Long Island Pitches in for NY’s First Invasive Species Week
Long Island Sound Study - News
Volunteers battle invasive weeds in Caumsett Park

Compiled by Paul C. Focazio, New York Sea Grant
  (Some content provided via mid-July 2014 articles featured in Long Island Press and Newsday)


Stony Brook, NY, December 15, 2014 - During the first full week this past July, New York State held its first-ever "Invasive Species Awareness Week." More than 100 public events marked the seven-days-in-the-spotlight occasion, an effort to protect natural resources from the encroachment of invaders such as swallow-wort, garlic mustard, knotweed, pepperweed, and mile-a-minute vine, the latter also known as Asiatic tearthumb, a native to Japan and was probably brought to the United States accidentally.

East Northport resident Eileen Anders (pictured at left) helped to remove the invasive mile-a-minute plant from Caumsett State Park in Lloyd Harbor during a weekend-long weed pull in mid-July 2014. If left unattended, the weed, which grows as much as 6 inches a day, overcomes and eventually kills native plants and trees. Photo: Ed Betz, Newsday.

As reported by Newsday, The Long Island Press and other local media, volunteers at Long Island's Caumsett State Park stuffed two dozen bags with invasive plants in two days.

"It's one thing to read about invasive species in a newspaper or a research paper, but it's another thing to get out there and see it yourself," said Sandy Polan, a math and science research teacher at East Meadow High School, as she stood in knee-high weeds, untangling a thorny grasp of mile-a-minute vine. Polan is convinced similar efforts can be good learning exercises for her classes. "This is stuff kids can get involved in and make a difference."


Long Island Sound Study Outreach Coordinator Amy Mandelbaum (pictured above, in middle) joined some dozen park workers and participants over the weekend for some hand pulling and digging to remove swallow-wort (seen in inset picture; Photos: Amy Mandelbaum, NYSG/LISS; Long Island Press).


“We’re very concerned about swallow-wort,” said Mandelbaum. “We don’t want a whole park full of invasive species.”

Caumsett State Park is beset by many invasive species, Mandelbaum said, but the focus during the weekend was on uprooting swallow-wort, which can be found throughout the fields and the edges of the park’s woodlands.

Unchecked, this perennial plant creates tangled thickets that block light to our native species and herbaceous vines that can choke trees. It comes in two species—pale and black—depending on the color of their petite flowers, but the outcome is the same: swallow-wort takes over because it has no natural enemies here.

Deer won’t eat it, researchers have found, perhaps because it contains some toxic compounds such as glycosides. When Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on swallow-wort, which is very similar to milkweed, the larvae that hatch die within 24 to 48 hours. And researchers have begun to find that the plant may also modify the soil’s microbial community, making it more difficult for native plants to propagate.

Antonio DiTommaso, an associate professor of crop and soil sciences at Cornell University, has been studying swallow-wort for 15 years.

“Once they get established, they’re hard to control,” he said. “Are we going to eradicate these guys? No, it’s unlikely to happen unless something really special comes along.” He said that in their native environments, the Iberian peninsula for the black swallow-wort and the Ukraine for the pale species, they have the opposite problem. “You’d have a hard time finding them.They’re in balance and almost rare.” Unfortunately, that’s not the case stateside.

Back here on Long Island, Caumsett State Park needs all the help it can get, said Ariana Newell, regional natural resource biologist for New York State Parks Department. "As the only biologist in the region, I really, really rely on volunteers to help me clean the area up," she said.

Also joining the volunteers during the weekend was Port Jefferson resident Sarah Schoepflin, who was employed this past summer to do similar work at parks for the state's Invasive Species Strike Team. She's become an expert on identifying the fast-growing pests. "Now when I'm driving around, I recognize them," she said. "They're everywhere!"

For Long Islanders who could not make the event at Caumsett Park this past summer, there are still efforts you can make in your backyard.

“If you have a small patch of swallow-wort, for example," said DiTommaso, "dig it up and try to get as much of the roots as possible. Put it in a garbage bag and either send it to the dump or, even better, let it fry in the sun. Certainly do not throw any of this in your compost pile because they will re-root!”

He also said that by early summer swallow-wort has already formed its seed pods. “At the very least, chop the pods off,” he warned. “At least, you’ll minimize the seed production.”

Mandelbaum suggests there are still efforts you can make in your own backyard. The Long Island Sound Study Web site's "Sound Gardening" section has information on what can do to keep their backyards free of invasive plants.

Also, outside of keeping free of invasive plants, she added that folks can help protect the Long Island Sound by simply picking up trash, recycling and limiting the use of fertilizer on their lawns. They can also properly dispose of hazardous household chemicals. "Don't pour used motor oil or paint down the storm drain," she said. More via the Long Island Sound Study Web site's "What You Can Do" section.

The New York Invasive Species Web site and blog, both partnerships of New York Sea Grant and Cornell Cooperative Extension, has more information on what you can do as well as upcoming events.

And to obtain desirable Long Island native plants, such as purple coneflower and black-eyed Susan, ask for them at your local nursery or a big box store or get them directly from the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, Inc. Web site.


More Info:

Long Island Sound is one of the 28 nationally-designated estuaries under the NEP, which was established by Congress in 1987 to improve the quality of Long Island Sound and other places where rivers meet the sea.

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New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, is one of 33 university-based programs under the National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NSGCP engages this network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources. Through its statewide network of integrated services, NYSG has been promoting coastal vitality, environmental sustainability, and citizen awareness about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources since 1971.

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