Monday, January 26, 2015

A plant virus receives EPA registration as an herbicide

BioProdex, Inc., a spinoff enterprise based on research from the University of Florida-IFAS, Gainesville, has made history by developing and registering the world’s first biological herbicide containing a plant virus as the active ingredient. Named SolviNix LC, the bioherbicide is a novel, groundbreaking product signifying a new paradigm in herbicides. The active ingredient in SolviNix is a naturally occurring virus called the Tobacco mild green mosaic virus strain U2 and it is registered for the control of tropical soda apple, an invasive weed in the southeastern United States. 

The weed-killing ability of this virus was discovered and patented by Dr. R. “Charu” Charudattan, Dr. Ernest Hiebert, and associates in the Department of Plant Pathology, UF-IFAS.  BioProdex, Inc. licensed this technology from the University of Florida Research Foundation, developed an industrial process to mass-produce the virus, assembled safety and efficacy data based on extensive research and testing, and successfully registered the bioherbicide with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under FIFRA Section 3. 

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) enabled BioProdex to develop the mass production technology. The IR-4 Biopesticide and Organic Support Program, Princeton, NJ undertook and steered the registration effort for BioProdex.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Removal of invasive rats leads to first wild Galapagos tortoise hatchlings in over 100 years

It's not exactly clear when the last wild saddleback giant tortoises (Chelonoidis ephippium) hatchlings escaped predation from the invasive black rat (Rattus rattus), but it is estimated that none survived in the entire 19th century.  After introduction in the 17th and 18th centuries, and spreading through the island chain through human movement in the subsequent years, the rats were ravaging the islands' for eggs and tortoises were slowly dying out.  A breeding program was established in 1965 to rear the tortoises until they were large enough to be unthreatened by rats but no successful breeding was occurring in the wild.  Programs to control and eradicate invasive rats on several of the smaller islands have been attempted in the past, with some measure of success.  In 2012, a project was initiated to eradicate the rats on Piz√≥n island which is home to the tortoises.

A survey conducted in December 2014 has found ten wild hatchlings of the giant tortoises, the first in over 100 years and a solid indicator that the rat eradication program employed on the island has been effective.  Further vigilance will be required to keep the rats from re-invading via swimming from nearby infested islands and through human movement.

To read about the hatchling discovery via Nature and the Galapagos Island Blog

To read about the 2012 Pizon rat eradication project via Nature and the Galapagos Island Blog

Thursday, January 15, 2015

First Detector Scouting and reporting apps

Volunteers' Early Detection Leads to Another Successful Removal of a Non-native Fish Species by REEF

REEF Volunteer divers Deb Devers and Lureen Ferretti spotted an unknown fish species, later determined to be a mimic lemon peel surgeonfish (Acanthurus pyroferus), over the Thanksgiving weekend and documented the occurrence.  The divers returned to the site, Palm Beach County Florida, on December 13th and captured the fish and it was shipped alive to the  Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada where it will go on exhibit for public display to educate the public on invasive species.

In the fight against non-native, invasive species it can sometimes seem that success stories are few and far-between.  Early detection and rapid response is the key to prevent non-native species from gaining a foothold and becoming an established population.

The full article can be read on the REEF website.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Changes Firewood Regulations to Protect Forests

Date: January 6, 2015 
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (865) 436-1207 
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced regulation changes that will help protect park forests by limiting the type of firewood brought into the park. Beginning in March 2015, only heat-treated firewood that is bundled and displays a certification stamp by the USDA or a state department of agriculture will be allowed for use in park campgrounds.
Heat-treated firewood will be available to purchase from concessioners in many of the campgrounds as well as from private businesses in the communities around the park. Certified heat-treated firewood is packaged in 0.75 cu-ft. bundles clearly displaying a certification stamp. The wood is a high-quality hardwood product that has been heated for 60 minutes at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The wood lights easily, burns well for campfires, is safe to cook over, and is already available at over 85 locations near the park that can be viewed on an interactive map by visiting In addition, visitors may still collect dead and down wood in the park for campfires.
“The threat of these new pests coming into our forests, both in the park and regionally, compels us to do all we can to reduce the risk to our forests,” said Acting Superintendent Clayton Jordan. “While a ban on the importation of non-treated firewood will not entirely halt the spread of destructive forest pests and diseases, it will greatly slow it down. This allows time to develop and implement new treatment strategies to help control the impacts from these non-native pests and diseases.” 
Non-native, tree-killing insects and diseases can unknowingly be introduced through firewood transported from infested areas. A variety of destructive pests lay eggs or stowaway in firewood. These insects from Asia and Europe have the potential to devastate over 30 species of hardwood trees native to the park. New infestations threaten our forests with widespread tree mortality that could devastate wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and scenic views. The use of firewood that has been heat treated eliminates the threat posed by these pests through the movement and use of wood in campfires.
National parks throughout the Appalachian region have taken action to limit the spread of insect pests in firewood including, in many cases, the banning of imported firewood. For the past three years, the Smokies has prohibited the importation of firewood from areas quarantined by the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. Park rangers have been working over the past year with numerous partners representing federal and state agencies, conservation organizations, and universities to mitigate the risks associated with movement of firewood including a public education campaign with campground programs and regionally placed billboards. The park also hosted public meetings and developed an informational handout that was provided to all Smokies campers throughout the summer inviting public comments.
For more information about firewood and forest and insect pests in the park, please visit the park website at

Monday, January 12, 2015

The 5 Worst Invasive Species in the Everglades

As written in a cover story in TIME this week, invasive species are a growing threat around the U.S. And there’s no place quite as thoroughly invaded as Florida. Watch this four and a half minute video: Cover story in TIME.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Salvinia: A Cancer On the Water

Salvinia: A Cancer On the Water, by Jane Jackson of Louisiana written for the Bugwood Blog

In 2006, a cancer invaded Lake Bistineau in northwest Louisiana. The battle to control salvinia and eradicate this invasive aquatic plant has been ongoing. The Facebook page, Lake Bistineau News, was created to unite property owners, sports enthusiasts, hunters and all people who love the lake and advocate for salvinia control. The group now numbers over 1,300 and I invited the members to share how salvinia has affected their lives. I fear our Louisiana waters are compromised. Salvinia is now in 50 or our bodies of water.
As you read this article, I hope you will come away forewarned. If Salvinia comes to your state, be prepared, be proactive, be ready. It is too late for our waters, but maybe other states can learn from our experience and protect their lakes and rivers. Here are our stories . . .

. . .“There was a log covered in it (salvinia) just under the surface. I remember hearing it hit under the boat, then knocking my motor out of the water, and the giant rainbow colored oil slick coming from the crack in my lower unit. Moral of the story, idle through salvinia or get a new motor!!”

. . .“During the flood of Oct. 09 - Salvinia poured into our yards and left a HUGE MESS! Back then, no one cared ! NOW the State says we have a problem - because it's reached other areas besides Bistineau. “

. . .“We rode around the Ringgold side of the lake today and saw first hand a lot of dead salvinia where the lake bottom was dry. We also found a ton of active growing salvinia up to the tree line with nothing but moist ground. All channels and areas that don't drain...are holding live salvinia...these areas need to be sprayed ! Air boats can't get will take ATVs with spray equipment to reach these areas. The lake needs a longer drawdown time frame to allow these areas to dry up.”

. . .“My addition to the story: When we first began the fight, the local representatives of our Wildlife and Fisheries were active with us in the fight--spraying, training us to spray, using drawdowns as last resorts. Now State Offices must approve treatments. Previously, I could report sighting of big patches of Salvinia and within a few days local authorities had a sprayer out treating the infestation. That doesn't happen now. It has to be approved in the State Office and it's now weeks before sprayers get to the location that has by that time doubled in mass or moved with the wind.”

. . .“2006 and now 2014 and no closer to getting rid of the weed because no one wants to do what is necessary”

 . . “I bought my place on the Port O Bistineau side of the lake in 2012. The lake bed was dry but I bought anyway. The lake eventually filled up and I saw the beauty and that revealed the reason I bought my place. Now I am on a mission to keep it at its beauty. Just last July I walk out on my dock and see two tiny ducks struggling to get through the mass of Salvinia and Alligator Grass. I had to get in my boat and clear a way for them to make it to land.
It is a shame that our wildlife has to suffer when they are what makes my place what it is. The ducks flying over, fish jumping, frogs croaking, birds its gone. I hear occasional air boats in the back ground spraying this invasive cancer. We can't enjoy the lake, its not there..can't fish...they have moved on.”

. . .“My South Louisiana Salvinia Story . . . A year and a half ago my husband was standing on the dock at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge and cast netting for shrimp. He got lots of shrimp that day! Now, fast forward to September 2014. We show up at the refuge to try our luck and what do we see
. . .Salvinia. It broke my heart. Makes it impossible to cast net. We still caught 2 dozen crab, but the salvinia was in our crab net and on the crabs. It was brown and looked dead but if you looked closely you could find some green. Just letting you know, it's everywhere.”

In conclusion, I hope you, the reader, now have a glimpse of the toll salvinia has inflicted upon people, habitat and wildlife. I hope you never have to face this cancer upon the water, known as Salvinia.

Elachee Nature Center Battles Invasive Species

From an article in, "Working with funding from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Southern Company, Elachee Nature Science Center says it was able to treat more than 34 acres of infested areas with the help of 164 volunteers.

Elachee partnered with the Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council (EPPC), the University of North Georgia/Gainesville, and the Hall County Environmental Management System in attacking such invasive plants as kudzu, Chinese privet and Japanese honeysuckle."

Read entire article in

Elachee Nature Center also hosted a field trip for the joint Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council/SouthEast Exotic Pest Plant Council Annual Conference in Athens, GA on November 14, 2014. The field trip highlighted the invasive species removal work Elachee has done.
You can find your Invasive Plant Council or equivalent at the National Invasive Plant Council website.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

“First Urban Forest” Wired with Smart Forest Technology, Alley Pond Park, Queens, NYC

The U.S. Forest Service is investing in new technology and cyber infrastructure within its Experimental Forests and Ranges (EFR) network. 

Alley Pond Park in Queens, New York City is the “first urban forest” to be wired with Smart Forest technology [] as part of the planned USDA Forest Service's Northern Research Station’s "Smart Forest network”.  The Alley Pond Park data collection, from air and soil temperature to precipitation to solar radiation and phenology, will be a collaboration of scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, NYC Parks and Drexel University in Philadelphia. 

See: for the original article and for more details about the project.