On YouTube: Hydrilla Plants Invade Western NY; Invasive Species Found in North Tonawanda Waterways
Aquatic Invasive Species - News

Hydrilla verticillata is an aquatic plant native to Asia. It is known among experts as a "viscous" plant that grows in thick mats that kills off fish and other plants. Now, as Ed Reilly reports for WKBW-TV (a YNN station), the troublesome plant is threatening Western New York waterways.

North Tonawanda, NY, September 24, 2012 - A U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist recently discovered that the invasive plant is growing in Tonawanda Creek in North Tonawanda.

Several areas of the country, especially Florida, have seen whole waterways completely overgrown with it, ruining swimming, fishing, and boating.

Concerns locally are that it could also do the same thing, as well as threaten water intakes located along the Niagara River.

"It grows in very dense mats, and these mats can be so thick they can actually block out the sunlight," said  said Helen Domske, New York Sea Grant Coastal Education Specialist and Associate Director of the Great Lakes Program at the University of Buffalo. The lack of sunlight kills fish and other plants. It also impacts humans - swimming, fishing and boating can be completely ruined by Hydrilla.

"You can't get a boat through it. You wouldn't be able to put a kayak paddle through it," said Domske.

Hydrilla is classified as a Noxious Weed by the Federal government and is banned in some parts of the country. However, it is still popular with aquarium owners who use it until it overgrows fish tanks.

"Rather than throwing it in the garbage where it is not going to do damage, they throw it in nearby water bodies," said Domske.

It is also likely that pieces of Hydrilla were transported here on boats that had sailed in infested waters, the closest being the Cayuga Inlet in the Finger Lakes.

"They grow by fragments," said Domske. "You don't need to plant seeds with them, and so, if a fragment is stuck on a boat trailer or the boat itself, that's one way it could've been introduced."

Over the next few weeks, researchers from several agencies, including Canada, plan to search local waterways to see how widespread the problem is.

"Because it might have already spread out enough in a large system, like the Niagara River, that we might not be able to do anything to control it, and that would be unfortunate," added Paul McKeown, Natural Resources Supervisor for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Killing the plant is difficult because fragments can drift away and grow independently.

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say herbicides are an option, but a comprehensive plan needs to be worked out before they can be applied.

More Info:

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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