Efforts to Manage Hydrilla in Harveys Lake Prove Difficult but Effective

Collaboration between state agencies and local organizations in Luzerne County bring in grant money to determine Hydrilla infestation levels in Harveys Lake. Treatment efforts are scheduled for 2019.

Story provided by Princeton Hydro Senior Limnologist Michael Hartshorne, and originally published in the Pennsylvania iMapInvasives Fall 2018 Newsletter

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata)

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) is a relatively new invasive plant in Pennsylvania with the first documented occurrence in 1989 in Adams County. Still, it was not until recently that lake managers, park rangers, and others in the natural resource field have turned their attention to this aggressive invader. Looking incredibly similar to our native waterweed (Elodea canadensis), hydrilla differs in that it is comprised of 4-8 whorled, toothed leaves in contrast to the smooth edged, 3-leaved whorl of E. canadensis.

 

Harveys Lake, located in the Borough of Harveys Lake (Luzerne County) is a large, deep glacial lake with limited littoral (i.e., shoreline) habitat. A significant body of work has been conducted at the lake with the original Phase I: Diagnostic-Feasibility Lake study conducted in 1992 and a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) issued for phosphorus in 2002.

From 2002 to present, Princeton Hydro has assisted the Borough in the restoration of the lake with a heavy focus on stormwater best management practices (BMPs) supplemented by routine, in-lake water quality monitoring. The goal of the storm water/watershed-based efforts was to reduce the lake’s existing, annual total Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) phosphorus load so it’s in full compliance with the established TMDL.

Mapped locations noted in 2014 and 2015 of hydrilla in Harveys Lake as documented in the Pennsylvania iMapInvasives database.

Over the last 15 years, the installation of these watershed-based projects has led to improved water quality conditions; specifically, phosphorus and algae concentrations have been reduced. While water quality conditions improved Harveys Lake, it was during one of the routine, summer water quality monitoring events conducted in July 2014 that a dense stand of hydrilla was noted at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s public boat launch. More than likely, the plant entered the lake as a “hitchhiker” on the boat or trailer being launched from this public boat launch by someone visiting the lake.

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) Credit: Nick Decker, DCNR Bureau of State Parks

Since the initial identification and confirmation of the hydrilla, the Borough of Harveys Lake has worked in conjunction with the Harveys Lake Environmental Advisory Council, the Luzerne County Conservation District, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and Princeton Hydro to secure funding for additional surveys to determine the spatial extent and density of growth followed by an aggressive eradication plan.

Grant funds already allocated to Harveys Lake under the state’s Non-Point Source Pollution Program were used to conduct a detailed boat-based and diving aquatic plant survey of Harveys Lake to delineate the distribution and relative abundance of the hydrilla in 2014. During these surveys, the distribution of the hydrilla was found to be limited to the northern portion of the lake with the heaviest densities just off the boat launch with plants observed growing in waters 20-25 feet deep.

A follow-up survey had shown hydrilla coverage to increase from 38% of surveyed sites to 58% of sites in 2016 with hydrilla now present at the lake’s outlet area. Spatial coverage of hydrilla increased from approximately 50 acres in 2014 to 210 acres in 2016, an increase of 160 acres.

This map shows the 2018 proposed treatment area of Harvey’s Lake. Due to funding issues, treatment is now scheduled for 2019. The current hydrilla distribution encompasses the entire littoral zone of Harvey’s Lake.

In hopes of preventing hydrilla escaping into the lake’s outlet stream, the Borough of Harveys Lake funded an emergency treatment of the two-acre outlet area in 2016 utilizing the systemic herbicide Sonar® (Fluridone). A follow-up treatment of 159 acres was conducted in 2017, again utilizing the Fluridone-based systemic herbicide.

The next treatment, which will attempt to cover the majority of the littoral habitat covered by hydrilla, is scheduled for late spring/early summer of 2019. It should be noted that Sonar® is being applied at a low concentration that is effective at eradicating the hydrilla, but will not negatively impact desirable native plant species.

The treatments conducted to date have documented some reductions in the vegetative coverage of hydrilla as well as tuber production relative to the original plant surveys conducted in 2016. However, it is recognized that it will take multiple years of treatment to eradicate this nuisance plant from the lake, as well as a highly proactive, interactive program to educate residents as well as visitors to the lake in preventing the re-introduction of this or other invasive species to Harveys Lake.

 

The successful, long-term improvement of a lake or pond requires a proactive management approach that addresses the beyond simply reacting to weed and algae growth and other symptoms of eutrophication. Our staff can design and implement holistic, ecologically-sound solutions for the most difficult weed and algae challenges. Visit our website to learn more about Princeton Hydro’s lake management services: http://bit.ly/pondlake

Michael Hartshorne‘s  primary areas of expertise include lake and stream diagnostic studies, TMDL development, watershed management, and small pond management and lake restoration. He is particularly skilled in all facets of water quality characterization, from field data collection to subsequent statistical analysis, modeling, technical reporting, and the selection and implementation of best management practices. He has extensive experience in utilizing water quality data in concert with statistical and modeling packages to support load reduction allocations for the achievement of water quality standards or tailored thresholds set forth to reduce the rate of cultural eutrophication. He also has significant experience in conducting detailed macrophyte, fishery, and benthic surveys.

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.

Invasive Species in Watershed Management

A Presentation by Princeton Hydro Director of Aquatic Programs Dr. Fred Lubnow

Available for Free Download Here

Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatic Programs for Princeton Hydro, recently held an information session about Hydrilla, the Godzilla of Invasive Species. Hosted by the Lake Hopatcong Commission, the presentation covered how to identify Hydrilla and how to prevent its proliferation.

Many recreational lake users can identify Water Chestnut, but Hydrilla is much more difficult to differentiate from another species, Elodea, which is native to Lake Hopatcong.  Dr. Lubnow’s presentation illustrates how to easily compare Elodea to Hydrilla. Armed with this information, lake users will be able to spread the word and be on the look-out for Hydrilla and other invasives.

To learn more about Princeton Hydro’s Invasive Species Management Services, visit our website or contact us!

Dr. Lubnow Invasive Species Presentation