Monday, March 30, 2009

Invasive News, Notes & Musings: March 30th, 2009

It is the nature of our world to try to reduce everything to a 30 second "sound byte" even invasive species issues: Complicating community ecology; the (March 30, 2009) — “Dr. Karl Cottenie believes simplification is the wrong way to analyze species richness;… He believes that the species richness formula ignores a great deal of information about community dynamics that is critical to a comprehensive understanding of community ecology.,, Cottenie believes scientists should use a multi-variate approach, breaking communities down into components such as environment, the number of species that can be found around a habitat, and the connectivity to other habitats. Only then can the complexity of a community be analyzed for the diversity contributed by a number of variables. By breaking down species richness into various sub-factors, Cottenie believes that more information can be extracted about a community’s structuring forces than by reducing the set to a single “species richness” calculation….he believes ecologists need to embrace the complexity they are trying to study, not hide behind the single, catch-all figure of species richness. To understand complexity, it must be studied as a whole.”

The problem of wicked inconvenience of temporal scale marches in and on with native ants exacting revenge. We do not know2 how much revenge an ecosystem may over time bring to bear on invasive species. The danger is using this idea to do nothing and to say everything is alright because in the end there will be a positive profitable out-come: Aussie Meat Ants May Be Invasive Cane Toad's Achilles' Heel; ScienceDaily (Mar. 30, 2009) — "Ecologists in Australia have discovered that cane toads are far more susceptible to being killed and eaten by meat ants than native frogs…scientists found, the Australian frogs are warier of the meat ants than the imported intruder and also quicker and nimbler at avoiding them compared to the cane toad, whose hops are shorter and slower due to their shorter shin bones."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Annapolis Maryland proposes to ban invasive species - plants

The City of Annapolis, Maryland has decided to enter the war on invasive species - plants only. Introduced by Alderman Paone, ORDINANCE NO. O-05-09 is offered for “…the purpose of prohibiting invasive plants on lots or parcels within the City unless completely contained to control growth and prevent encroachment.” Unfortunately for the conversation and dialogue among interested parties, the Council thus far has decided to overlook the United States federal advisory committee definition white paper as a source for its working concept of “invasive species”. Instead, quoting from the proposed legislation, “…Invasive plants, as defined in “Invasive Plants of the Eastern United States” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Georgia, are not permitted on any lot or parcel of land within the City unless completely contained so as to control growth and prevent any encroachment upon or interference with neighboring properties, utilities, streets, sidewalks, or structures of any kind.”[1] Clarity in legislation and sources of definition for wicked messy problems are a wicked inconvenience for some.

Wicked problems by their nature become a definitional struggle among stakeholders and woe to the policy arbiter who ignores this part of the controversy. The United States government recognizing the myriad definitions and fragmentation of the discussion by producing a white paper intended to provide a non-regulatory policy interpretation of the term invasive species by identifying what is meant, and just as important, what is not meant by the term. Executive Order 13112 – defines an invasive species as “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” In the Executive Summary of the National Invasive Species Management Plan (NISMP) the term invasive species is further clarified and defined as “a species that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” [2]

The city of Annapolis has selected a well know and respected source of invasive species information. is a joint project of some of the following organizations and agencies: The Bugwood Network, USDA Forest Service & USDA APHIS PPQ.. The University of Georgia - Warnell School of Forest Resources and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - Dept. of Entomology. The proposed bill is based on the Center’s statement that at least in part is not referenced in the legislation: “While this is not an official list of "invasive" plants throughout the eastern United States, it includes Federal Noxious Weeds and those listed by State regulatory agencies, pest plant councils and other organizations. Some of the plants on this list are often found in ornamental plantings and landscapes. In fact, many non-native plants introduced for horticultural and agricultural use now pose a serious ecological threat in the absence of their natural predators and control agents. This publication will aid landowners, foresters, resource managers, and the general public in becoming familiar with invasive plants in their area to help protect our environment from the economic and ecological impacts of these biological pollutants.”[3] Maryland’s own MISC (Maryland Invasive Species Council) list could have been cited, but was not.

Invasive species issues are controversial and problematic. Dr. Robert Lackey proposes nine generalities, all of which may come into play with the proposal:[4]
(1) the policy and political dynamic is a zero-sum game;
(2) the distribution of benefits and costs is more important than the ratio of total benefits to total costs;
(3) the most politically viable policy choice spreads the benefits to a broad majority with the costs limited to a narrow minority of the population;
(4) potential losers are usually more assertive and vocal than potential winners and are, therefore, disproportionately important in decision making;
(5) many advocates will cloak their arguments as science to mask their personal policy preferences;
(6) even with complete and accurate scientific information, most policy issues remain divisive; (7) demonizing policy advocates supporting competing policy options is often more effective than presenting rigorous analytical arguments;
(8) if something can be measured accurately and with confidence, it is probably not particularly relevant in decision making;
(9) the meaning of words matters greatly and arguments over their precise meaning are often surrogates for debates over values.

Dr. Lacey continues: “Wicked, messy ecological policy problems share several qualities: (1) complexity
— innumerable options and trade-offs;
(2) polarization — clashes between competing
(3) winners and losers — for each policy choice, some will clearly benefit, some
will be harmed, and the consequences for others is uncertain;
(4) delayed consequences
— no immediate "fix" and the benefits, if any, of painful concessions will often not be
evident for decades;
(5) decision distortion — advocates often appeal to strongly held
values and distort or hide the real policy choices and their consequences;
(6) national vs. regional conflict — national (or international) priorities often differ substantially from those at the local or regional level; and (7) ambiguous role for science — science is often not pivotal in evaluating policy options, but science often ends up serving inappropriately as a surrogate for debates over values and preferences.

List from Invasive Plants of the Eastern United States: Identification and Control
Alternanthera philoxeroides (Mart.) Griseb.
Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms
Hydrilla verticillata (L. f.) Royle
parrot feather watermilfoil
Myriophyllum aquaticum (Vell.) Verdc.
Eurasian watermilfoil
Myriophyllum spicatum L.
Pistia stratiotes L.
giant salvinia
Salvinia molesta D. S. Mitchell
water chestnut
Trapa natans L.
Japanese climbing fern
Lygodium japonicum (Thunb. ex Murr.) Sw.
old world climbing fern
Lygodium microphyllum (Cav.) R. Br.
garlic mustard
Alliaria petiolata (Bieb.) Cavara & Grande
plumeless thistle
Carduus acanthoides L.
musk thistle
Carduus nutans L.
winged plumeless thistle
Carduus tenuiflorus W. Curtis
spotted knapweed
Centaurea biebersteinii DC
Canada thistle
Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.
bull thistle
Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten.
tropical spiderwort
Commelina benghalensis L.
cypress spurge
Euphorbia cyparissias L.
leafy spurge
Euphorbia esula L.
Galega officinalis L.
orange daylily
Hemerocallis fulva (L.) L.
giant hogweed
Heracleum mantegazzianum Sommier & Levier
shrubby lespedeza
Lespedeza bicolor Turcz.
Chinese lespedeza
Lespedeza cuneata (Dum.-Cours.) G. Don
purple loosestrife
Lythrum salicaria L.
marsh dewflower
Murdannia keisak (Hassk.) Hand.-Maz.
small broomrape
Orobanche minor Sm.
Japanese knotweed
Polygonum cuspidatum Sieb. & Zucc.
lesser Celandine
Ranunculus ficaria L.
wetland nightshade
Solanum tampicense Dunal
Solanum torvum Swartz
tropical soda apple
Solanum viarum Dunal
Asiatic witchweed
Striga asiatica (L.) Kuntze
Tussilago farfara L.
giant reed
Arundo donax L.
deeprooted sedge
Cyperus entrerianus Boeck.
Imperata cylindrica (L.) Beauv.
tall fescue
Lolium arundinaceum (Schreb.) S.J. Darbyshire
Nepalese browntop
Microstegium vimineum (Trin.) A. Camus
Chinese silvergrass
Miscanthus sinensis Anderss.
common reed
Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud.
golden bamboo
Phyllostachys aurea Carr. ex A.& C. Rivière
Rottboellia cochinchinensis (Lour.) W.D. Clayton
Sorghum halepense (L.) Pers.

Japanese barberry
Berberis thunbergii DC.
Buddleja spp. L.
thorny olive
Elaeagnus pungens Thunb.
autumn olive
Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.
winged burning bush
Euonymus alata (Thunb.) Sieb.
Japanese privet
Ligustrum japonicum Thunb.
glossy privet
Ligustrum lucidum Ait. f.
Chinese privet
Ligustrum sinense Lour.
European privet
Ligustrum vulgare L.
sweet breath of spring
Lonicera fragrantissima Lindl. & Paxton
Amur honeysuckle
Lonicera maackii (Rupr.) Herder
Morrow's honeysuckle
Lonicera morrowii Gray
Tatarian honeysuckle
Lonicera tatarica L.
sacred bamboo
Nandina domestica Thunb.
Rhodotypos scandens (Thunb.) Makino
Macartney rose
Rosa bracteata J.C. Wendl.
multiflora rose
Rosa multiflora Thunb. ex Murr.
wine raspberry
Rubus phoenicolasius Maxim.
Japanese spiraea
Spiraea japonica L. f.

Norway maple
Acer platanoides L.
tree of heaven
Ailanthus altissima (P. Mill.) Swingle
Albizia julibrissin Durazz.
paper mulberry
Broussonetia papyrifera (L.) L'Hér. ex Vent.
Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia L.
Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) Blake
Melia azedarach L.
white mulberry
Morus alba L.
Paulownia tomentosa (Thunb.) Sieb. & Zucc. ex Steud.
Bradford pear
Pyrus calleryana 'Bradford'
sawtooth oak
Quercus acutissima Carruthers
Brazilian peppertree
Schinus terebinthifolius Raddi
tallow tree
Triadica sebifera (L.) Small
Siberian elm
Ulmus pumila L.

fiveleaf akebia
Akebia quinata (Houtt.) Dcne.
Amur peppervine
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (Maxim.) Trautv.
oriental bittersweet
Celastrus orbiculata Thunb.
purple crownvetch
Coronilla varia L.
Japanese dodder
Cuscuta japonica Choisy
Cynanchum spp. L.
water yam
Dioscorea alata L.
air yam
Dioscorea bulbifera L.
Chinese yam
Dioscorea oppositifolia L.
winter creeper
Euonymus fortunei (Turcz.) Hand.-Maz.
English ivy
Hedera helix L.
Japanese honeysuckle
Lonicera japonica Thunb.
skunk vine
Paederia foetida L.
mile-a-minute weed
Polygonum perfoliatum L.
Pueraria montana (Lour.) Merr.
bigleaf periwinkle
Vinca major L.
common periwinkle
Vinca minor L.
Chinese wisteria
Wisteria sinensis (Sims) DC.
Japanese Wisteria
Wisteria floribunda (Willd.) DC..

[2] Invasive Species Definition Clarification and Guidance White Paper, Submitted by the Definitions Subcommittee of the Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC), Approved by ISAC April 27, 2006;
[3] Charles T. Bargeron, David J. Moorhead, G. Keith Douce, Richard C. Reardon and Arthur E. Miller The University of Georgia, USDA APHIS PPQ and USDA Forest Service Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team. FHTET-2003-08;
[4] Lackey, Robert T. 2006. Axioms of ecological policy. Fisheries. 31(6): 286-290.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Invasive News, Notes & Musings: March 27th, 2009

In Friday’s news we have the wicked inconvenience (Invasive Species; Wicked Inconvenience: part two) of multiple stakeholder groups thinking linearly and operating as if at a football game with winners and losers. Lawsuit Filed to Save Endangered Songbird; Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Threatened by Release of Imported Beetle; Center for Biological Diversity. “ The Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society filed a lawsuit today in U.S. District Court in Tucson against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The suit seeks review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of APHIS’s program of granting permits for the indiscriminate introduction of the tamarisk leaf-eating beetle into critical habitat of the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. The suit should lead to modification of the program and habitat restoration efforts.” Hawaii brings the same concerns with: Moratorium urged for biocontrols, Concerns raised about insects used to target edible plants; Hawaii Tribune-Herald. “Big Island lawmakers have introduced resolutions calling for a ban on biological control agents such as the Brazilian scale insect (Tectococcus ovatus) that would attack strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum).” In keeping with the theme broadly speaking: Scientists Say Herbicide Used on Mexican Border is Safe; FoxNews. “But scientists say the chemical, a relatively common herbicide named Imazapyr, poses little threat to humans or native wildlife. The Border Patrol plans to spray the herbicide to kill Carrizo cane (Arundo donax), which grows in dense thickets along vast stretches of the Rio Grande, which separates the United States and Mexico.”

Each day another community discovers the rewards of traditional gardening paradigms and the costs of to ecosystem services taken for granted. (Sustainability's Ecosystem Service Matrix). Alien invaders threaten native life in city park; The Daily News. “But invasive species like English Ivy, Scotch Broom and Daphne are gradually choking out native plants and trees in Nanaimo's local parks. Residents have used invasive plants in their gardens for years. But gradually these alien species have crept out from backyards and taken root deep within city parks.” Up with plants from Down Under; The Press Democrat. “Sadly, there is no “Gardeners Beware” sign at big-box nurseries that sell one of the most invasive plants in Sonoma County — broom (Cytisus and Genista species).”

The theme is one of unintended consequences of human activity and continuing along we have : Parishes battle over floodgate; A.P. ““The ecosystem of the Spanish Lake watershed has been critically damaged due to the Alligator Bayou floodgate being closed for many years,” it said. The release said that has fostered growth of invasive species — naming three common in south Louisiana — and is killing cypress and aquatic life.”

Like a slow forest fire, the flames of invasive species continue to spread : Communities on alert statewide for beetles; The Daily Item. “The state Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) on Thursday unveiled plans to visit with agricultural groups in Dighton, Wellesley and Worcester over the next few weeks to teach how to identify the invasive species. The timing is critical since it's easier to spot damage to trunks and branches before the growth of new leaves.”

And finally just for consideration and philosophic musings: Penn Biologists Demonstrate that Size Matters…in Snail Shells; Copyright © 2009, University of Pennsylvania, Office of University Communications
“…and determined that a snail making its home in the northwest Atlantic Ocean around Mount Desert Island, Me., has experienced a dramatic increase in the size of its shell during less than a century, providing a clear illustration of how fast and effectively change can occur.The most striking finding, which has not been reported previously in Nucella lapillus, the Atlantic dogwhelk, is that shell length increased at all 19 sites where samples were taken.”

just in: Wildfire Prevention Legislation Passes House with Rep. Lujan's Amendments:
“In my district, invasive species have become a problem - increasing the threat of fire in woodland areas. Several years of drought combined with high tree densities allowed pine bark beetle populations to reach outbreak levels between 2002 and 2004, killing millions of piñon and ponderosa pine trees in New Mexico and Arizona. Aerial survey data found that 3.4 million acres in the region were affected during this period.”

DEC Issues Tips and Reminders for Opening Day of Trout and Salmon Seasons; Source: iStockAnalyst. “With the recent discovery of the fish disease Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) in New York, and an invasive species of algae, didymo, in the Delaware River system and the Batten Kill, anglers are reminded of the important role that they play in preventing the spread of these and other potentially damaging invasive species and fish diseases. - Anglers are reminded that a new "Green List" of baitfish species that can be commercially collected and/or sold for fishing in any water body in New York where it is legal to use fish as bait has now been established in regulation. For a complete discussion of these regulations and how to identify these approved baitfish species, download the new brochure "Baitfish of New York State" at .”

Port Hope taking action against ash tree enemy; © 2009 , Sun Media . If you live in Port Hope and are planning to plant an ash tree, you might want to think again. Council recently approved a recommendation from its tree committee to suspend the planting of ash trees within the municipality in an effort to combat the spread of the emerald ash borer, an invasive species that originated in eastern Russia and northern China.”

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Agreement APHIS, ARS & CSREES to work together

APHIS contact: Melissa O’Dell (301) 734-5222ARS contact: Sandy Miller Hayes (301) 504-1636CSREES contact: Jennifer Martin (202) 720-8188
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2009--Three U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies today announced that a National Clean Plant Network (NCPN) has been established at the department. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperatively support NCPN research, quarantine and outreach activities.

Under the agreement, APHIS, ARS and CSREES will work closely together, as well as with university, nonprofit and industry stakeholders to create new, and support existing, NCPN activities. Some of these activities include:
Developing the science needed to support pest-free status in plants, by improving molecular diagnostic technologies, therapy and relevant taxonomy and systematic studies;
Identifying plant diseases and supporting the disease-free status of plants in national plant germplasm collections, Developing the methods and technologies to treat diseased plants; and
Establishing and supporting a general outreach program, including regional and specific plant/commodity centers, networks and working groups.

The NCPN, as required by the 2008 Farm Bill, is a collaborative venture, composed of diagnostic, therapeutic and horticultural expertise. NCPN’s goal is to ensure the availability of high quality propagated plant material that is free of plant pests, helping to ensure the global competitiveness of specialty crop producers. The NCPN promotes pest and disease free specialty crops, the rapid and safe introduction of new varieties from foreign sources and hygienic U.S. products for export.
Note to Reporters: USDA news releases, program announcements and media advisories are available on the Internet. Go to the APHIS news release page at Also, anyone with an e-mail address can sign up to receive APHIS press releases automatically. Send an e-mail message to and leave the subject blank. In the message, typesubscribe press_releases.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Invasive Species: Twin Mile-a-Minute - Twice the Fun

At America’s borders Homeland security is a big focus. Invasive species interdiction and control is efficiently carried on by the professional employees of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection given financial constraints under which they operate. Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) should be their motto, as they tirelessly work to detect small isuues and cost effectively deal with them before they become uncontrolled and expensive problems without resolution.

On Thursday, February 12, 2009 I wrote about a success, Invasive Species Intercepted By Customs and Border Protection and this month another early detection and rapid response as U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) botanist identified a weed seed, discovered during a CBP inspection of pineapples that arrived aboard the M/V Eurus Lima from Costa Rica, as Mikania micrantha, also know as the invasive mile-a-minute weed.

Now to make things a little confusing as it seems it must be in invasive species this weed is called mile-a-minute just as the thorny vine growing in my lower field also called mile-a-minute. How can this be? It can be because using common names while seemingly simplifying things in the garden and landscape actually confuses the daylights out of most sane conversations, and is the reason scientific names (Latin sounding binomials) are preferred.

So mile-a-minute, Persicaria perfoliata, previously Polygonum perfoliatum, a.k.a. Asiatic tearthumb, (an apt name which, if you have not met this plant, when you do, you shall find yourself agreeing with me) in my garden is from India to Eastern Asia, China and the Islands from Japan to the Philippines, including Nepal, Burma, Manchuria, China, Korea, Taiwan and the Malay Peninsula.[1] This mile-a-minute already got past early detection and is way past rapid response in many gardens.

The newly apprehended and hopefully soon to be deported or otherwise summarily disposed of mile-a-minute is Mikania micrantha, a perennial creeping climber known for its vigorous and rampant growth. It grows best where fertility, organic matter, soil moisture and humidity are all high (such as agricultural fields and gardens). It damages or kills other plants by cutting out the light and smothering them. A native of Central and South America, Mikania micrantha was introduced into India after the Second World War to camouflage airfields and is one of the most widespread and problematic weeds in the Pacific region. Its seeds are dispersed by wind and also on clothing or hair. Once established, Mikania micrantha spreads at an alarming rate, readily climbing and twining on any vertical support, including crops, bushes, trees, walls and fences. Its shoots have been reported to grow up to 27mm a day. Vegetative reproduction is also efficient and vigorous. Although intolerant of heavy shade it readily colonizes gaps. [2] I note that one of the many additional common names for this species is bitter vine; I hope that we can adopt this as a differentiating name from the mile-a-minute in my garden, and from my invasive conversations.
picture on right:
Image may be subject to copyright
Photographer: Yun Wu, USDA Forest Service, United States
picture on left:
Image may be subject to copyright.

[1] Plant Conservation Alliance, Alien Plant Working Group:
[2] IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG);

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Invasive Species Inversion - Pine Wilt

There is a nematode native to the North America wreaking havoc on non native (exotic, alien) pines in our ornamental landscapes. Bursaphelenchus xylophilus is transmitted (vectored) to conifers by pine sawyer beetles Monochamus spp. (which may be native or not and just to confuse things a little more are sometimes called long-horned beetles, but are not our “friend” the Asian long horned (ALB) beetle which is another travesty in the making) when the sawyer beetles feed on the bark and phloem of twigs of susceptible live trees (primary transmission) or when the female beetles lay eggs (oviposition) in freshly cut timber or dying trees (secondary transmission). Nematodes introduced during primary transmission can reproduce rapidly in the sapwood and a susceptible host can wilt and die within weeks of being infested if conditions are favorable to disease development.

If you are still with me, this life cycle means that susceptible pine species are in trouble from landscaping and gardening choices, pallet manufacturing, forest product transportation and even mulches from the wrong side of the track. Just to be clear, the United States Department of Agriculture says that “… the pinewood nematode has been found in shipments of conifer wood chips, in unseasoned lumber, and in packing case wood. The Monochamus spp. vectors of the nematode have been found in wood pallets, crates, and dunnage. Because of the close relationship between the nematode and its vector, shipments from areas where the nematode occurs can be assumed to be at risk of also carrying the nematode and/or its vector.”

The USDA reports that “(m)anagement of pine wilt disease is primarily limited to prevention. There are no cures for pine wilt disease once a susceptible tree becomes infested with the pinewood nematode. The most effective prevention strategy is to avoid planting non-native pines, such as Scotch and Austrian pine, where the mean summer temperature is greater than 20°C. Where these non-native pines already exist, landowners can reduce susceptibility of high-value landscape trees by watering to avoid drought stress. If they discover infestations, landowners can consider removing and chipping infested trees to limit the spread to nearby susceptible trees.” [1]

While this is bad for ornamental horticulture in the United States and Canada, it is very bad for native species in Asia. There in China, Japan and Korea as well as eastern Russia, their invasive is our native, as every invasive species is native somewhere, the earth being a finite closed system.

[1] Michelle Cram, Plant Pathologist, USDA Forest Service Southern Region, Forest Health Protection. And Jim Hanson, Forest Entomologist, USDA Forest Service Northeastern Area State & Private Forestry, Forest Health Protection.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Chorale and the Garden: Polyphony and Sustainability

The beauty of a sustainable landscape or garden is seen in the contrapuntal nature of the nested ecosystem services. Like the polyphonic four part voices of a Bach chorale, the four ecosystem services (regulating, provisioning, providing and informing) are played against each other, linearly through time and space. The regulating or supporting services such as atmospheric exchange are the bass line, the inner harmonies of the garden are given by the provisioning services and with the addition of the third voice of the providing services offer the melody of the informing services to float along on top.

When listening to polyphonic music, the audience is aware of both the vertical relationships (the nested relations of the services) and the horizontal movement through time and space. This oscillation back and forth between the chordal and the melodic, and finds an analogy in the garden landscape where the vertical dependencies of regulating, provisioning and providing services play against the horizontal movement of the melodic informing services.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A reflective moment - Daffodils (1804)

"Daffodils" (1804)

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Article on Invasives in California

A wonderfully written article on invasive species in California;
no need for further comment

Dragon flies and the invasive species threat

In the world I live in most people are very good at on or two things and oblivious as to how everything else works. If the mp3 player breaks we throw it away as with cell phones, disk drives, and refrigerators and to some extent cars. This throw-away society is good for business, but lends itself to thinking about our landscape and environment in the same cavalier fashion. If the ecosystem is broken, just get a new one. If you loose a piece throw the whole thing away and start over with something new.

As we fragment the environment and introduce new species, we are losing jewels of the realm and most of us will never know what once we had. Like canaries in a coal mine, dragonflies require a person to take the time to find, and wait and watch and learn. And these gems of nature are threatened so that we might build and live in a social model developed in a different time and age. We dream to have more than yesterday as tomorrow slips away.

A new poll suggests that for the first time in 25 years, we value economic growth over the environment. To paraphrase Franklin: “Those who would trade economic well being for ecosystem health will get neither.”

The habitats of a national treasure species in Japan - a critically endangered dragonfly Libellula angelina is threatened by the invasive species Myocastor coypus (coypu).

The Yellow Presba (Syncordulia legator) is one of many southern African dragonflies currently under threat. Others have also suffered catastrophic declines because of human related problems like pollution, habitat loss to farming and the introduction of non-native trees. The spread of invasive species is now recognized as one of the greatest threats to the environment and our economic well-being. Trees such as the Australian Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii), that were introduced commercially, encroach along riverbanks and shade out the sun, killing off the grasses that are home to dragonflies. The tragedy of losing these creatures is magnified to a global scale because many are endemic to southern Africa and can be found nowhere else on Earth.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Invasive species presentation with voice and visual

An invasive species presentation
Invasive Exotics Prevention: Promoting Voluntary Codes of Conduct by Engaging the Right Partners

click on link

Promoting voluntary codes of conduct by engaging the right partners

John Peter Thompson
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - 1:30-2:00
A wide ranging presentation and discussion which highlights market forces, opportunities, and challenges that arise when traditional horticulture businesses begin to adopt the Voluntary Codes of Conduct. Traditional gardening expectations as well as new ideas in sustainable or conservation landscaping will be consider in light of the general public’s current understanding of environmental issues and expected real estate valuations.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lythrum & Lionfish - Invasive Beauties

This web log notes invasive species issues and tries to highlight invasive species challenges, but as Jenn over at the Invasive Species Weblog indirectly noticed, there is little in the way of aquatic invasive discussion. This is mostly an ‘out of sight out of mind’ phenomenon which plagues invasive species over all. Most of urbanized America rarely interacts with invasive species except when dealing with the picnic wasps and hornets, but that will be another posting someday.

picture of Lythrum from: may be subject to copyright.
picture of lionfish from: Image may be subject to copyright.

Invasive species can be problematic beauties as gardeners know. Lythrum spp, known as purple loosestrife, is a poster child in North America for beauty hiding trouble and an “(a)nother example of a well-studied aquatic invader … a plant now common in wetlands throughout the U.S. and Canada. It was brought to North America from Europe in the 1800s - both accidentally and on purpose. Because it has no natural predators in North America, purple loosestrife is able to rapidly invade wetlands. Once established, purple loosestrife out competes and displaces many native species such as cattails. Because animals depend on native plants for food, nesting areas, and shelter, purple loosestrife invasions indirectly harm wildlife. Muskrats, bog turtles, and ducks are some of the species that suffer when purple loosestrife takes over.”[1]

In the oceans the same challenge occurs when human aesthetic meets natural beauty. Pterois volitans (Linnaeus), also known as: lionfish, lion fish, zebrafish, firefish, turkeyfish, red lionfish, butterfly cod, ornate butterfly-cod, peacock lionfish, red firefish, scorpion volitans Information about the potential for ecosystem damage is sparse at this point, but exclusion and now eradication is most likely out of the question, in the oceans where even control is seemingly beyond our resource and ability capacities. Lionfish, originating in the far east are “(v)oracious predators (which) eat native fish and crustaceans in large quantities. (Juvenile Nassau grouper have been found in lionfish stomachs in the Bahamas). This aquarium beauty is not “…known to have any native predators (and is) (c)apable of reproducing year-round with unique reproduction mechanisms not commonly found in native fishes. On top of all this, the lionfish is fairly”… resistant to parasites, giving them another advantage over native species, (as well as) (f)ast in their growth, able to outgrow native species with whom they compete for food and space.”[2]

Information about the potential for immediate human harm is clear and present. The fish stings and the pain is intense, there is no anti-venom and the pain can last for up to 20 minutes.[3] This kind of interaction tends to get notices, as the sting creates a burning sensation like fire on and in the skin. Terrestrial plants like Lythrum spp. are also a kind of fire burning the eco-system but on a slower time-scale allowing us to sit back and watch the beauty as it consumes the landscape and we observe oblivious to pain.

In keeping with out theme, as Lythrum spp. can be found in garden centers so lionfish can be found in pet stores where it “… is considered the ultimate lionfish by most marine aquarists, and other members of this genus, such as the Antennata and Radiata, lionfish are frequently found at local fish stores.”[4] Where we go from here, I leave up to you.

Bahamian Government’s Lionfish Sighting Survey/Reporting.
From Larry’s Blog Entries: “An invasive species is a non-native species that reproduces and establishes a population in its new ecosystem. Invasive species affect every part of the world resulting in loss of native species and biological diversity. The venomous lionfish, a native of the Indo-Pacific Region, has recently invaded the Bahamian archipelago. In an effort to establish an invasion management program and policy development, The Department of Marine Resources in collaboration with the College of The Bahamas Marine and Environmental Studies Institute (COB-MESI) has launched an online Lionfish Sighting Survey. This survey is in conjunction with a long-term National Lionfish Response Project that will allow ecological research to determine what affects the lionfish invasion has on our marine resources. Please click on the lionfish below to report lionfish sightings throughout the Bahamas.”
Report a Lionfish Sighting:


[1] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration U.S. Department of Commerce USA.gov
[2] © REEF 2007 Terms of use Site design by Ben Weintraub.
[4] Reefkeeping Magazine™ Reef Central, LLC-Copyright © 2008

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Crisis in the Science of Systematics

To deal with invasive species you first have to know what you have, what is crawling up your leg, or garden flower, or bedroom wall. This knowledge is found in the study and discipline of systematics. As with my last posting on food research, Food Security in the United States: Understanding and Reducing the Impacts of Climate Change in Agriculture , this area of public infrastructure is lacking in funding mostly because it is not sexy science and because we the public have not a clue as to why we should pay to support the rivet under the bridge, The Continuing Loss of Scientific Infrastructure - Decline of Systematics .

If we are to find away to cope with, and live with invasive species, let alone, reverse the economic and environmental harm, we need to know about the species in question; we need to be able to identify that which we would regulate,legislate, mitigate or eliminate.

Please write to your Congressional delegation and ask them to support funding as described at the end of this post, and while you are writing, do forget to ask for support of the climate research which impacts invasive species issues.

Climate change and systematics research need your help.

Write to me: and ask how you can help.

A Systematics Program at the Agricultural Research Service

I. The Crisis in the Science of Systematics

· Is the science that identifies and groups organisms by understanding their origins, relationships, and distributions.
· Is fundamental to understand life on Earth, crops, wildlife, and diseases.
· It provides the scientific foundation to recognize and manage invasive species.

Why is Systematics important?
- Identification of the world’s biological diversity is imperative for its conservation and sustainable use.
- Protecting America’s economy, environment, health, and security against invasive species requires a strong federal program in systematic biology to detect, identify, and predict the behavior and consequences of invasive species.

Examples of work on Systematics:

1. Who discovered the pathogen that is killing oaks (Sudden Oak Death), other trees and nursery plants in CA, OR and U.S.? Systematics!

2. Who discovered the disease that killed most elm trees in the U.S. cities? Systematics!

3. Who resolved the Anthrax scare of the substance mailed to Congress in 2001? Systematics!

4. Who discovered the type of avian influenza that can affect humans and cause a pandemic? Systematics!

5. Who saved the $6 billion a year wheat export in the U.S.? Systematics!

Systematics is a vital cornerstone for our work in biodiversity and invasive species. Lack of a strong systematics program is having major negative impacts in our Nation’s economy, environment, health, and security.

What is the problem?: The CRISIS in Systematics:
We lack systematists….people retire and are not replaced.
We lack training at universities and post graduate levels.
We lack permanent, life-long job opportunities in systematics.
Biological collections are incomplete and/or in poor condition.
Collections languish in substandard facilities, lacking adequate
buildings, staffing, and technology (buildings with climate control,
fire prevention, information technology hardware/software,
research labs, plans for continuation of operations in case of a natural or terrorist catastrophic event.
We lack a comprehensive national/global exchange of bioinformatics.

The Federal Interagency Committee on Invasive Terrestrial Animals and Pathogens (ITAP) Systematics Subcommittee (SSC) has just produced a situation report on systematics and invasive species. The report’s purpose is to increase awareness of the crisis in systematics and to advocate the need for a permanent, viable, and coordinated Federal Systematics Program. Copies of the report are available at with hard copies available from the Systematics Subcommittee Executive Secretary Hilda Diaz-Soltero (

Human and animal health
Agricultural security and trade
Environmental security
Economic health

The cost of negative impact of invasive species has been estimated at $138 billion each year. The lack of a proper systematics program is one of the fundamental reasons why we are not successful in efforts to prevent, detect and control invasive species.

Where is the systematics crisis?: In the
federal government;
at universities, zoos and botanical gardens;
in other countries.

When is the crisis?: NOW.
- This is a long standing crisis that has been identified for decades
- No solution has been fully and successfully implemented
- The problem gets worse every year!

How to solve the problem? “Strengthen national and global systematics to predict, prevent, and manage invasive species to ensure biosecurity; public health; economic, environmental, and agricultural security; and sustainability.”

This Vision will be achieved when we have:
Systematics expertise in all groups of organisms.
An effective communication network linking Federal, academic, national and international taxonomic resources.
An integrated, web-based information system that links organismal biology, geography, and taxonomy with interactive keys and collections data.
Adequate human and physical resources for federal systematics collections.
A reinvigorated capacity and commitment by universities to prepare systematics professionals.
A culture that values and sustains its systematics resources.

II. Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Systematics Program Needs

A first step to address the Systematics crisis is to fund the ARS Systematics effort in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) immediately.

A Survey federal systematics capacity and needs has been done.
Current funds at BARC for Systematics are $10.5 million in FY 09.
We need to enhance the following components of ARS Systematics Program

o Enhance research;
o Expand and improve specimen-based collections;
o Expand biodiversity informatics; and
o Educate future systematists.

The ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) houses 80% of ARS systematics programs. At present, 60 % of the ARS systematics scientists are eligible to retire.

The USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has the potential to enhance its nascent, small systematics research effort to prepare the nation to better cope with avoiding the impacts of invasive species, in particular, to help prevent the entry of new invasives into the United States (US). Below are proposed areas of work that need to be conducted to accomplish that goal.

A. Research

1. Research problem #1: Systematics of fungi that cause plant diseases
Description: Fungi cause devastating diseases on crop plants and forest trees such as the blight that killed all chestnut trees in North America and recently soybean rust. With global climate change the number of plant diseases is increasing causing an estimated $21 billion damage each year. Many plant-disease fungi were unknown prior to invading the US. Our primary defense against this devastation is the knowledge provided by systematics, yet the study of rust and anthracnose fungi has declined to almost nothing. Research is needed to characterize and rapidly identify fungi that attack crops and forests.
Annual Budget needed: $10 million.
Jobs created: Thirty (30) permanent positions for scientists and technical staff.
Savings to the federal budget: $400 million each year

2. Research problem #2: Systematics of scale insects and weevils
Description: Scale insects and weevils attack crop plants causing tremendous damage inside the US, while an equal number of exotic insects threaten agricultural commodities. A preliminary Internet site (Scale Net) exists with information about scale insects throughout the world but the work has not been finished. Weevils are in a similar situation: some species are known while other important species need considerable additional research. Despite their importance, the BARC systematics programs on scale insects and weevils have been abolished due to lack of funds.
Annual Budget needed: $ 12 million, including $2 million for Scale Net
Jobs created: Forty (40) permanent positions for scientists and technical staff
Savings to the federal budget: $ 600 million each year

3. Research problem #3: Systematics of nematodes that reduce crop productivity
Description: Nematodes or round worms can reduce crop productivity by 50%, yet little is known about them. Last year a number of new invasive nematodes were discovered in the US and they have caused considerable crop damage. These nematodes have also created problems in the export of agricultural and forest products. Nematodes are useful in the biological control of insects. Only two research scientists in ARS study the systematics of plant-associated nematodes, yet hundreds of thousands of species exist.
Annual Budget needed: $ 10 million
Jobs created: Thirty (30) permanent positions for scientists and technical staff
Savings to the federal budget: $400 million per year

4. Research problem #4: Systematics of animal parasites
Description: With climate change, the number of animal parasites moving between hosts has shifted. As a result animal parasites not known in humans are becoming more common. The systematics program studying large animal parasites has almost been eliminated due to budget cuts. Human threats due to animal parasites can only be averted if parasites on non-host animals are known and characterized prior to their discovery in humans.
Annual Budget needed: $ 10 million
Jobs created: Twenty (20) permanent positions for scientists and technical staff
Savings to the federal budget: $200 million per year

5. Research problem #5: Systematics of mycotoxin-producing fungi
Description: Climate change will bring warmer temperatures and additional climatic extremes, particularly more extreme precipitation. These changes affect the fungi that produce deadly mycotoxins that enter the food stream, either directly or indirectly, and threaten human health. Knowledge of the systematics of these fungi is needed, including rapid means of detection through DNA barcodes and the ability to trace their movement from field to farm and to the consumer.
Annual Budget needed: $ 10 million.
Jobs created: Thirty (30) permanent positions for scientists and technical staff
Savings to the federal budget: $250 million per year

The implementation of the complete research program described above has the potential to save the federal government $1.85 billion per year in the following:
(1) preventing entry of invasive species that can damage agriculture, the environment, animal and/or human health.
(2) identifying invasive species captured in early detection efforts and allowing for rapid response to eradicate or control them.
(3) identifying species that will become invasive if they enter the US, and allowing for sentinel programs to focus avoiding those species to enter; and
(4) providing managers with scientific information to identify potential invasiveness characteristics in plants for agriculture, biofuels production and/or environmental restoration.

B. Collections

Biological collections are crucial for the identification and documentation of new pest organisms as they are found in the United States. The Beltsville Agriculture Research Center houses and curates a majority of the crop-associated reference collections in the nation.
a) The US National Fungus Collections consists of one-million specimens that serve as the knowledge base for fungal systematics. Biological specimens are sent throughout the world, yet little funding exists to upgrade and authenticate these collections.
b) The USDA Nematode Collections provides a resource for plant nematode identification and research. Technical support is needed to provide the continual maintenance of the micro slides with mounted nematodes.
c) The US National Parasite Collection, part of ARS/BARC, is one of the largest parasite collections in the world with 95,000 lots of specimens. Currently housed in a “temporary” building, an urgent need exists to provide adequate housing and upgrade the facility.
d) Scientists at ARS/BARC curate many of the collections at the Smithsonian Institution, providing authentication of these specimens. Increased technical support is required to ensure that these biological collections do not deteriorate and are available to research scientists throughout the world.
e) The National Arboretum houses 600,000 reference specimens of agricultural and horticultural plants. These specimens document the living germplasm in the National Plant Germplasm System. Technical support is needed to ensure that these specimens are adequately curated and can be sent on loan to researchers.
f) Living collections include fungi, bacteria, viruses, other microbes and plant collections. Vital for systematics research programs, the existence of these biological collections are threatened once a scientist retires. Funds are needed to maintain and characterize these living collections.
Annual budget: $30 million to maintain and upgrade systematics collections
Jobs created: 40 biological technician positions and information technologists
Savings to the federal budget: $400 million per year

C. Informatics

Agriculture is threatened by many kinds of pests, primarily by small organisms such as fungi, insects, nematodes, and animal parasites. While information exists, obtaining access to these data is not easy. Funds are needed for information technology specialists working with systematics research scientists to develop increased capacity in bioinformatics. Interactive identification tools with descriptions and illustrations of critically important fungi will be provided to users through the Web. The resulting information is rapidly accessible and useful for the identification of disease and biological control agents. In addition, funds are needed to synthesize collection data into a cohesive informatics resource with correct names, descriptions and illustrations with host and geographic data. Performance will be measured by numbers of species with taxonomic keys, descriptions, and illustrations that are placed on the Web. In addition, the number of users will indicate the value of this information to the community.
Annual Budget needed: $ 10-15 million
Jobs created: 30 permanent positions for scientists and/or technical staff
Savings to the federal budget: $500 million

D. Buildings

Building Improvements: At present, the systematics collections at ARS/BARC are scattered over five buildings none of which is adequate for preserving these irreplaceable scientific resources. One of the collections is housed in a old “guinea pig” house. The facilities are not adequately, climate-controlled nor safe from fire. During the first year of this proposed program some minimum enhancements to the current buildings housing the systematics collections will be done. These enhancements will address fire safety, humidity and temperature control. Also, scoping will begin to construct a new building at ARS/BARC that will house all the biological collections.
Budget needed: $5 million
Jobs created: 20 positions, some in construction planning
Savings to the federal budget: $20 million

Building a New Facility: A new building is required to adequately house the ARS/BARC systematics collections as part of the systematics center of excellence. The building design and construction will be done in the second and third year of the program. This building must be climate-controlled in order to preserve the specimens in perpetuity and have room for the associated libraries and research laboratories and offices.
Total divided over three years. $40 million each year for three years
Jobs created: 40 positions, many in the construction industry

E. Education of systematists

There is a need to create a program at ARS to train systematists, both at the graduate and post graduate level. A fellowship program will be created for this purpose. Each trainee will work with a senior systematics scientist as a mentor. The goal is that trainees will graduate from their doctorate degrees and have a permanent position at ARS waiting for them to fill upon graduation. This will guarantee appropriate succession as our older researchers retire. At present, 60 % of the ARS systematics scientists are eligible to retire.
Annual Budget needed: $ 5 million, primarily as grants to students and postdocs
Jobs created: 5 permanent positions for program manager and technical staff, plus 70 grants to students and new scientists

III. Implementation Plan to Address ARS/BARC Systematics Program Needs

YEAR 1. Cost: $80 Million

Research ($50 million):
Initiate ARS systematics research in the following problem areas:
Systematics of fungi that cause plant diseases ($10 million).
Systematics of scale insects and weevils ($10 million)
Systematics of nematodes that reduce crop productivity ($10 million)
Systematics of animal parasites ($10 million)
Systematics of mycotoxin-producing fungi ($10 million)

Improve Collections: $10 million
Improve bioinformatics: $5 million
Improve buildings and infrastructure: $10 million
Create fellowship program to train systematists: $5 million

Total number of jobs created in year 1: 225
Savings to federal government in year 1: $2.77 billion

YEAR 2. Cost: $130 Million

Research ($50 million):
Continue ARS systematics research in the following problem areas:
Systematics of fungi that cause plant diseases ($10 million).
Systematics of scale insects and weevils ($10 million)
Systematics of nematodes that reduce crop productivity ($10 million)
Systematics of animal parasites ($10 million)
Systematics of mycotoxin-producing fungi ($10 million)

Improve Collections: $15 million
Improve bioinformatics: $10 million
Construct buildings and infrastructure: $50 million
Continue fellowship program to train systematists: $5 million

Total number of jobs created in year 2: 245
Savings to federal government in year 2: $2.77 billion

YEAR 3. Cost: $ 146 million

Research ($55 million):
Continue ARS systematics research in the following problem areas:
Systematics of fungi that cause plant diseases ($11 million).
Systematics of scale insects and weevils ($11 million)
Systematics of nematodes that reduce crop productivity ($11 million)
Systematics of animal parasites ($11 million)
Systematics of mycotoxin-producing fungi ($11 million)

Improve Collections: $15 million
Improve buildings and infrastructure: $10 million
Construct buildings and infrastructure: $50 million
Improve bioinformatics: $10 million
Continue fellowship program to train systematists: $6 million

Total number of jobs created in year 3: 245
Savings to federal government in year 3: $2.77 billion

YEAR 4. Cost: $146 million

Research ($55 million):
Continue ARS research in the following problem areas:
Systematics of fungi that cause plant diseases ($11 million).
Systematics of scale insects and weevils ($11 million)
Systematics of nematodes that reduce crop productivity ($11 million)
Systematics of animal parasites ($11 million)
Systematics of mycotoxin-producing fungi ($11 million)

Improve Collections: $15 million
Improve buildings and infrastructure: $10 million
Construct buildings and infrastructure: $50 million
Improve bioinformatics: $10 million
Continue fellowship program to train systematists: $6 million

Total number of jobs created in year 4: 245
Savings to federal government in year 4: $2.77 billion

YEARS 5 to 10. Cost: $102 to $107 million per year

Research: $60-65 million
Improve Collections: $15 million
Improve buildings and infrastructure: $10 million
Improve bioinformatics: $10 million
Continue fellowship program to train systematists: $7 million

Total number of jobs created every year: 225
Savings to federal government every year: $2.77 billion

IV. Summary

Agency: Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture
Program enhanced: Systematics
Program cost/investment for 10 years: $1.13 billion
Total number of jobs created in 10 years: 2,085
Savings to federal government in 10 years: $27.7 billion

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Invasive Species in China

Invasive species problems and issues are not the sole domain of the United States. An interesting web site lists the invaders of China – in English. The site is called simply Invasive Species in China. The website’s invasive species definition has a universal and familiar ring:

“… an invasive alien species…has been introduced into an area where it is not native from its natural range by either intentional or unintentional human activity; has established a self-reproducing population in a local natural or artificial ecosystems; and has caused obvious changes in a natural ecosystem or landscape, or has caused damages to a local natural or artificial ecosystem. We also consider alien species in China to include species introduced outside their native ranges within China as well as non-native species introduced from other countries.

Other sources toll the cost to China's ecosystems such as described in:
China’s Booming Economy Is Sparking and Accelerating Biological Invasions, by

"The effects of an invasive species can be immediate,conspicuous, and profound. For example,Beijing, the host forthe 2008 Summer Olympic Games, launched a concerted campaign in 2006 against the introduced fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea [Drury]), a recent invader from North America that has swiftly devastated Beijing’s urban landscape by defoliating more than 200 plant species, including valued ornamental trees (Jia 2006).This introduced insect is however only one of more than 400 alien species now consideredinvasive in China (Xie et al. 2001)." information and link courtesy of the Invasive Species Weblog:

Sources not cited for the list

Partial list of invasive species in China:

Mexican Tea (Chenopodium ambrosioides)
Alligator Weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides)
Spingflower Alternanthera (Alternanthera pungens)
Amaranth (Amaranthu spp.)
Cacti (Cactaceae)
Golden Dewdrop (Duranta repens)
Love Apple (Solanum aculeatissimum)
Plantaiga (Plantago spp.)
Venus’ Looking-glass (Triodanis)
Tropic Ageratum (Ageratumm conyzoides)
Ragweed (Ambrosia spp.)
Horseweed (Conyza spp.)
Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus)
Crofton Weed (Eupatorium adenophorum)
South American Climber (Mikania micrantha)
Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissma)
Common Cordgrass (Spartina anglica)
Darnel Ryegrass (Lolium temulentum)
Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)

Nutria (Myocastor coypus)
Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)
Brown or Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus)
Sladen’s Rat (Rattus tanezumi)

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacacatua sulpurea)
Rainbow Lorikeet (Trihoglossus haematotus)
Canada Goose (Anser canadensis)
Bighead (Aristichthys nobilis)
Gobies (Gobiidae) and Topmouth Gudgeon (Pseudorasbora parva)
Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and Livebearers (Poeciliidae)
Crayfish (Procambius clarkii)

Amazonian Snail (Ampullaria gigas)
Giant African Snail (Achatina fulica)
Termites (Termitidae)
Pine Scale (Hemiberlesia pitysophila)
Fall Webworm, American White Moth (Hyphantria cunea)
Banana Moth (Opogona sacchari)
Loblolly Pine Mealybug (Oracella acuta)
Vegetable Leaf Miner (Liriomyza sativae)
American Rice Water Weevil (Lissorhoptrus oryzophilus)
American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana)
German Cockroach (Blattella germanica)
Woolly Apple Aphid (Eriosoma lanigerum)
Grape Root Louse (Phylloxera vitifolii)’

North American Pinewood Nematode (Bursaphelenchus xylophilus)

Black Spot (Ceratocystis fimbriata)
Wildlife Diseases:
Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis Virus in trout (IPNV)

Food Security in the United States: Understanding and Reducing the Impacts of Climate Change in Agriculture

As we prepare to spend billions, we should be aware that we have in place a national research arm with Congressionally mandated responsibilities to investigate climate change, including invasive species impacts, under the 1990 farm bill. The Department of Agriculture's long term research arm, USDA ARS, is a center of climate change research and below is a summary of funding efforts for which I am advocating. Any assistance would be appreciated including introductions to your state's congressional delegation, and letters of support to decision makers.

Commenting in support or with additional suggestions to this posting is encouraged.

The National Agricultural Research Alliance - Beltsville, NARA-B, continues to seek support for its work.

Food Security in the United States: Understanding and Reducing the Impacts of Climate Change in Agriculture

I. Existing legislation on Climate Change
From the 1990 Farm Bill Title XXIV captioned Global Climate Change Prevention Act of 1990 (104. Stat.4058; 7 USC 6701-2), SEC 2403.


(a) CROPS. --

(1) IN GENERAL. – The Secretary shall study the effects of global climate change on agriculture and forestry. The study shall, at a minimum address—

(A) the effects of simultaneous increases in temperature and carbon dioxide on crops of economic significance;
(B) the effects of more frequent or more severe weather events on such crops;
(C) the effects of potential changes in hydrologic regimes on current crop yields;
(D) the economic effects of widespread and increased drought frequency in the south, Midwest and plains states; and
(E) changes in pest problems related to temperature.

(2) FURTHER STUDIES – If the results of the study conducted under paragraph (1) warrant, the Secretary shall conduct further studies that address the means of mitigating the effects of global climate change on crops of economic significance that shall, at a minimum –

(A) identify whether climate change tolerance can be bred into these crops, the amount of time necessary for any such breeding and the effects on the income of farmers;
(B) evaluate existing genetic resources and breeding programs for crops for their ability to develop new varieties that can tolerate potential climate changes; and
(C) assess the potential for the development of crop varieties that are tolerant to climate changes and other environmental stresses, such as drought, pests, and salinity.

Legislative need:
The authorization for appropriation for the 1990 Farm Bill was from FYs 1991 through 1996 (7 USC 6710). It was subsequently amended to extend through FY 1997. New reauthorization for appropriations language to fund the 1990 Farm bill section above is needed. The reauthorization language you need to reinvigorate the Global Climate Change Prevention Act of 1990 would simply read as follows:

“SEC. ___ GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE. Section 2412 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 6710), as amended by section 843 of Public Law 104-127 (110 Stat. 1170), is further amended by striking “1997” and inserting “2020”.”

II. Agricultural Research Service Climate Change Program Needs

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has the potential to enhance its nascent, small climate change research effort ($17 Million in FY 2008) to prepare the nation to cope better with the impacts of climate change and design ways to adapt to it. Below are proposed areas of research that need to be conducted to accomplish that goal. The Economic Research Service has determined that that for every research dollar invested in agricultural research returned about $10 worth of net benefits to the economy (Fuglie and Heisey 2007). We use this statement to provide the potential economic stimulus per year in each of the following research problem areas below.

1. Research problem: Food Safety
Description: Climate change will bring warmer temperatures and additional climatic extremes, particularly more extreme precipitation. How will this impact the epidemiology of food borne pathogens, given that E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks are directly related to temperature? A scientific assessment of the likely impacts and preventive measures is needed.
Annual Budget needed: $ 5 million.
Jobs Created: 45-58 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $470 million.

2. Research problem: Sustainability of Food Production
Description: Crop yields are often more determined by short-term stress episodes than by seasonal mean conditions. Global climate change is predicted to increase total precipitation, the frequency of droughts, as well as episodes of high temperature stress. These stresses could completely offset plants yield increases expected due to the rising carbon dioxide (CO2 ). Very little research on agricultural crops responses to drought and high temperature stress has been conducted at elevated CO2 levels, so the current crops yield projections are highly uncertain. Research is needed to reduce uncertainty and properly assess future agricultural crops yields.
Annual Budget needed: $10 million.
Jobs Created: 90-116 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $ 1 billion.

3. Research problem: Water supply for Agriculture
Description: Crop production is heavily dependent on irrigation. In turn, irrigation depends on the snow and ice collected on mountain ranges. Data suggest human-induced global warming has significantly shrunk the ice / snow pack in mountain ranges in the American West. Unless research identifies specific adaptation measures, water and food availability for humans will significantly decline.
Annual Budget needed: $15 million.
Jobs Created: 130-170 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $6 billion.

4. Research problem: Food Nutrition
Description: Rising levels of CO2 affect the nutritional quality of agricultural products. The protein production in plants for breads and cereals is reduced with increasing CO2. Positive effects on the anti-oxidants in strawberries have also been observed. There is a need to reassess the nutritional guidelines for humans.
Annual Budget needed: $10 million.
Jobs Created: 90-116 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $2.8 billion.

5. Research problem: Selection of plant varieties
Description: Initial data suggest that a selection among existing agricultural crop lines could be used to adapt crops to climatic extremes (drought, temperature) as well as to exploit the rising carbon dioxide to boost crop yields. No systematic evaluation of crop germplasm has been done. Without such an evaluation, crop yields and agricultural sustainability will be at risk.
Annual Budget needed: $10 million.
Jobs Created: 90-116 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $ 1 billion.

6. Research problem: Crop Losses due to Pests
Description: As carbon dioxide rises, will crops or weeds be favored? How will insects and pathogens spread with warmer winters? Initial data suggest that weeds will be more competitive than crops in most cases, causing further reductions in crop yields. There is no published data assessing the susceptibility of US agricultural production to weeds, insects and diseases with rising CO2 and climate change.
Annual Budget needed: $10 million.
Jobs Created: 90-116 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $800 million.

7. Research problem: Pest Management
Description: Agricultural productivity is highly dependent on the use of chemicals. Studies indicate that both agronomic and invasive weeds will be harder to control chemically as atmospheric CO2 increases. No data are available with respect to climate interactions with insecticides or fungicides. We need to understand how climate change will change the amount and efficacy of chemicals used in agriculture, and find measures to compensate for it.
Annual Budget needed: $10 million.
Jobs Created: 90-116 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $800 million.

8. Research problem: Invasive Species in Agriculture
Description: Introduced invasive species can wreck havoc on economic production and environmental sustainability, including billions of dollars in annual agricultural losses. The total cost of negative impacts of invasive species has been estimated at $138 billion each year (Pimentel,et al, 2005). Having few natural enemies in their introduced country, invasives are limited almost exclusively by climate. How will changing CO2 and increasing minimal temperatures favor the expansion and success of invasive species? For example, cheatgrass, an invasive that creates more frequent fires, is highly responsive to changes in CO2 that have occurred during the 20th century. Without a better understanding of how climate change will impact invasive species biology, accurate estimates regarding invasives environmental and economic impact will remain unknown. At present, there is few data on how climate change will affect invasives spread. No historical data are available to determine how current and past climates have altered the biological success of invasive species.
Annual Budget needed: $90 million.
Jobs Created: 800-1060 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $6.5 billion.

9. Research problem: Aerobiology
Description: Global climate change will result in changes in the production, distribution, dispersal, and potency of allergens produced by weeds, grasses and trees. Numerous uncertainties exist in predicting the effect of climate change on allergy incidence and severity. We need to reduce these uncertainties to have a response that minimizes the impact of plant-based allergies on public health.
Annual Budget needed: $20 million.
Jobs Created: 180-232 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $1.4 billion.

10. Research problem: Toxicology
Description: Plants produce a number of virulent poisons that can result in injury or death. For example, ricin is a well-known toxin produced by castor bean, a common roadside weed. The photosynthesis and growth of poisonous plants respond to temperature and CO2 changes. However, no data on their toxicology are available. Without such data it is unclear how climate change will affect the presence and strength of such poisons.
Annual Budget needed: $10 million.
Jobs Created: 90-116 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $350 million.

11. Research problem: Medicines/Pharmacology
Description: Plants remain a primary source for new and existing pharmacology. Initial data indicate that concentration and/or production of these compounds can be altered by CO2 and/or temperature. The basis for these changes is unknown. Without additional research it is unclear which plant-based medicines are likely to be impacted with climate change. Similarly, it is unclear which plant-based narcotics are likely to be benefited or any subsequent effects on their management and/or control.
Annual Budget needed: $20 million.
Jobs Created: 180-232 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $3 billion.

12. Research problem: Plant Species Shifts in Rangelands
Description: Rangelands will experience regional and local changes in temperature and precipitation. The CO2 has already increased to levels not experienced in the past million years and is projected to continue increasing far in the future. Plants have different sensitivities to temperature, precipitation and CO2, and research suggest that plant shifts favoring some species over others is underway in rangelands. Research is needed to better understand such plant species shifts which have a tremendous impact on land’s use. We need to use that knowledge to develop proactive management strategies that will help ranchers and public land managers adapt to climate change.
Annual Budget needed: $ 10 million.
Jobs Created: 90-116 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): 3 billion.

13. Research problem: Decision Support Systems
Description: Although the details of how climate change will develop at regional and state levels remains uncertain, there is wide agreement that weather patterns and climate in general are becoming more variable, and that what used to be extreme weather events are becoming more common. Ranchers and public land managers already struggle with managing under the uncertain climatic conditions which presently characterize rangeland agriculture. Research is needed to develop decision support systems that include weather forecasting, periodic monitoring, and integrated decision-making computer models which propose management options to help land mangers deal with increasingly unfamiliar and uncertain weather patterns.
Annual Budget needed: $ 10 million.
Jobs Created: 90-116 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $200 million.

14. Research problem: Agricultural Trace Gases
Description: Climate change is driven by the release of so-called trace or greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere, mostly from fossil-fuel burning. Agriculture is involved in all aspects of this problem, being directly affected by climate change. However, agriculture is also a sink or source of greenhouse gases, depending on the particular agricultural enterprise. At present approximately 40% of the greenhouse gases released each year into the atmosphere are captured by terrestrial ecosystems and fixed back into compounds that are not active as greenhouse gases. There is very limited information on how different agricultural practices can be modified to reduce agriculture’s negative contribution to the release of greenhouse gases. Research into how different agro-ecosystems and different management practices affect the exchange of greenhouse gases are needed to learn how agriculture can reduce its terrestrial emissions of trace gases to the atmosphere.
Annual Budget needed: $15 million
Jobs Created: 130-170 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $350 million.

15. Research problem: Nutrient Cycling
Description: The responses of agro-ecosystems are linked to the natural cycling of nutrients upon which plants rely for their growth and development. This especially applies to extensively-managed systems like rangelands where intensive agronomic practices like fertilizer and water additions are impractical. There is some indication that chronic increases of atmospheric CO2 currently underway and climate change will alter the nutrient cycling of agro-ecosystems, disrupting long-established patterns of nutrient cycling by plants and soil organisms. Many details remain to be clarified. The ultimate outcome will have significant implications for the plants and animals which have long adapted to these patterns. For instance, rising CO2, climate change and nitrogen deposition may have long-term impacts on soil fertility, which can affect which crops are suitable for a particular location, or which plant species will prosper and which species will decline in more natural agro-ecosystems like rangelands. Plant attributes like forage quality will decline as a result of reduced soil nitrogen in grasslands exposed to enriched CO2 atmospheres. Research is needed to determine what long-term impacts CO2 enrichment, nitrogen deposition and climate change will have on soil and plant nutrients. We also need to understand the processes responsible for cycling nutrients among the soil, the plants and the atmosphere.
Annual Budget needed: $25 million
Jobs Created: 214-290 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus (per year): $2 billion.

16. Research problem: Beneficial Organisms in Agriculture.

Description: The responses of agro-ecosystems are linked to the life cycles of beneficial organisms such as bees, earthworms, and micro-organisms that can fix nitrogen. There is almost no information on how these beneficial organisms will respond to rising CO2 or temperature / precipitation changes. Research is needed to understand how these changes are likely to affect the abundance and effectiveness of these organisms with respect to crop yields and agricultural sustainability.
Annual Budget needed: $20 million.
Jobs Created: 180-232 scientific and technical positions.
Potential Economic Stimulus: Unknown, beneficial organisms provide so many free goods and services that any change in their biology is incalculable.

III. Implementation Plan to Address ARS Climate Change Program Needs

A. Correlation between the 1990 Global Climate Change Prevention Act of 1990 and the proposed ARS Climate Change Program research problems.

Food Safety (#1) addresses (a) (1) (A) above.
Sustainability of Food Production (#2) addresses (a) (1) (A) and (a) (1) (B) above.
Water Supply for Agriculture (#3) addresses (a) (1) (C) and (a) (1) (D) above.
Food Nutrition (#4) addresses (a) (1) (A) and (a) (1) (B)
Selection of Plant Varieties (#5) addresses (a)(2)(A), (a)(2)(B) and (a)(2)(C).
Crop Losses / Pests, Pest Management (# 6, #7) addresses (a)(1)(E) above.
Invasive Species in Agriculture (#8) addresses (a)(1)(E) and (a)(2)(C) above.
Aerobiology (#9) addresses (a)(1)(E) above.
Toxicology, Medicines/Pharmacology/Narcotics (#10, #11) addresses (a)(1)(E) above.
Species Shifts (# 12) addresses (a)(1)(B), (a)(1)(D) and (a)(1)(E).
Decision Support Systems (#13) (a) (1) (A)
Agricultural Trace Gases (#14) (a) (1) (A) and (a) (1) (B)
Nutrient Cycling (#15) (a) (1) (A), (a ) (1) (B), (a) (1) (C), (a) (1) (D)
Beneficial Organisms (#16) (a) (1) (E)

B. Annual Implementation Plan for ARS Climate Change Program

YEAR 1. Cost: $180 Million

Initiate ARS research in the following problem areas ($180 million):
Food Safety (#1) ($5 million).
Sustainability of Food Production (#2) ($10 million).
Water Supply for Agriculture (#3) ($15 million).
Food Nutrition and Quality (#4) ($10 million).
Crop Losses / Pests, Pest Management (# 6, #7) ($20 million).
Invasive Species in Agriculture (#8) ($90 million).
Selection of Plant Varieties (#5) ($30 million).

YEAR 2. Cost: $180 Million

Continue ARS research in the following problem areas ($120 million):
Food Safety (#1) ($5 million).
Sustainability of Food Production (#2) ($10 million).
Water Supply for Agriculture (#3) ($15 million).
Food Nutrition and Quality (#4) (10 Million).
Crop Losses / Pests, Pest Management (# 6, #7) ($20 million).
Invasive Species in Agriculture (#8) ($30 million).
Selection of Plant Varieties (#5) ($30 million).

Initiate ARS research in the following problem areas ($60 million):
Aerobiology (#9) ($20 million).
Toxicology, Medicines/Pharmacology/Narcotics (#10, #11) ($30 million).
Species Shifts (# 12) ($10 million).

YEAR 3. Cost: $ 225 million

Continue ARS research in the following problem areas ($155 million):
Food Safety (#1) ($5 million).
Sustainability of Food Production (#2) ($10 million).
Water Supply for Agriculture (#3) ($20 million).
Food Nutrition Quality (#4) (10 million)
Crop Losses / Pests, Pest Management (# 6, #7) ($10 million).
Invasive Species in Agriculture (#8) ($30 million).
Selection of Plant Varieties (#5) ($30 million).
Aerobiology (#9) ($5 million).
Toxicology, Medicines/Pharmacology/Narcotics, (#10, #11) ($30 million).
Plant Species Shifts (# 12) ($10 million).

Initiate ARS research in the following problem areas ($70 million):
Decision Support Systems (#13) ($10 million).
Agricultural Trace Gases (#14) ($15 million).
Nutritent Cycling (#15) ($25 million).
Beneficial Organisms (#16) ($20 million).

YEAR 4. Cost: $230 million

Continue ARS research in the following problem areas ($230 million):
Food Safety (#1) ($5 million).
Sustainability of Food Production (#2) ($10 million).
Water Supply for Agriculture (#3) ($20 million).
Food Nutrition and Quality (#4) (10 million)
Crop Losses / Pests, Pest Management (# 6, #7) ($10 million).
Invasive Species in Agriculture (#8) ($30 million).
Selection of Plant Varieties (#5) ($30 million).
Aerobiology (#9) ($5 million).
Toxicology, Medicines/Pharmacology/Narcotics (#10, #11) ($30 million).
Plant Species Shifts (# 12) ($10 million).
Decision Support Systems (#13) ($10 million).
Agricultural Trace Gases (#14) ($15 million).
Nutritent Cycling (#15) ($25 million).
Beneficial Organisms (#16) ($20 million).

YEARS 5 to 10. Cost: $250 million per year to continue research in 16 problem areas described above, including funds for inflation impacts on the program.

IV. Summary

Agency: Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture.
Program Enhanced: Global Climate Change.
Program cost/investment for 10 years. $2.9 billion.
Total number of jobs created in 10 years: 2480 (Public)-3200 (Private) (Note: The lower figure includes 1 PhD for 2 technicians, the second number includes only college graduates with a degree in science. Salaries are either from the Federal Register or from
Potential Economic Stimulus in 10 years: $290-$300 billion.

V. Bibliography

Buzby J.C., Roberts T., Jordan-Lin C.T., MacDonald J.M. 1996. Bacterial foodborne
disease: MedicalCosts and Productivity Losses. Afgricultural Economics Report No. (AER741), 100 pages.

Fuglie KO, Heisey P.W. 2007. Economic returns to public agricultural research.
Economic Brief No. 10, USDA-AERS,

Hatfield JL., et al. 2008. The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources and Biodiversity. Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.3 Climate Change Science Program Office, Washington D.C.

NAST, National Assessment Synthesis Team. 2000. Climate change impacts on the United States: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change. US Global Change Research Program, Washington DC 363 pages.

National Research Council 2002. Predicting invasions of non-indigenous plants and
plant pests National Academy Press, Washington D.C. 194 pages.

Newton PC.D., Carran R.A., Edwards, G.R., Niklaus P.A. 2007 Agroecosystems in a
ChangingClimate, CRC Press, 364 pages.

Pimental D, Zuniga R, Morrison D 2005. Update on the environmental and
economic costs associated alien-invasive species in the United States.
Ecological Economics. 52:273-288.

Ruth M, Coelho D, Karetnikov D 2007. The US Economic Impacts of Climate
Change and the Costs ofInaction. Center for Interative Enviornmental Research (CIER), University of Maryland, College Park, 48 pages.