News Article | May 2, 2017
Church of Scientology Seattle Volunteers Help Keep One of the City's Oldest Green Spaces Beautiful celebrated Earth Day in Kinnear Park by removing invasive species from the park entrance. Invasive species are such a problem in the State of Washington that in 2006 the legislature established the Washington Invasive Species Council and tasked it with providing policy-level direction, planning, and coordination for combating these plants and animals throughout the state and preventing the introduction of others that are potentially harmful. Invasive species alter the natural cycle of forestation by hampering the ability of native trees and shrubs to repopulate themselves. The end result of allowing these infestations to continue is a reduction of the natural forests, impacting both wildlife and the environment. Over the past few years, Kinnear Park, one of Seattle's oldest green spaces, has undergone several significant renovations to the landscape to open up visibility within the park and allow for a safer, more user-friendly environment for the neighborhood. Volunteers from The Way to Happiness Foundation and the Scientology Environmental Task Force have spent hundreds of hours improving both upper and lower levels of the park during the latest round of renovations. In celebration of Earth Day, Dave Scattergood, forest steward and coordinator of the Task Force, had the volunteers concentrate on the large bed near the park entrance. He described it as "in severe need of weed control. We undertook a clean-up of this bed to bring it back to its original intended design and look." A yearround activity, Scattergood says "the volunteers work to keep the park free of invasive species which hamper the ability of the forest to reestablish itself and maintain the natural look the park is known for. We hold regular work parties to remove these nuisance plants throughout the greater park area." The Foundation and the Task Force use The Way to Happiness to promote awareness of the need to care for the environment and encourage others to take part in the work of keeping Seattle green. The Way to Happiness is a nonreligious commonsense moral code written by author and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard. One of its precepts is "Safeguard and Improve your Environment": "There are many things one can do to help take care of the planet. They begin with the idea that one should. They progress with suggesting to others they should. Man has gotten up to the potential of destroying the planet. He must be pushed on up to the capability and actions of saving it." The Scientology Environmental Task Force of the Church of Scientology Seattle has been part of the Seattle Public Utilities "Adopt-A-Street" program since the initiative's inception in the late 1980s. Adopting Kinnear Park 16 years ago, they have contributed thousands of volunteer hours to its upkeep and beautification. Read the article on the Scientology Newsroom.
News Article | December 8, 2016
Aggressive, venomous red fire ants have the potential to be a threat in even Australia’s biggest cities and require a multimillion-dollar, 10-year program to wipe them out before it’s too late, agriculture ministers were warned in May. An independent review into the ant, which is of South American extraction, prepared for a meeting of federal state and territory agriculture ministers in May but made public this week through the Senate, calls for a doubling of funding to $38m a year for 10 years to eliminate the scourge for good. The report explains that the ants, which have the potential to overwhelm prey much larger than themselves with colonies totalling millions, are a “pest of national significance,” concluding that there is only a “small window” left to hold back the march from south-east Queensland, where they first emerged in 2001 after being introduced from South America. “One of the greatest challenges of this long-term eradication program has been the absence of a secure funding window,” it states, concluding that there is a “compelling” case for “unified national action”. The Invasive Species Council (ISC), a conservation group focused on the impact of what they call “one of the worst invasive species in the world”, agrees that time is nearly up before a “silent invasion” millions of Australians will be forced to live with permanently. “They are a real and present danger to the way we live our lives,” they wrote in their response to the report. “Australia faces a national emergency if federal and state funding of the country’s red fire ant eradication program is not fully funded.” ISC’s chief executive, Andrew Cox, added that there was a false perception that major population centres south of the Tweed were not at risk after and outbreak in Port Botany was successfully dealt with earlier this year. “Sydney think the fire ant is gone, the, but in actual fact they’re waiting on their doorstep,” he told Guardian Australia. “If this eradication is not properly funded, Sydney will get them, Melbourne will get them, Perth will get them, everywhere will get them. You won’t be able to escape them if we miss this small window of opportunity. We’ll only get one shot at this and now is the time.” Their assessment is 95% of Australia is climactically suitable for fire ants to prosper, and the heavily populated coastal belt is most vulnerable. Cox said that children in particular were exposed to fatal risks by the venom, which had the potential to bring on anaphylactic shock. The report cites 80 Americans having died in this way. “You don’t know if they [children] are going to be allergic until they get bitten, so you can’t just put a rug on the grass and lay down without looking around to see if fire ants are there.” The report says the worst effects have been stalled through action over 15 years since the fire ant first emerged in Australia. Infestations in the Port of Brisbane in 2005, in Gladstone in 2007, and this year in Gladstone again and Port Botany were all eradicated. Yet the contaminated area still has grown to 450,000 hectares, the size of the Australian Capital Territory. The report’s chairman, Bill Magee, is urging decision makers to take a long-term view of the funding it recommends to ensure that concentration is reduced. “The review sets out a compelling case, it is set out with objective evidence, drawn upon the international experience,” he said. “We have the tools to do it, and it is purely a question of the money and willpower.” When ministers were first given this report in May, they were told that the potential costs for total national inaction could be up to $45bn. By mid-2015 governments had spent $330m on the program over 15 years, but that outlay has not been at the $38m per annum level asked for in the report since 2003-04, totalling $18.6m in the current financial year. Cox said governments had “limped along” with year-to-year funding over the past six years. “Even the fact that they have delayed a year to make the decision from when they got the report in May until when they meet to decide whether they endorse extra funding, it is already going to reduce the chances of success.” The federal agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce, confirmed his support for the recommendations in the report on Thursday, noting that this year’s ministerial council meeting agreed to the findings. The Queensland, Victorian and New South Wales governments all reiterated their backing. Cox said he hoped the report wold generate greater public awareness. “When you get bitten by fire ants in Sydney when it is too late don’t come saying we should spend some money on it, because it’ll be too late then – this is the time.”
News Article | December 8, 2016
Red fire ants could wreak more damage in Australia than feral rabbits, cane toads and foxes combined, experts have warned in a new report. Originally from South America, the red imported fire ant is feared for its burning and potentially lethal sting. If not eradicated, it is estimated the insect could trigger up to 3,000 anaphylactic reactions in Australia each year. An independent review called for urgent action before it spread nationwide. The analysis of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program recommended spending A$380m (£225m; $284m) over 10 years to stop the ant's rapid march, the ABC reported. Red ant colonies entered Australia through the Port of Brisbane in 2001. Since then, they have flourished in south-east Queensland and are now estimated to be within 50km (30 miles) of the New South Wales border. The aggressive insect is known to bite humans and livestock en masse. Its venomous sting can cause blistered spots or even trigger a deadly allergic reaction. In the United States, more than 80 deaths have been attributed to the species. Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said unless Australia ramped up its eradication programme, it could suffer a damage bill worth billions of dollars. "Fire ants will be a massive hit to our economy, our environment, our healthcare system and our outdoor lifestyle if we do not act now," he said in a statement. "Eradication is still possible and in our nation's interest but the time to act is rapidly diminishing." The species could become more damaging than any other feral animal, he said. State and federal authorities have faced criticism for not doing more to control the outbreak. A spokesman for federal Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce said $328m had already been spent on eradication efforts. Further investment would be considered at the next ministers' meeting in May. "The Agricultural Ministers' Forum has agreed with the findings of independent review that eradication remains technically feasible, cost-beneficial and in the national interest," he said in a statement to the BBC. Which is the most notorious ant species on earth?
News Article | October 7, 2016
Zebra mussels' invasion of North American water bodies has resulted in the loss of billions of dollars in ecological services, human recreation, and in mitigation and control of mussel fouling in potable water, power station and industrial raw water facilities. "A female zebra mussel can produce up to a million externally fertilized eggs within a single spawning season that develop into planktonic larvae," said Robert McMahon, professor emeritus of biology and principal investigator on the new grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "The larvae are dispersed on water currents to settle throughout an invaded water body. Once settled, zebra mussels reach maturity within one year of life. Thus, they can rapidly develop very high densities after invasion disrupting aquatic ecosystems. In addition, they settle in and foul industrial raw water facilities," he added. Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are small bivalve mollusks. Most are about the size of a human fingernail, but they can grow to a length of nearly 2 inches. They were introduced to North America from Europe via transatlantic shipping, first appearing in the Great Lakes in 1988. From there they made their way to the Mississippi, Hudson, St. Lawrence, Ohio, Missouri, Huron, Colorado, Canadian and Arkansas Rivers, invading the major drainages of the Mississippi and other rivers in all but the far northwestern United States. Major mussel infestations now occur in Texas water bodies on the drainages of the Red, Trinity and Brazos Rivers. Zebra mussels attach themselves to rocks and other hard surfaces, or to the shells of other mussels, by byssal threads, which are silky fibers made from proteins. This allows them to form encrustations which can be several shells thick and can lead to densities of 100,000 individuals per meter squared, which are not uncommon in infested waters, McMahon said. McMahon is joined on the project by Brian Van Zee, director of Fisheries Management Office, Region 1, Inland Fisheries Division, TP&WD; and by Monica McGarrity, Austin Aquatic Invasive Species team leader, Inland Fisheries Division, Habitat Conservation Branch, TP&WD. The research is a continuation of an ongoing project initiated by McMahon at Lake Texoma in 2011 and continued at Lake Ray Roberts in 2012, Lake Belton in 2014 and recently invaded Lake Lewisville and Eagle Mountain Lake earlier this year. The researchers will use monthly samples from infested Texas lakes to estimate mussel spring and fall cohort growth rates and life spans, juvenile settlement rates, periods when mussel planktonic larvae are capable of settlement, impact of water temperature on annual variation in mussel nutritional condition, and chlorophyll a and total phosphate concentrations in the water column as a measure of overall lake productivity. "Our study has a special emphasis on understanding the causes of the zebra mussel population collapses that have occurred in Texas lakes and other warm, southwestern water bodies," McMahon said. In three Texas lakes - Texoma, Ray Roberts and Belton - a rapid increase in the number of zebra mussels has been followed by a sharp decline. The mussels can starve themselves out by removing plankton, phosphates and nitrates from the water, and flooding may also lead to a decrease in their numbers. Some Texas lakes with low calcium concentrations, particularly in East Texas, are resistant to zebra mussel invasion because mussels require relatively high calcium concentrations in order to thrive. McMahon said constant monitoring of infested lakes is needed, and added it may be years before the full impact of the mussels on lakes' water quality and biodiversity is known. "We've seen that in some reservoirs, they'll eat themselves out of house and home and the population will crash, but then it reaches a stage where they'll come back and the population will stabilize at some level," Van Zee said. "Once they become established in a reservoir, there's not really a way to eradicate them." Van Zee met McMahon in 2009 when zebra mussels were first found in Texas and says McMahon's expertise has been highly beneficial as state authorities try to find the best way to handle the mussels' invasion of Texas. "Dr. McMahon has been a great asset to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department with his knowledge and experience," Van Zee said. "He's a phenomenal resource for us in dealing with this problem." The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been making a concerted effort over the last several years to educate recreational boaters about zebra mussels and how not to be vector for their introduction to other uninfested Texas water bodies, McMahon said. The campaign involves educating boaters to "Clean, Drain and Dry" their watercraft to make sure that they are not moving zebra mussels and their larvae or other invasive aquatic organisms between water bodies. "It is now the law in Texas that boaters must drain all water from their boats on leaving any water body so they do not carry zebra mussel larvae to any other water body," McMahon said. "As boaters and marina operators become better informed about the dangers associated with unintentional overland transport of zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive plants and animals, it is expected that the number of newly infested Texas lakes will decline through time, and eventually new introductions will cease." Clay Clark, department chair and professor of biology, said that McMahon's ongoing work in studying zebra mussels serves an important role in keeping the public informed about a serious threat to water quality and aquatic life in Texas lakes, and also demonstrates the University's commitment to Global Environmental Impact, one of the main tenets of the University's Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact. "Dr. McMahon has been studying the biology and control of invasive aquatic invertebrates such as zebra mussels for many years and his wealth of knowledge will serve the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department very well in this project," Clark said. "There's no one better suited to do this research." McMahon received his Ph.D. in Zoology from Syracuse University in 1972 and began his career at UTA the same year. He has served as associate dean for the College of Science as well as dean of the University's Honors College. He was named professor emeritus in biology in 2010. He received the UTA Award for Distinguished Record of Research in 1990 and in 2015 was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Invasive Species Council.
Low T.,Invasive Species Council |
Booth C.,Invasive Species Council |
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability | Year: 2011
Biofuels are likely to cause significant weed problems because the attributes of an ideal biofuel species. - including rapid growth with minimal fertiliser and water needs. - match those of typical weeds, and because cultivation will be on a vast scale. The valued biofuel giant reed is one of the world's worst invaders. To reduce weed risk, biofuels could be cultivated under voluntary guidelines or legislative controls. But self-regulation has a poor track record, and legislative controls would impose a cost on society because biofuels are high-volume low-value crops with limited profit margins to fund weed management. Extreme weather events can exceed landholder capacity for control of escapes. Restricting candidate species to those with low weed risk is advisable, and many native species would offer safe potential. © 2010.
Low T.,Invasive Species Council
Biological Invasions | Year: 2012
While agreeing that plants promoted by the aid and development community have a history of causing problems, Kull and Tassin (Biol Invasions, 2012) argue that no reform is needed, and misrepresent my precautionary position. Human suffering will escalate unless agroforestry crops, including Australian acacias, are treated with more caution. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Low T.,Invasive Species Council
Biological Invasions | Year: 2012
By promoting Australian acacias to the developing world, aid and development agencies are failing to learn from the mistakes made with mesquite (Prosopis juliflora) and jatropha (Jatropha curcas)-two plants with weedy attributes that have done more harm than good when promoted in Africa as aid. The belief in "miracle" plants that can lift people quickly out of poverty is problematical, because such plants have the attributes of weeds-vigorous growth in degraded conditions-and often escape human control, degrading rather than improving land. Other problems are costs that are less obvious than benefits, discounting of the future, and a belief that anything green is good. The main biological problem with Australian acacias is copious crops of long-lived seeds which make eradication very difficult, binding future generations to acacia-dominated landscapes. Drawing on papers presented at a workshop on Australian acacias as introduced species around the world held at Stellenbosch University, I examine the different perceptions of Australian acacias by invasion biologists and the aid and development community. The latter has redefined "sustainability" to give it social rather than ecological goals. To manage Australian acacias sustainably, precautionary risk assessment should take precedence over adaptive management, because mistakes are often irreversible and can take many decades to become obvious. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.