They’re on the Move!

They’re on the move and we need your help to stop them! There are lots of invasive species nearby that have not yet reached Cortland County. We want to keep it that way!

The yellow floating heart (Nymphoides peltata) is a perennial, rooted, aquatic invasive plant that resembles water lilies. The stems of this plant can grow up to 2 meters long and lie just below the water surface. Being right below the water surface allows for this plant to branch into smaller plantlets. Their round or heart-shaped floating leaves grow to be anywhere from 3-12 cm in diameter, and are green or yellow-green. The undersides of the leaves can be purple. These plants can produce 2 to 5 bright yellow, five-petaled flowers. This plant typically forms dense patches of vegetation that outcompete and displace native plants. This then creates stagnant, low-oxygen conditions in the water. This plant is now established on Long Island, and in the Hudson Valley.

Brazilian elodea (Egeria densa) is a submerged aquatic plant. It has bright green stems and leaves, and a very leafy appearance. The leaves are linear and grow to be up to 2.5 cm long, and ½ cm wide. These leaves grow in whorls of four to eight leaves. Their stems are cylindrical and grow until they reach the water surface. Once at the water surface, they form dense mats. They have white, three-petaled flowers that grow just above the water surface. Brazilian elodea can be found growing in lakes, rivers, and springs. It is also commonly sold as an aquarium plant. This plant is a threat because dense populations can disrupt water flow, trap sediment, alter water quality, and reduce the diversity of native vegetation.

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) is a submerged plant that grows in whorls of three to eight. The undersides of hydrilla leaves are spiny. This plant looks very similar to American or Canadian waterweed, which is a common native aquatic plant. The American or Canadian waterweed has smooth leaves that are arranged in whorls of three. Hydrilla is a threat because it spreads quickly and once it is established it forms dense stands. These stands then crowd out native species, and disrupt aquatic habitats. This is also known to clog waterways and restrict water flow. This can then cause damage to water control structures and inhibit recreational activities. This plant is currently found in the counties of: Monroe, Cayuga, Tompkins, Tioga, and Broome.

The spiny waterflea (Bythotrephes longimanus) is a tiny crustacean that is less than 1.25 cm in length. It has a straight, long, sharp, and barbed tail. The spiny waterflea live in freshwater or brackish lakes, and prefer cooler areas of water. These are a threat because few predators can eat them due to their tails, and this can result in exponential waterflea population growth. This waterflea also feeds on native zooplankton, which are vital to the native small crustaceans and fish. In some lakes, the native zooplankton have been completely eliminated from the food chain. The elimination of this has caused a serious decline in native fish populations. In addition to this, they also interfere with fishing. The spines of them catch on fishing line, and this in turn can result in clogged fishing rod eyelets or damaged reel systems. This then prevents fish from being able to be reeled in. The spiny waterflea can currently be found in Monroe county.

Remember to CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY! Stop in at public boat launches this weekend and visit with our boat stewards. Help us spread the word and stop the invasion Cortland County’s waters!

What’s in the Water?

Aquatic invasive species are found throughout Central New York, including Cortland County. Most of these species were transported to our area or released from aquariums. Aquatic invasive species often grow fast and dense, creating a loss of native species and biodiversity.

Rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) are native to the Ohio River Basin. They can grow to be about 10 cm in length. They are dark brown and have rust colored spots on each side of their body. They have larger claws that have black bands on the tips. They inhabit waterways that have clear water and lots of debris to hide under. They are aggressive and reproduce quickly, leading to a decline in native crayfish species.

Curly-leaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus) is a perennial aquatic plant that is native to Europe, Africa and Australia. This plant has rigid red-green wavy leaves and small red flowers. Curly-leaved pondweed can grow quickly in dense mats. Infestations of this plant can inhibit boating, swimming and fishing. This plant will outcompete native species, cause a critical loss of dissolved oxygen in the water, and its decomposition can lead to harmful algal blooms. This species primarily spreads through water crafts and boating equipment.

Eurasian watermillfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) is the most common and widely distributed aquatic invasive plant in New York. It is originally from Europe, Africa and Australia. It is a plant with bright green feathery leaves that grow in whorls around the stem. It can grow between 3 and 10 feet in length and is found in ponds and lakes. It grows in dense mats that outcompete and displace native species. These dense mats can also inhibit recreational activities like boating and fishing. This species can spread through fragmentation, meaning that if just a piece of the plant is spread to other bodies of water, it will grow.

Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are freshwater filter feeding mussels native to southern Ukraine and Russia. It can be found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, streams and ponds. They are shaped like a “D” and will grow up to 4 cm long. They can attach to a variety of substrates including sand, silt, cobbles, plants, concrete and metal. They breed faster than predators can consume them. Since they are filter feeders, they can greatly disrupt the clarity and content of the water, adversely affecting the food chain. They are very sharp and can cut skin when touched. They are spread by boating equipment, watercrafts and live wells transporting them to other bodies of water.

Chinese mystery snails (Cipangopaludina chinensis) are native to east Asia and were introduced into New York waterways in the 1940’s when people were dumping them from their aquariums into the Niagara River. The only known location of these snails in Cortland County is in Melody Lake near Willet. These snails can grow to be 6 cm in size. Their shells are olive green with vertical striping. These snails will outcompete native species and are hosts for parasites that are harmful to humans and waterfowl.

To help prevent the spread of these invasive species, REMEMBER TO CLEAN, DRAIN and DRY. Always inspect your water crafts and equipment before and after use!

Invasive Species Awareness Week 2021

Invasive Species Awareness Week is an annual educational campaign to help stop the spread of non-native plants, animals, and other organisms that cause disruption and adverse effects to the environment, economy or human health. Aquatic invasive species live in the water and can destroy habitat for native aquatic organisms, hinder recreation, and even threaten human health. Aquatic invasives include floating plants, emergent plants, submersed plants, algae, mollusks, reptiles, crustaceans, insects, fish, and amphibians.

Invasive species can easily be spread inadvertently by humans. Some examples are dumping an aquarium into a body of water, walking home with seeds stuck to shoes, and transporting fish between ponds or lakes. Be alert to the methods of transport – a seed, tiny plant fragment, even mud or soil can easily introduce a population of species that could have long-term detrimental impacts.

One key action to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species is to CLEAN, DRAIN, and DRY your water crafts and equipment. After exiting a body of water, you should inspect your boat, trailer, and equipment for plants and other aquatic hitchhikers. Then you should drain all standing water, which includes live wells, bilge water, and bait buckets. If found, dispose of all species in a disposal station, or someplace they can dry. Before entering a body of water, make sure there are no species on your watercraft, equipment, or trailer. Additionally, make sure there is no water from a previous waterbody on or in your boat. Look for a boat washing station to help clean your watercraft. If proper decontamination wasn’t performed, you should wait 2 weeks between launching your watercrafts.