Web commerce speeds invasive plant threat

himalayan balsam

Himalayan balsam was introduced as an ornamental and quickly spread throughout the northern hemisphere where it’s considered an invasive plant that displaces native flora in some areas. Photo courtesy Royal Horticultural Society.

Swiss study tracks online sales of potential invaders

Staff Report

Online commerce is accelerating the invasive species threat worldwide, Swiss reasearchers said last week after taking a close look at at the unbridled market for buying and selling plants on the internet.

These days, all it takes is one click to spread potentially invasive plants from continent to continent – and unintentionally encouraging biological invasions, the researchers said, referring to invaders like goldenrod, Himalayan balsam and the Chinese windmill palm — all of which now threaten native biodiversity in the Alpine republic.

The assess the extent of the problem, ETH Zurich researchers monitoried online trades of about two-thirds of the world’s flora on eBay plus nine other online trading platforms for 50 days, tracking which plant species were offered for sale in various countries, and how often. Continue reading

Genetics help pinpoint origins of lionfish invasion


Red lionfish are swarming the western Atlantic and Caribbean. Photo courtesy USGS.

New data may help control efforts

Staff Report

FRISCO— Biologists and resource managers grappling with invasive red lionfish in the Caribbean have some new clues based on genetic research.

Without natural predators, lionfish have spread throughout the western Atlantic, displacing native fish and disrupting ecosystems.

In a new study released this week, U.S. Geological Survey researchers say the invasion probably started in multiple locations. Florida had been fingered as the likely source, but the analysis suggest that multiple introductions occurred, with some potentially coming from the more southern parts of the range. Continue reading

Will invasive pythons wipe out the Everglades’ mammals?

A Burmese python caught in the Florida Everglades. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

A Burmese python caught in the Florida Everglades. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

Non-native snakes have potentially huge impact to native ecosystems in Everglades National Park

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists working in the Florida Everglades are finding that invasive Burmese pythons are rapidly becoming the biggest predator of small mammals in the wetlands ecosystem.

The researchers found that nearly 80 percent of radio-tracked marsh rabbits that died in the park were eaten by pythons. A year later, there was no sign of a rabbit population in the study area.  Continue reading

Climate: Arctic meltdown to shake up fish diversity

Arctic sea ice receded to the second-lowest extent on record this year. MAP COURTESY NATIONAL SNOW AND ICE DATA CENTER.

Open water in the Arctic will shake up the species mix in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Changes ahead, outcome uncertain

Staff Report

FRISCO — Melting Arctic sea ice is breaking down the natural barrier between Pacific and Atlantic fish species, with as-yet unknown consequences for ocean ecosystems, scientists said this week in a new study published in Nature Climate Change.

The last time the environmental conditions allowed such large-scale transfer to occur was nearly three million years ago during the opening of the Bering Strait, which facilitated the spread of mostly Pacific marine species toward the Atlantic. Continue reading

Scientists eye tsunami debris for invasive species


NOAA is tracking marine debris from the 2011 tsunami.

Winter weather patterns expected to bring another wave of flotsam

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ocean scientists in the Pacific Northwest say winter winds and currents are set to deliver another load of debris from the deadly 2011 tsunami that swept Japan. Last year, about 30 fishing boats washed ashore along the coast of Washington and Oregon, many covered with living organisms native to Asia.

Some of the Asian coastal species could pose a threat to native ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest, said John Chapman, an Oregon State University marine invasive species specialist at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. Continue reading

Study: Global warming likely to help invasive species gain the upper hand in wetlands

Colorado wetlands

 Meadow Creek wetlands, Frisco, Colorado.

‘Death by a thousand cuts’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Invasive wetlands species are likely to get a boost from climate change, resulting in long-term threats to key native ecosystems, according to new research from Duke University.

“Changing surface-water temperatures, rainfall patterns and river flows will likely give Japanese knotweed, hydrilla, honeysuckle, privet and other noxious invasive species an edge over less adaptable native species,” said Neal E. Flanagan, visiting assistant professor at the Duke Wetland Center, who led the research. Continue reading

Antarctica’s ice-free fringe needs more protection

Invasive species a huge threat to sparse ecosystems, scientists report


Tourists on Dundee Island hike past birds and pinnipeds. bberwyn photo


Tourists hiking on Deception Island. bberwyn photo

Staff Report

FRISCO — The tiny ice-free fringes of Antarctica are especially prone to ecosystem disruption, including invasive species, an Australian science team warned earlier this year after taking a close look at how human use is concentrated in those slivers of dry land.

Antarctica has over 40,000 visitors a year, and more and more research facilities are being built in the continent’s tiny ice-free area. Most of the Antarctic wildlife and plants live in the ice-free areas – and this is also where people most visit.

Most tour operators in Antarctica follow strict guidelines set to protect ecosystems, including at least basic decontamination procedures, but those measures might not be enough, especially as global warming makes ice-free zones more susceptible to invasive species. Continue reading


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