen properties; key factors for a healthy, vibrant fishery. Here are some basic water quality guidelines:

  • Dissolved oxygen: ≥ 4 mg/L with 6-7 mg/L being ideal
  • For warm water fishery: Uniform temperatures at all depth (minimal or no thermal stratification)
  • For cold water fishery: Deep water temperature of 15 C, and dissolved oxygen ≥ 5 mg/L
  • pH: 6 to 8
  • Clarity: ≥ 3 feet (1 meter) Secchi disc transparency
  • Total Phosphorus: < 0.05 mg/L
  • Chlorophyll a: < 20 µg/L

Water quality sampling should also include an assessment of the lake’s zooplankton and phytoplankton communities, the base of your lake’s food web.

Floating Wetland Island

During the survey, take the time to quantify and map the distribution of existing forage, spawning, and refuge habitat. Lack of adequate habitat can significantly impede the fishery’s sustainability. This begins with the bathymetric mapping of the lake, which is basically an underwater survey of the bottom of the lake. This mapping shows where and how much shallow water versus open water habitat exists.  It can also help identify the location and distribution of important habitat types, such as shoals, rock piles, sandy open areas and natural structures (tree falls and snags). The data also helps determine where to create and introduce habitat, which can be in the form of brush piles, floating wetland islands, and other types of features that increase the spawning, recruitment, and foraging success of the fishery.

Stocking Your Lake

Once the fishery survey is completed, habitat is mapped and water quality analyzed, stocking can begin. In order to determine the specific stocking levels and rates that are right for your waterbody, here are some factors to consider:

  • Ensure your stocking efforts create or augment the correct ratio of predator (game) and prey (forage) fish.

  • Stock cautiously, focusing on a simple composition of predator and prey species. For most warm water lakes, largemouth bass should serve as the top predator and fathead minnow should be the primary prey.

  • Avoid problem fish, such as golden shiner, alewife and brown/black bullhead. Although these fish are often promoted as suitable forage species, they can be easily get overstocked and cause major disruptions of the fishery and to the degradation of water quality.

Go here for a more in-depth look at how to properly stock your fishery.

In Summary

A healthy sustainable fishery isn’t only a function of the types and amounts of fish stocked in a lake; it is directly a function of water quality, the availability and quality of spawning, foraging and refuge habitat, the ratio of forage to predator fish, and the overall composition and balance of the food web.

Begin with a fishery survey; the resulting data enables a correctly planned and implemented stocking program. Conduct routine surveys to assess the status of the fishery and the success of the program. Also, annual water quality testing provides the information needed to make wise pro-active fishery management decisions. It will also provide insights into the lake’s environmental conditions to ensure they are supportive of a healthy, productive and sustainable recreational fishery.

Learn More

If you’re interested in learning more about Princeton Hydro’s fisheries management or lake management services, please contact us.

Click here to download a full copy of Dr. Souza’s presentation, titled “How’s the Fishing? Maximizing the Recreational Potential of Your Lake’s Fishery,” which he recently presented at the NJCOLA Spring Meeting. The presentation provides an in-depth set of guidelines for fishery management, covering topics like data collection methods, habitat creation and enhancement, maximizing habitat quality, and details on various stocking species to consider for your lake.

NJCOLA unites lake communities throughout New Jersey through education and by formulating legislation favorable to the protection and enhancement of the State’s lake resources. NJCOLA meetings, held on a regular basis in the spring and fall, educate members on various topics and issues affecting lake communities ranging from legal to environmental.

The Spring NJCOLA meeting was well attended with over 60 participants representing lakes throughout New Jersey, including a number of lakes that are managed by Princeton Hydro – Lake Mohawk, Lake Hopatcong, White Meadow Lake, Lake Swanannona, Kehmah Lake, Culver Lake and Swartswood Lake.

To learn more about Princeton Hydro’s Pond and Lake services, including water quality sampling, bathymetric surveying, floating wetland islands, and fisheries, visit: http://bit.ly/pondlake 

 

CONTEST ALERT: Celebrate #LakesAppreciation Month and Win $100

How healthy is your lake? July is Lakes Appreciation Month and we’re celebrating with a contest! To raise awareness about water quality, we’re encouraging people who enjoy lakes to participate in a “Secchi Dip-In” for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card and a one-year membership to the North American Lake Management Association (NALMS).

What is the “Secchi Dip-In”?

The “Secchi Dip-In” is an annual citizen science event created by NALMS in 1994. It was developed in order to involve lake-goers and associations across North America in using a simple Secchi disk to monitor the transparency or turbidity of their local waterway.

This data collected is evaluated on a regional scale by NALMS and helps lake managers further understand the water quality of lakes in their region. Since 1994, more than 10,000 trained volunteers have generated 42,000 transparency records, giving a glimpse of lake water transparency at sites across North America and the world, according to NALMS.

How do I collect a Secchi sample?
  1. What is a Secchi disk and what data is collected with it?
    The typical Secchi disk used in lakes is an 8-inch disk with alternating black and white quadrants. It’s lowered into the water until the observer can no longer see it. The depth of disappearance, called the Secchi depth, is a measure of the transparency of the water. The disk is named in honor of Father Pietro Angelo Secchi, astronomer and scientific advisor to the Pope, who tested this new instrument in the Mediterranean Sea on April 20, 1865.
  2. Where can I get a Secchi disk?
    Secchi disks are a low-cost investment and a great tool to have for measuring water quality. You can purchase a Secchi disk on Amazon or other online marketplaces for $20-$30. Alternatively, you can always ask a friend or your local lake manager to borrow one. Some people even make their own!
  3. How do I take a measurement? How many times do I do it?
    A measurement is taken by lowering the disk on the sunny side of the boat. To eliminate sun glare, an underwater viewer (viewscope) can also be used if so desired. Allow sufficient time (preferably 2 minutes) when looking at the disk near its vanishing point for the eyes to adapt completely to the prevailing luminance level. Record the depth at which the disk disappears. Slowly raise the disk and record the depth of reappearance. The “Secchi depth” is the average depth of disappearance and reappearance. For further accuracy, several people can each record several Secchi depths. Then, all of the depths can be averaged into one single reading. Please note: the water depth should be at least 50% greater than the Secchi depth so that the disk is viewed against the water background, not bottom-reflected light.
  4. What’s the best time of day to collect a sample?  
    The best time of day to collect a sample is when the sun is at its highest point in the sky, generally around midday. Most volunteers generally collect data between the hours of 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM.
  5. What do the results mean?
    The Secchi disk measures transparency, which serves as an indicator of changing water quality. Transparency decreases as the amount of particles in the water— such as algae and sediment—increases.

Check out this “How to Secchi Dip” video created by Princeton Hydro Senior Limnologist Michael Hartshorne:

How to Enter the Contest:

One lucky winner will be randomly selected on August 1, 2018.  The selected winner will receive a $100 gift card to Amazon and a one-year membership to NALMS. We’ll reach out to you via social media to collect your email and address for prize distribution. If the winner does not respond within 5 working days with the appropriate information, we will select another winner at random. Good luck, everyone!

Conditions:

By submitting an entry (Photograph) via Facebook or Twitter to Princeton Hydro’s 2018 #LakesAppreciation Month Contest, you agree to the following: You represent and warrant that:

  • You are the sole and exclusive author and owner of the Photograph submitted and all rights therein; and
  • You have the full and exclusive right, power, and authority to submit the Photograph; and
  • You irrevocably grant Princeton Hydro a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual license to use the Photograph in any manner related to the Contest, including all associated use, reproduction, distribution, sublicense, derivative works, and commercial and non-commercial exploitation rights in any and all media now known or hereafter invented, including, but not limited to public relations purposes, posting on social media accounts, and/or for company marketing materials; and
  • No rights in the Photograph have been previously granted to any person, firm, corporation or other entity, or otherwise encumbered such that the prior grant would limit or interfere with the rights granted to Princeton Hydro herein; and
  • No part of your Photograph defames or invades the privacy or publicity rights of any person, living or decreased, or otherwise infringes upon any third party’s copyright, trademark or other personal or property rights.

“Floating Classroom” Launches into Lake Hopatcong

The Lake Hopatcong Foundation (LHF) recently launched its newest initiative – a floating classroom. The custom-built 40-foot education vessel, named ‘Study Hull’, gives students an interactive, hands-on education experience to explore Lake Hopatcong, learn about freshwater ecology, and learn how to protect the watershed.

During its maiden voyage field trip, which was held on May 21, fourth-graders from Nixon Elementary and Kennedy Elementary schools utilized the boat’s laboratory instruments to study water hydrology, temperatures, plankton, and dissolved oxygen levels. They performed a series of tests and experiments designed to help them learn about the general health of the lake. They used Secchi Disks to determine the depth to which light is able to penetrate the water’s surface. They also learned about runoff and nonpoint source pollutants, how to protect the lake’s water quality, and how to be good stewards of the water.

Princeton Hydro helped the LHF design a teaching curriculum on water quality.  Dr. Jack Szczepanski, Senior Aquatics Scientist, and Christopher L. Mikolajczyk, CLM, Senior Project Scientist, trained the staff and volunteers on the curriculum and demonstrated various water quality monitoring techniques that can be conducted with the students.

“We’re really proud to be a part of this exciting initiative,” said Mikolajczyk. “It’s really important to get kids interested in science at an early age and teach them about their surrounding environment – where their drinking water comes from, how it gets polluted, the impacts pollution has on the lake’s ecosystem, and what steps can be made to protect the lake’s water quality. We’re hoping the floating classroom field trip program will make a lasting, valuable impression with these kids.”

In the first year of operation it is expected that the Study Hull will host 1,000 fourth grade students. The long-term goal is to develop lesson plans for students in every grade from kindergarten through high school. Starting in July, the LHF is also offering the public tours of the floating classroom on Mondays at Hopatcong State Park.

The purchase of the floating classroom was made possible by financial support from USATODAY Network’s “A Community Thrives” program, which awarded the LHF with a $50,000 grant. The program recognizes three categories: arts and culture, education, and wellness. In each category, the first place winner received a $100,000 grant and the second and third place winners received $50,000 grants. The James P. Verhalen Family Foundation and the Szigethy Family also provided significant donations to help bring the floating classroom to life.

 

The LHF and Princeton Hydro are longtime partners. Starting back in 1983, Princeton Hydro’s Dr. Stephen Souza conducted the USEPA funded Diagnostic Feasibility study of the lake and then authored the Lake Hopatcong Restoration Plan. That document continues to be the backbone of why and how to restore the lake, manage the watershed, reduce pollutant loading, and address invasive aquatic plants and nuisance algae blooms.

Lake Hopatcong has one of the longest, continuous, long-term ecological databases in New Jersey; almost 30 years of consistently collected water quality data. The data is crucial in assessing the overall ecological health of the lake and proactively guiding its management, identifying and addressing emerging threats, documenting project success (a mandatory element of funding initiatives) and confirming compliance with New Jersey State Water Quality standards.

Princeton Hydro’s most recent work for Lake Hopatcong includes the implementation of green infrastructure stormwater management measures, installation of floating wetland islands to improve water quality, and invasive aquatic plant species management programs, community educational training, and surveys.

For more information about the Lake Hopatcong Foundation or the floating classroom, click here. For more information about Princeton Hydro’s lake management services, go here.

New York Hosts Harmful Algal Blooms Summit

Photo: Veronica Volk, Great Lakes Today

Photo credit: Veronica Volk, Great Lakes Today

The Western New York Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Summit, the last of four Statewide HABs summits, was held last month in Rochester, NY. The summits kicked off Governor Cuomo’s $65 million initiative to protect the NY State’s lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and those that rely on these waterbodies for recreation and drinking water, from the ecological and health impacts associated with HABs.

“Protecting New York’s natural resources is key to ensuring residents have access to safe water, and through this collaborative summit, we are addressing the growing threat of harmful algal blooms,” said Governor Cuomo in a recent press release.

Tim Schneider, Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program

Photo: Tim Schneider, Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program

Each regional summit involved a day-long session of expert presentations and panel discussions on a variety of HAB related topics, and culminated in an evening session, which was open to the public and provided community members an opportunity to learn more about the Governor’s initiative and pose questions to NYSDEC about HABs and the management of HABs. The evening sessions were available to view via a live online stream as well.

For each summit, the Governor invited regional experts to participate along with NYSDEC and Department of Health experts. The experts were brought together to initiate the development of tailored HAB action plans. Although the focus was placed on the management of Governor Cuomo’s 12 priority waterbodies, the goal was to identify HAB management plans applicable for all of the State’s waterbodies, large or small. The discussions that evolved through the four summits set the stage to inform decisions related to preventing and properly responding to HABs across the state.

Participating by the invitation of Governor Cuomo and the NYSDEC in last month’s Western New York Summit were:

  • Dr. Steve Souza, Princeton Hydro
  • Art DeGaetano, Cornell University
  • Christopher Gobler, SUNY Stony Brook
  • Dave Matthews, Upstate Freshwater Institute
  • Greg Boyer, SUNY ESF
  • Nelson Hairston, Cornell University
  • Sally Flis, The Fertilizer Institute
  • Tim Davis, Bowling Greene State University, Ohio

During the Western New York Summit, Dr. Souza, Princeton Hydro co-founder, provided insight on the causes of HABs and, in particular, discussed the management techniques that have been successfully implemented by Princeton Hydro to combat the onset and mitigate the impacts of HABs.

About Governor Cuomo’s Harmful Algal Blooms program:
Governor Cuomo’s program builds on New York’s $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act investments in clean water infrastructure and water quality protection. The Harmful Algal Blooms initiative is supported with funds from both the Clean Water Infrastructure Act and the $300 million Environmental Protection Fund. Through the Governor’s leadership, New York has developed the most comprehensive HABs outreach and monitoring programs in the country, led by DEC sampling of ambient waters across the state and DOH sampling at regulated beaches and public water systems.

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 NYSFOLA Annual Conference

The New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) will host its 35th Annual Conference May 4-5 at the Fort William Henry Conference Center in Lake George.

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 by Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Programs
  • You Have Your Lake Data, Now What? Creating a Watershed Plan by Chris Mikolajczyk, Senior Aquatic Scientist
  • One Watershed, Many Lakes: A Strategic Plan for the Kettle Lakes of Southern Onondaga and Northern Cortland Counties by Michael Hartshorne, Senior Limnologist
  • Proactive Management of Harmful Algal Blooms by Dr. Stephen Souza, Founder
  • Hydrilla Control in Harveys Lake, PA by Dr. Fred Lubnow

Environmental professionals, students, recreation enthusiasts, lakeside residents and community members are all invited to come together to explore a variety of topics related to managing and protecting watersheds. Additional educational session topics include, Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring, Managing Water Chestnut and Other Invasives, Severe Weather Events Emergency Preparedness, and much more. Click here to view the complete agenda.

If you’re attending the conference, be sure to visit the Princeton Hydro booth to discuss the latest advancements in pond, lake and watershed management. If you’re interested in participating, you can register here. Registration closes on April 27th.

Stay tuned for a conference recap and photos!

ABOUT NYSFOLA
NYSFOLA 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.

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.

This Month’s Events: March Update from Princeton Hydro

Princeton Hydro is proud to participate in a number of exciting conferences throughout March. The conferences, which take place in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia, cover a wide variety of topics centered around protecting water resources.

March 2: New Jersey Conservation Rally

The 22nd Annual NJ Land Conservation Rally is a one-day educational conference about preserving open space and farmland in New Jersey. The event consists of training workshops, roundtable discussions, a keynote speech from David Case, author of “Nature of Americans,” exhibitors, and a farmers market.

Princeton Hydro, a proud sponsor of the rally, is giving two presentations:
  • “Recognizing The Power of Dam Removal To Reconnect & Restore Our Ecosystem”
    The Nature Conservancy ’s River Restoration Manager Beth Styler Barry and Princeton Hydro’sDirector of Engineering Services Mary Paist-Goldman , P.E. will present the most effective ways to approach a comprehensive, all-inclusive dam removal in New Jersey, with particular emphasis on the Musconetcong Watershed.
  • “Nonprofit Social Media Hacks”
    Rally Planning Committee member Lindsay McNamara and Communication Strategist for Princeton Hydro Dana Patterson present ways to punch up your social media presence. The course is designed for social media beginners and experts alike, and will cover cross-channel techniques to help increase engagement, event attendance, and social buzz around your organization.

LEARN MORE & REGISTER

 

March 4 – 6: Virginia Water Conference

Held by the Virginia Lakes and Watershed Associationand the Virginia Floodplain Management Association, the Virginia Water Conference will host 400 participants, and will include exhibits and breakout sessions on topics ranging from floodplain management to dam safety to water resource engineering.

Princeton Hydro’s Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Programs, and Michael Hartshorne, Senior Limnologist, are conducting a Water Quality and Quantity breakout session titled,  “A Limnological Assessment of a 250-Acre Impoundment in Virginia for the Consideration of Nutrient Inactivation.”

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March 7 – 8: PA Lake Management Society Conference

The Pennsylvania Lake Management Society is hosting its 28th annual conference during which lake professionals, students, recreation enthusiasts, lakeside residents and community members will come together to explore a variety of topics related to managing lakes and reservoirs. Visit the Princeton Hydro booth to discuss the latest advancements in pond, lake and watershed management.

The conference offers a collection of professional presentations, workshops and panel discussions. Princeton Hydro is giving two presentations during the conference:

  • “Continued Management of Hydrilla in Harveys Lake, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania”
    Lead by Michael Hartshorne, Senior Limnologist, and Scott Churm, Associate: Director of Aquatic Operations
  • “Conducting a Nutrient Inactivation Treatment for Internal Phosphorus Load Control for a Small Glacial Lake in Northern Pennsylvania”
    Lead by Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatics Programs

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March 10: Schuylkill Watershed Congress

The Watershed Congress is an annual event that seeks to advance the best available information and techniques for protecting and restoring watersheds by combining science, policy, and practical applications into one program.

The one-day conference offers a keynote discussion on Landscape-Scale Forest Loss in the Delaware Basin, 21 concurrent sessions covering a broad range of watershed topics, poster sessions and exhibits. Dr. Fred Lubnow‘s breakout session, titled “Ecology/Management of Cyanotoxin Producing Blue-Green Algae in the Schuylkill River,” reviews the basic ecology of nuisance blue-green algae and how to monitor, manage and prevent cyanotoxins particularly in potable water supplies.

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March 15: Land Ethics Symposium

The theme for this year’s 18th Annual Land Ethics Symposium, which is presented by Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, is “Creative Approaches for Ecological Landscaping.” The conference will focus on ways to create low-maintenance, economical and ecologically balanced landscapes using native plants and restoration techniques.

Participants can take part in presentations, for which continuing education credits are available, on topics, including Installation and Management of Stormwater Basins, Landscaping for Carbon Storage and Resilience, and Watershed Restoration. The conference also offers a variety of networking events and an exhibitor hall. Princeton Hydro, a “Friends Sponsor” of the event, will have an exhibitor table. We hope to see you there!

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March 19: SAME Philadelphia Post Small Business Conference

The Philadelphia Post is hosting its 12th Annual Small Business Conference and Industry Day, which aims to promote engagement between agency, industry, and small businesses. The program consists of networking events, small business exhibits, a variety of speakers and much more.

The Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) gives leaders from the A/E/C, environmental, and facility management industries the opportunity to come together with federal agencies in order to showcase best practices and highlight future opportunities for small businesses to work in the federal market. If you’re in attendance, please stop by the Princeton Hydro booth.

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Princeton Hydro Founder Invited to Speak at EPA’s Harmful Algal Blooms Workshop

Princeton Hydro Founder Dr. Steve Souza was an invited speaker at the USEPA Region 2 Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and Public Drinking Water Systems workshop last week in Manhattan. The objective of the workshop was to share information about the monitoring and assessment of freshwater HABs and the efforts to minimize their effect on public drinking water and the recreational uses of lakes.

Steve’s presentation focused on the proactive management of HABs, providing useful tips for and real-world examples of how to address HABs before they manifest, and, if a HAB does manifest, how to prevent it from further exacerbating water quality and cyanotoxin problems.

The workshop was well attended with 80 people on site and 40 others participating via webinar link. Steve was joined by nine other invited speakers, most of whom were representing the USEPA, NYSDEC and NJDEP, who gave presentations on a variety of HABs related topics, including the optimization of water treatment operations to minimize cyanotoxin risks surveillance and assessment of HABs, and communicating HABs risks in recreational lakes and drinking water reservoirs.

If you’re interested in learning more about HABs, you can view a complete copy of Steve’s presentation, titled Proactive Management of Harmful Algae Blooms in Drinking Water and Recreational Waterbodies, by clicking the image below. Please contact us anytime to discuss how Princeton Hydro’s Invasive Weed and Algae Management Services can be of service to you.

The USEPA Region 2 serves New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight tribal nations. Get more info on key issues and initiatives in USEPA Region 2.