A New Exotic Threat to the Upper Mississippi River
Invasive aquatic plants imported from South America for use in backyard ponds and aquariums have been found for the second year in backwaters of the Mississippi River near Buffalo City, Wis. on the Winona District of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
In 2011, water hyacinth and water lettuce were discovered in a dozen locations in Pool 5 near Buffalo City, Wis. by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources personnel. The estimated number of plants discovered was 1,500 and all plants were removed from the water by hand and destroyed. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials believe that these plants were “released” into the river by a citizen.
It was speculated that any undiscovered plants would not survive the freezing temperatures of winter and would be eliminated. However, on July 26, 2012, a large infestation of nearly 10,000 plants was discovered in a secluded backwater bay. While the density of plants was alarming, even more troubling was the discovery of an additional plant, Parrot Feather also known as Brazilian water milfoil, among the water lettuce and hyacinth. Parrot feather is even more aggressive than Eurasian water milfoil and can quickly fill-in an area and choke-out native species.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Water Resources Specialist and Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator Scott Provost said, “while this is not the first finding of parrot feather in the state, it is the first finding that could spread extensively, all the others have been in isolated water bodies.”
The latest discovery on Pool 5 is likely the result of seeds from the plants overwintering. Due to the size of the area and number of plants, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Lake Restoration, Inc. of Rogers, Minn. to chemically treat the infestation during the week of August 20, 2012 with a mixture of 2,4-D and diquat that is approved for water use.
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Winona District Manager Mary Stefanski commented that, “while chemical treatment is not the preferred method of plant control on the refuge, it is the best method to stop these invasive species before they destroy the beneficial native vegetation that has been rebounding in Spring Lake since the island construction project and water level drawdown.”
You Can Help Stop the Spread of Invasives!
This latest finding is a stark reminder for everyone who uses these valuable natural resources…
Be diligent in your efforts to not transport invasive and / or exotic species
Remove vegetation from boat trailers
Empty bait buckets on land, pull your drain plugs
NEVER release anything from your home into the wild
If you see these exotic plants in other locations on the river or have information about how these plants were released onto the refuge, please contact the refuge at 507-454-7351.
Learn more about invasives: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Invasives/
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.