Top 5 Invasive Aquatic Plant Species in US Lakes

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While experts estimate that only about one percent of the plants introduced into the United States become severe invasive weed problems, that small percentage is causing the US about $30 billion in management costs each year.


Further, we’re losing some 4,500 acres of public land and water to invasive species. Invasive aquatic plants throw off the natural balance of native plants and contribute to a multitude of problems to include:

  • Fish kills,
  • Wildlife habitat destruction,
  • Lost recreational opportunities,
  • Reduced tourism revenue and property values, and
  • Clogged hydroelectric, irrigation and drinking water pipes.

This list highlights the economic impacts of invasive aquatic species. Fighting the problem is one of those areas in which we see environmental activists and savvy developers on the same side of the issue.
Perhaps the biggest problems today are caused by Hydrilla, Water Hyacinth, Purple Loosestrife, Eurasian Watermilfoil and Giant Salvinia. Here’s a quick look at each member of this “Foul Five.”

1. Hydrilla. Common names for this plant include Florida elodea, Wasserquirl, water thyme and Indian star-vine. It found its way into our lakes and streams from aquariums in Florida during the 1960s. It made its way to California by the 1970s and is now as far north as Idaho. It forms a virtual carpet of weeds on the surface of a lake and, because it gets entangled in propellers, it can make boating impossible.


2. Water Hyacinth. Beautiful but deadly would be one way to sum up the Water Hyacinth. In the late 1800s, residents of the Southeast brought it in from South America for its showy purple flowers. Big mistake. It’s one of the fastest-growing plants and can double its coverage area in two weeks. It can drastically reduce the oxygen content of water, killing fish and other species; it has even been known to push over bridges.


3. Purple Loosestrife. Walk around certain marshes, and this is all you’ll see. This plant is causing areas that used to have rich biodiversity to lose their populations of cattails, bulrush, fish, turtles and muskrats, just to name a handful of native species. It made its way to the US some 200 years ago from Eurasia. Its striking purple color prompted people to spread it through our wetlands, and now it’s a major problem in every state but Florida.


4. Eurasian Watermilfoil. This plant was accidentally brought to the US in the 1950 and is now found in 45 states. Because new plants can grow from bits and pieces of larger plants—gardeners will know these as “cuttings”— Eurasian Watermilfoil spreads easily when propellers break it up and boats haphazardly carry it to new areas. It is such a problem that it’s now illegal to own or transport it in the United States.


5. Giant Slavonia. Here’s another invasive aquatic plant that escaped from our aquariums, this one in the 1990s. Although its common name starts with “giant,” it’s actually a bunch of little ferns. However, the dense mats of choking plants it produces are by any measure “giant.” They can be thick enough to float cinder blocks. Of course, that makes them big and thick enough to wreak havoc on boating and native aquatic plant and animal life as well.

Working Together

Environmentalists who moniter the current status of our lakes and streams are alligned with companies such as Smith Mountain Homes at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia and real estate developers in Clear Lake, California; both understanding the threat of invasive aquatic plants to our biological homes and our investments that are directly related to the beauty of the lakes, rivers and streams in the USA.

Sources:

http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/aquatics/main.shtml#aqpl

http://apms.org/

http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/education/amps_activity.html

http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/education/misc_pdfs/APMS_activity_book.pdf

Attached Images:

Meg Jones writes about issues dear to her heart, including the environment.  It is not only the home to plants and animals, but ours as well, and deserves caretaking.

About Kevin J Railsabck

Award-winning filmmaker Kevin J Railsback has traveled as far as Africa to test HD cameras for Panasonic.
His stunning nature and wildlife footage has appeared in productions on National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel as well as in commercials for such corporate giants as AT&T.

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