Hydrilla, an aquatic invasive plant linked to wildlife deaths in southern states, has been inching closer and closer to the Adirondack Park in recent years.
Boat stewards have intercepted hydrilla on boats traveling to the Adirondacks a handful of times in the past five years, including three separate instances in 2021, and the plant is present throughout parts of New York. But it has yet to establish a foothold in Adirondack lakes.
The aggressive plant can crowd out native plants, clog waterways, degrade fish habitat and upset the aesthetic and recreational benefits of a waterbody. It can spread to cover over a thousand contiguous acres, like it has in recent years in the Connecticut River.
A group of land managers, conservationists, scientists and other last week also learned about a form of cyanobacteria that grows on hydrilla and can devastate local wildlife.
During an event hosted by the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program in Blue Mountain Lake last week, Susan Wilde, a research scientist at the University of Georgia, and her colleagues shared findings about a type of toxic cyanobacterium that developed on hydrilla was creating a cascade of neural problems throughout local food chains. Birds, amphibians and other animals fed on the toxic vegetation, causing brain lesions, seizures, paralysis, disorientation and death. The toxins also passed up the food chain, and eagles feeding on infected waterfowl were also impacted. Wilde said the cyanobacteria had killed juvenile bald eagles, great horned owls, Canada geese, mallards and also affected mammals. She said it could be unsafe for people to eat certain gamefish.
“I think we do have a human health concern,” Wilde said.
The disturbing presentation, which included video of inflicted animals, served as a clarion call to prevent hydrilla from advancing further in the region.
Close-up of Hydrilla. Photo: Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org. Courtesy of the New York Invasive Species Information Clearinghouse
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