On June 21st I went to a training on aquatic invasive species. The training was at a research station along the Delaware River, on the Pennsylvania border. The training was mainly for the summer staff, who help people who are boating on the river so that they can advise people to get their boats cleaned and to look for any invasives that may be on the boats. Unlike the reservoirs, there is no enforcement to make people clean their boats here. The program was sponsored by CRISP as part of their boat stewards program.
The training was all day and we learned about 20-25 different invasive species and a few stories of species that are really bad such as the zebra mussel and didymo (AKA rock snot). There were so many invasives to learn and it was good perspective to see just how easily these organisms can spread and how hard they are to control. I also found it interesting (and shocking) that the introduction of invasives to an aquatic ecosystem has such a large effect on the diversity of native species.
Didymo is also one of the 10 priority species for CRISP that was presented at the training. It is a single celled organism that attaches to rocks on river bottoms and forms colonies that are dense mats.
Colonies prohibit macroinvertibrates from living on the stream bottom. Since macroinvertibrates are such a large source of food in aquatic ecosystems and are important in breaking down organic matter, cycling nutrients didymo can disrupt the entire stream habitat. Here is a great video that shows just how much rock snot can spread from a single cell.
One of the other aquatic species we learned about that are on the priority list for CRIP’S are Water Chestnut and Eurasian water milfoil. Water chestnut floats on top of the water like a lily pad and lowers the dissolved oxygen levels below what is needed to support a healthy aquatic ecosystem. It can be identified by its thorny, black seeds.