Agreement Targets Invasive Species Research, Control, and Mitigation
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced new partnerships with the New York Invasive Species Research Institute (NYISRI) and Cornell University to develop and support projects and research to help limit the spread of invasive species.
Cornell University is the current host for the Invasive Species Research Institute. Nearly 50 scientific investigations about invasive species have been/are being conducted. The announcement sustains the State’s ongoing collaboration with NYISRI to coordinate invasive species research and develop outreach efforts to conserve New York’s hemlock resources in the face of multiple threats, particularly the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), an invasive insect.
Supported by the State’s Environmental Protection Fund with $3.5 million, the NYISRI five-year term agreement includes $2.5 million for invasive species projects; the agreement with Cornell University includes a two-year term with $1 million to support the New York Hemlock Initiative.
The five-year project memorandum of understanding (MOU) will support key positions and services at NYISRI for focused work on identifying invasive species, education, outreach, and targeted control efforts. NYISRI performs many critical and innovative tasks in the field of invasive species research, including biological control of water chestnut (Trapa natans), swallow-wort (Cynanchum spp.), and japanese knotweed (Reynoutria spp.), as well as measuring success and associated metric development and coordinating invasive species research needs in New York State.
New York is home to vast stands of eastern hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis). These trees are threatened by the introduction of the invasive insect HWA and other environmental stressors. HWA is now a serious threat to the survival of hemlock in eastern forests. Funded through the MOU, Cornell’s New York Hemlock Initiative provides a critical service by developing methods to conserve hemlock, including the growth and release of several biological control agents and other fundamental survey, research, and trend analyses.
The Hemlock Initiative includes collaboration with professional land managers, state and federal agencies, government officials, and concerned citizens to understand the issues and strategies for minimizing the impact of forest insect pests and non-native invasive insects, such as HWA. Research is now underway on the forest stand dynamics of invasive non-native forest pest impacts and implementation of biological control strategies for HWA. This initiative involves the completion of a statewide prioritization of hemlock stands, establishment and maintenance of hemlock nursery stock to host biocontrol agents, and the rearing, release, and monitoring of non-native predatory insects into the environment to reduce the severity and extent of HWA infestations in New York State and reduce or prevent hemlock mortality.
Cornell University also houses the Sarkaria Arthropod Research Laboratory, a quarantine facility that provides research capacity for arthropods and experimentation on their biology and control. The facility houses exotic pest species and non-indigenous arthropods with the potential to serve as biological control agents of pests.
The outcomes of these projects inform activities undertaken by DEC, NYISRI, New York’s eight Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISMs) and other partners.
Additional areas of focus include:
Water Chestnut Biological Control: Water chestnut, an aquatic invasive species, has had significant negative ecological and economic consequences. Conventional mechanical control of water chestnut is labor intensive and must be maintained in perpetuity. However, development of a biological control program offers hope for a cost-effective and ecologically sound alternative. Cornell University evaluated a potential biocontrol agent between 2002 and 2005. This contract will allow for the continuation of work initiated at Cornell University to test and implement a biocontrol program for water chestnut.
Swallow-wort Biological Control: Swallow-wort is an aggressive invasive perennial plant that forms dense patches in a variety of habitats and which may have negative impacts on monarch butterfly populations. Current practices to control invasive swallow-worts include the application of herbicides and mechanical removal. These practices can have negative side effects. The pilot biological control project was initiated in New York State 2018. Maintaining the established Swallow-wort Biocontrol Research Collaborative supports rearing and releases of an approved biocontrol agent for swallow-worts.
Japanese Knotweed Biological Control: Japanese knotweed is a perennial herb with shrub-like form grows 3-9′ and threatens riparian corridors, fens, springs, ravines, forests, and streamsides. This five-year agreement will renew efforts to locate and test additional biocontrol agents for Japanese knotweed using demographic and phylogenetic approaches.
For more information on invasive species, visit DEC’s website.
Photo: HWA, courtesy of Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Bugwood.org