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
This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.
Hydrilla has been present in NY since 2008. In light of our 40 plus years milfoil infestation, competing interests would do well to be cooperating interests.
How do we tell hydrilla from other very similar aquatics?
Some info from DEC…
The DEC just completed a very successful but costly eradication program at Croton Reservoir.
I’ve seen this species during my travels!
More and more we seem to be having problems regards invasives, this and that! Always some new invasive appearing. Or some new event to put us on edge! If only we but had some foresight, if but we could get past the next few pay cycles and look ahead some few decades at the very least. We don’t have that in us to do, we’re stuck in the immediate, in what affects us now, our wallets………. The politicians have us down pat. They know our wallets matter more than all things else, our 401k’s etc. We’ll bow down to a liar so long as he or she promises us financial security, or passes laws which protect our right to run over manatees with our boats because temporary pleasures are more important than a fish. Etc.!
If anyone thinks that what I say is not relative to above story, think again.