task force to fight ecological invaders
By Yancey Roy
New York Democrat and Chronicle
New York state will launch a task force to tackle invasive
species, including zebra mussels, milfoil and purple loosestrife,
under a law signed Monday by Gov. George Pataki.
The panel will study the impact that the nonnative species
have had on New York, upsetting the food chain and choking
out native species. The group is also charged with devising
ways to fight back. The task force must report its findings
by Nov. 30, 2005.
"Invasive species come in many forms - plants, animals,
pathogens-but they all pose a common threat to New York’s
environment and economy," said Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli,
D-Nassau County, one of the sponsors of the bill to create
the task force. "The new task force will allow New
York to develop comprehensive strategies to protect our
vital ecosystems and our valuable natural resources."
Zebra mussels have been one of the most prolific invasive
species. The tiny, razor-sharp mussels are now found in
Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, in the St. Lawrence and Niagara
rivers, in the major Finger Lakes, all along the Erie
Canal and down the Hudson River as far as West Point,
said Charles O’Neill of New York Sea Grant, a research
"They’re like little vacuum cleaners sucking up
the bottom of the food chain and starving everything on
up the chain," said O’Neill, who is based in Brockport.
In the Great Lakes, zebra mussels have pushed native clams
and mussels to near extinction, he said. Zebra mussels
make the water clearer, but that allows for further light
penetration which encourages nuisance vegetation such
as water chestnut, said O’Neill.
Eurasian milfoil, a plant with feathery underwater foliage,
also has been a high-profile problem at numerous lakes
around the state. Milfoil ties up boats and propellers
and clogs water intakes. It can interfere with swimming
and fishing as well.
"It can make bays and shallow areas very difficult
to manage," said Bernard Melewski of the Adirondack
Council. "And, of course, the bays and the shallow
areas are where the predominance of docks and homes are."
Purple loosestrife, with spikes of brilliant purple flowers,
is another alien invader. "It spreads voraciously
and chokes out native grasses. It can dominate a wetland
rapidly," Melewski said.
The task force will have 17 members, led by representatives
of the state Environmental Conservation and Agriculture