New Zealand & Others Set Example Of How To Fight Invasive Species
January 10th, 2021 by Carolyn Fortuna
New Zealand has adopted a project to rid the country of nonnative pests that have decimated much of its unique fauna. Called Predator Free 2050, the plan can be a model for other nations how to combine scientific lessons and the enthusiasm of local citizens to manage invasives. It is self-described as an “ambitious” goal to eliminate the most damaging introduced predators that threaten the nation’s natural taonga — a treasured possession — as well as its economy and primary sector.
Invasive species are not native to an ecosystem, and their introduction can cause harm to humans, the environment, or the economy. It’s a topic that’s important to the Ocean Conservancy, which works to educate the public about the distinction between invasive and non-natives: all invasive species are non-native, but not all non-native species are invasive. As soon as that organism starts to cause harm, it is classified as invasive.
Once established in an ecosystem, invasives can be very hard to remove. NOAA notes that invasive species are capable of causing extinctions of native plants and animals, reducing biodiversity, competing with native organisms for limited resources, and altering habitats. This can result in huge economic impacts and fundamental disruptions of entire ecosystems.
Reviving the Biodiversity that Once Flourished throughout New Zealand
Stoats were introduced to New Zealand in the late 1800s as part of efforts to control imported rabbits that were overrunning sheep pastures. Cooperation is crucial to the project’s ultimate success. After 4 years, more than 5,000 groups and tribes — Maori iwi — have registered to do predator control in their communities, according to the Washington Post, and 117 islands have been declared free not just of the weasel-like stoats but of possums, rats, and mice.
And that’s just the start. Solar-powered speakers broadcast the cacophonous calls of burrow-nesting sooty shearwaters and mottled petrels as attractions; the seabirds have been absent for more than a century. An aggressive deer culling ended well on Coal Island, because stags that swim ashore retreat when they don’t find any females.
The Department of Conservation works with charitable trusts, businesses, community groups, and individuals, deploying lures and traps, fences, and pest tracking, detection, and removal. Eradication approaches include:
- devices that sense a predator through special pads and then sprays a toxin onto its fur, which the animal ingests as it grooms itself
- planting more trees
- setting ordinary traps and recording their catches
The project represents the country’s “greatest opportunity to see a shift in conservation,” Amber Bill, director of biodiversity threats at the Department of Conservation, said. But collaboration is “the only way we will achieve it.” It’s one of the many ways that New Zealand is ahead of others around the world in the fight against climate-induced environmental changes.
Maine Lakes Society Protects Lakes & Ponds
Maine has long had a reputation for beautiful scenery, fresh air, and inviting waters, but mill pollution created badly polluted major rivers by the mid-20th century. Portions of the Androscoggin, Kennebec, and Penobscot rivers were devoid of aquatic life, emitting foul odors, and full of scum and debris from mills and industrial waste. Water quality regulation reflected a shift in understanding of rivers as systems and a growing recognition of the potential for technology to mitigate pollution. A water classification system that was initiated in 1964 took at least a full decade to produce significant improvements.
Since then, an advocacy group called the Maine Lakes Society has continued the work begun on the state’s rivers by focusing on lakes and ponds. As the voice for protection of Maine’s freshwater resources and wildlife habitat, the non-profit organization delivers education property-by-property and shore-by-shore to create a conservation ethic across lake communities. Trained volunteers perform property assessments for participating homeowners.
The LakeSmart program explains how all stormwater that gets into a lake carries nutrients. Over time, the cumulative impact can be thousands of pounds of pollutants. The result, “death by a thousand cuts,” means algae blooms, fish kills, and the loss of water clarity and spawning habitat. Research has shown that LakeSmart properties are as protective of water quality as undeveloped land. The benefits of managing the LakeSmart way are:
- Clean, clear, healthy water
- Outstanding recreational opportunities
- High property values
- Abundant wildlife on land and in the water
- Successful local businesses
Addressing Invasive Species through Education
Maine Lakes Society has trained other organizations in other states as well to reduce the effects of stormwater runoff. In northwest Rhode Island, Sand Dam Reservoir Association (SDRA) is the first site for LakeSmart RI. The work is important, as — like many lakes in the New England and New York state areas — the lake is now the home to invasives: variable milfoil.
Representatives from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), Natural Resources Conservation Service, Northern Rhode Island Conservation District, and the Sand Dam Reservoir Association collaborated to design a Lake Management Plan specifically designed to:
- Control nuisance aquatic vegetation, including the exotic invasives variable-leaf milfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum)
- Provide recommendations for assessing and improving water quality, in particular non-point sources of pollution
- Provide recommendations for long-term monitoring
- Establish a framework for guiding future management decisions on a year-to-year basis that is based on an economical annual monitoring program
- Provide information that can contribute to the development of permit applications related to management actions or applications for funding assistance, e.g., grants
In addition to the LakeSmart program, SDRA’s efforts to control invasives include drawing down the lake each autumn, inspecting boats for “hitchhikers” prior to launching, organizing volunteers to pull weeds by hand from shore in the warm summer months, and conducting diver-assisted mechanical harvesting (DASH). DASH is particularly effective for removing overgrown patches of invasives in small areas.
The Association did significant fundraising in the mid-2010s and purchased their suction harvester. Divers identify the target plants, loosen the plants by their roots, and guide them into a suction device. This process allows material to be moved in large amounts, increasing efficiency in both removal and disposal. As the climate warms, this and other methods of removing invasives may become necessary to organizations and municipalities around the world.
The Nature Conservancy offers a series of guidelines to help communities prevent invasives from occurring in the first place.
- Verify that the plants you are buying for your yard or garden are not invasive. Replace invasive plants in your garden with non-invasive alternatives. Ask your local nursery staff for help in identifying invasive plants.
- When boating, clean your boat thoroughly before transporting it to a different body of water.
- Clean your boots before you hike in a new area to get rid of hitchhiking weed seeds and pathogens.
- Don’t “pack a pest” when traveling. Fruits and vegetables, plants, insects, and animals can carry pests or become invasive themselves. Don’t move firewood (it can harbor forest pests), clean your bags and boots after each hike, and throw out food before you travel from place to place.
- 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 and plan ahead to make sure you can commit to looking after it.
- Volunteer at your local park, refuge or other wildlife area to help remove invasive species. Help educate others about the threat.
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