New aquatic invasive species threatens Vermont waters
The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (VT ANR) confirmed last summer the presence of a new invasive aquatic species - Nitellopsis obtusa, better known as Starry Stonewort. Efforts are underway to determine the best management practice for this invasive. In the meantime, advisories are posted and MWA is helping to “spread the word”. Starry Stonewort - FAQ
Starry stonewort is named for the tiny star shaped bulbils on its root system (usually observable in the late summer). It is native to Europe and Asia. First reported in the St. Lawrence River in 1978, it is now found in many inland lakes throughout the Great Lakes region and it’s spreading.
An invasive species is an organism that has been introduced to an area outside its natural range, which causes ecological and economic harm. That is the problem - starry stonewort growth may overwhelm native and non-native plants. Rumor is that it can even outcompete the invasive Eurasian milfoil. Thick mats may cover the lake bottom and may interfere with fish spawning and recreational activities. It can regrow from fragments or hitch-hike on boats, anchors, and other gear.
Starry stonewort looks like a plant but is actually a macroalgae, an early ancestor of plants. Though similar in appearance to native stoneworts and musk-grass, there are some distinguishing features:
it is a little larger, more robust, stiffer out of the water, and has star-shaped bulbils. It lives in a wide range of habitats - from shallow slow moving waters to depths of 11m (36ft); fresh and brackish waters; and is known to tolerate both low- or high-nutrient conditions.
Volunteer Vermont Invasive Patrollers (VIP) will be out in their boats again this summer to “be eyes on the water” for the VT ANR. To learn more about aquatic invasives or VIP, visit http://dec.vermont.gov/
watershed/lakes-ponds/aquatic- invasives/monitoring. . . . And passing along a reminder - practicing and promoting Clean, Drain, and Dry (including a high pressure, hot water wash if available) will help prevent the transport of aquatic invasive species.
With permission of and photos by Paul Skawinski, UW-Extension Lakes Program. Citizen Lake Monitoring Network Educator.