Lake health topic of recent web seminar
FINGER LAKES--With summer around the corner and regional tourism expected to expand after a year of COVID-19 pandemic changes, local environmental groups and scientists are cautioning boaters and residents to be on the lookout for invasive species like Hydrilla as they recreate. Invasives don't just impact biodiversity, but can change lake ecosystems drastically.
"[In] the Finger Lakes region...tourism is a huge part of the economy here," said Samuel Beck-Andersen, aquatic invasive species program manager at the Finger Lakes Institute and Hobart and William Smith Colleges. "What's behind that tourism is the lakes... so lake health is really important... in the Finger Lakes invasive species have been around for decades but some of the things we are focused on are new invasive animals and plants."
Some of the current invasive aquatic plants include Hyrdrilla, but not all invasive species are limited to the lakes with terrestrial plants like Japanese knotweed posing concern.
"Some invasive species are already entrenched, and the issue becomes more about managing them instead of eliminating them entirely," Beck-Anderson said. "But we are also constantly on the lookout for new species so that we can prevent them from getting a foothold."
In order to get the word out, Beck-Anderson has been working with the Finger Lakes Boating Museum participating in a web seminar series to ensure local boaters know what to look for, especially if a boat is being moved from one body of water to another.
There is an important distinction however between a non-native species and an invasive.
"Non-native species can, in some instances, be a positive, or they could have no impact at all," said Beck-Anderson. "There are plenty of Japanese Maples in the Finger Lakes region but they are not considered invasive because they are not bullying out native species. For something to be considered invasive it must be harmful, both to biodiversity and economically."
As to how invasive species can become established locally? The majority reach(ed) the area through shipping, recreational boating and the pet trade. Large container ships take in tremendous amounts of water from their initial location for ballast, and once the cargo is offloaded the ballast may be released along with any surviving plants and animals. Local boating helps spread invasive species by attaching themselves to the hulls of a boat in one lake and can then hitch a ride to pristine waters.
"Sometimes it happens when someone pulls their boat out of the water and transports it to a new body of water, which is why it is always important to inspect your boat," said Beck-Anderson. "But at the same time, many bodies of water are connected, and someone can pick up an invasive species and transport it without even knowing it is attached because they are in the water the entire time."
To help combat this issue Finger Lakes Institute is hiring seasonal watercraft stewards who will be positioned at popular waterways and boating locations to aid boaters in the identification and removal of invasive plants off of their boats.
Along with aiding in the removal of invasive plants, stewards will collect daily data from their interactions with boaters to best tailor the effort to stymie the spread of plants like Hydrilla.
"It really is important that everyone does their part," said Beck-Anderson.
For more information visit www.FingerLakesInvasives.org
If you are interested in applying for a seasonal position as a steward please visit https://www.hws.edu/offices/hr/employment/sum_2021_Watercraft_Stewards.aspx