Thursday, December 6, 2012

Invasive Tallow Tree Lowers Frog Egg Survival

Amphibians across the world are rapidly declining. Numerous studies have addressed causes of the decline, but very few have looked at the effects of invasive plants. Dan Saenz, Southern Research Station (SRS) research wildlife biologist based in Nacogdoches, Texas, is working with collaborators to determine the effect of Chinese tallow tree on Texas frog species.

Following its introduction in the late 1700s, Chinese tallow tree (tallow) rapidly took over the Gulf Coast that stretches from Florida to Texas, covering over 500,000 acres in Texas and Louisiana alone. SRS Forest and Inventory Analysis data  suggest that tallow increased 174 percent in east Texas and more than 500 percent in Louisiana since the early 1990s; the aggressive invasive is now the fifth most common tree species in east Texas and Louisiana.

Although tallow can grow in almost every habitat and soil type, it is often found in wetter areas. Forming a monoculture in the areas it invades, tallow literally chokes out the native trees around the wetlands frogs breed in, blanketing the bottoms of pools with its leaves in the fall.

“Tallow leaves decompose much faster than the leaves of native wetland trees and plants,” says Saenz. “The process of leaf decomposition and the release of tannins from the leaves can affect water quality and specifically dissolved oxygen, which could adversely affect frogs in the egg or tadpole stages.”

A recent study by Saenz and SRS wildlife biologist Cory Adams on the effects of tallow leaf litter on the hatching success of southern leopard frog eggs is the first of its kind. “To our knowledge, no work has been conducted on the effects of invasive species on amphibian eggs,” says Saenz. “Amphibian eggs are immobile and one of the most vulnerable stages of development.”

For the study, the researchers exposed southern leopard frog eggs at various stages of development to different concentrations of tallow leaf litter. Results,published late summer in the Canadian Journal of Zoology, showed that eggs in the earliest stages of development exposed to tallow leaf litter died, regardless of the concentration, while some eggs in later stages of development survived.         
                                                                                                                                                                                        “We found that the greater the concentration of tallow tree litter, the lower the dissolved oxygen and the more acidic the water,” says Saenz. ”We suggest that changes in these water quality factors are the cause of the death of frog eggs in our experiments. This has profound implications for amphibians in wetland areas where tallow has taken over.” 

In an earlier study published in June in the Journal of Herpetology, Saenz and colleagues at Stephen F. Austin University reported findings from introducing tadpoles from four different frog species into pools containing leaf litter from tallow or from one of two native trees. Results were mixed, suggesting that the breeding season of a species may determine how well its members survive and develop in an environment with tallow leaf litter. “Chinese tallow leaf litter breaks down faster than native species,” says Saenz. “Because of this, negative effects might be short-lived, but could pose a threat to species that breed soon after leaf fall.”

For more information, email Dan Saenz at

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Britain's ash tree dieback crisis and Ashtag app

Britain's 80 million ash trees are at deadly risk from ash dieback caused by Chalara fraxinea, a virulent fungal disease that has swept across Europe.

But quick thinking environmental specialists at UEA’s Adapt Low Carbon Group have come up with a new smartphone app which will not only help monitor the spread of disease, but allow conservationists to target infected areas.

The free ‘Ashtag’ app will make it possible for anyone to take a photo of diseased leaves, shoots or bark and send it remotely to plant pathologists to identify whether or not the tree is infected. 

2013 Python Challenge

FWC announces 2013 Python Challenge™

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is announcing the 2013 Python Challenge™ with its goal of increasing public awareness about Burmese pythons and how this invasive species is a threat to the Everglades ecosystem, including native wildlife.  As part of the Python Challenge, both the public and Florida’s python permit holders are invited to compete to see who can harvest the longest and the most Burmese pythons.

On Jan. 12, the Python Challenge™ Kickoff will initiate a month-long program of harvesting Burmese pythons from public lands, and the public can see and learn more about these large constrictors. The kickoff is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Research & Education Center, which will hold its invasive species open house that day.

“The FWC is encouraging the public to get involved in helping us remove Burmese pythons from public lands in south Florida,” said Kristen Sommers, head of the FWC’s Exotic Species Coordination Section. “By enlisting both the public and Florida’s python permit holders in a month-long competitive harvesting of Burmese pythons, we hope to motivate more people to find and harvest these large, invasive snakes. The Python Challenge gives people a chance to sign up for a competition to see who can catch the longest or the most pythons.
“Part of the goal of the Python Challenge is to educate the public to understand why nonnative species like Burmese pythons should never be released into the wild and encourage people to report sightings of exotic species,” Sommers said. “We also expect the competitive harvesting of Burmese pythons to result in additional information on the python population in south Florida and enhance our research and management efforts.”

Grand prizes of $1,500 for harvesting the most Burmese pythons will be awarded to winners of both the General Competition and the Python Permit Holders Competition, with additional $1,000 prizes for the longest Burmese python harvested in both competitions. Funding for the prizes is provided by Python Challenge™ sponsors. The largest Burmese python documented in Florida was more than 17 feet in length.

Complete information on the Python Challenge™, including how to train and register for the competitions and more about upcoming south Florida events, is available at PythonChallenge.

Many partners, including the University of Florida, The Nature Conservancy, The Future of Hunting in Florida, the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Zoo Miami, are involved in the Python Challenge™.

Florida currently prohibits possession or sale of Burmese pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of this species.

The Python Challenge™ will conclude with a free Awareness and Awards Event on Feb. 16 at Zoo Miami. Educational talks and exhibits will be available for all ages, with chances to encounter live Burmese pythons, meet the experts who research and capture them, and learn about protecting the precious resources of the Everglades ecosystem, including its native birds, mammals and reptiles. The winners of the General Competition and Python Permit Holders Competition will be presented with their awards.

Monday, December 3, 2012

YOU can help STOP the Brown Marmorated Stinkbug!

The brown marmorated stink bug damages a huge range of fruit, vegetable, and ornamental crops in North America. features the latest findings from more than 50 researchers working to solve the mysteries of this pest.

The web site provides a photo identification guide and recommendations for how to control BMSB. Visitors can connect to our researchers' sites, send a specimen for identification, and report a sighting.
YOU can help by reporting this fearsome foe! The more we know about where is is, the better strategies we can come up with to limit it's spread and impact.
BMSB Adult
You can help stop this pest!

Invasive Plant Science and Management

Invasive Plant Science and Management Vol. 5, Issue 4 (October–December 2012) from Weed Science Society of America is now available on BioOne. BioOne is a global, not-for-profit collaboration bringing together scientific societies, publishers, and libraries to provide access to critical, peer-reviewed research in the biological, ecological, and environmental sciences.

Research article topics include:
  • Bushkiller (Cayratia japonica)
  • Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) Bulbs
  • Sulfur Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta)
  • Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata)
  • Downy Brome (Bromus tectorum)
  • Medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae)
  • Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare)
  • Chinese and European Privet (Ligustrum sinense and Ligustrum vulgare)
  • Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) Cultivars
  • Old World Climbing Fern (Lygodium microphyllum)
  • Sericea Lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata)
  • Mycorrhizal Associations
  • Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
To request a free trial of BioOne Click Here.
If you are associated with a University you may have free access to BioOne through your University. Check with your university library.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Review hails citizen scientists

A review of more than 230 “citizen science” projects says the involvement of volunteers offers “high value to research, policy and practice”.

See article here:

and review here:

Boa Constrictors Invade Puerto Rico

See article here: