Researchers turn Minnesota lake into large laboratory

Starry stonewort forms dense surface mats in lakes.

PAYNESVILLE, Minn. — Researchers have turned a Minnesota lake into a giant laboratory to study invasive plants.

The Koronis Lake Association has spent $500,000 on a pilot project at Lake Koronis to address starry stonewort, KSTP-TV reported.

“It grows incredibly fast,” said Kevin Farnum, a member of the association’s board. “It’ll never go away. And that’s not untypical. Most of your aquatic invasive species, you know once they’re in a lake there’s not really an eradication.”

The invasive plant was first found in Minnesota in Lake Koronis in 2015 but has since spread to 13 Minnesota lakes. The plant is a bright green macro-algae that can choke out native plants and fish habitat, according to the Minnesota DNR.

“Now the good news with that is in some of the areas we’ve been trying to manage is that we have had some significant reduction,” Farnum said.

Cleaning boats and trailers can help stop the spread of the invasive plant and early detection is important, the association said. The group also uses a weed puller to rip the plants out at the root in the shallow water or chop the plants off in deeper water.

“We are trying to get the word out about what we’re doing,” said Farnum. “What our successes are, what our failures are, the timing, the mass of area, it’s all important to control.”

Researchers hope to learn more about the species’ biology, how it impacts areas and how to manage it, said Dan Larkin, who’s with the University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center.

“There’s just tremendous uncertainty about what the future looks like. How many lakes in Minnesota will have it 10, 20, 30 years from now,” Larkin said.

The state Legislature has set aside $10 million a year to fight invasive species.

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