Aquatic plants were not on my radar screen until recently. When I first heard CAST was organizing a team of experts to analyze the problems of nuisance aquatic plants, I figured they’d have to dredge up something about the Creature from the Black Lagoon to get much material. Hand me my snorkel and face mask—I was wrong.
Safe, accessible water resources are essential, but various threats are closing the taps. This paper keeps the flow going as it looks at plants that invade rivers, lakes, and other aquatic ecosystems. These invaders can affect aesthetics, drainage, fishing, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, flood control, human and animal health, hydropower generation, irrigation, navigation, recreation, and, ultimately, land values.
The authors encourage long-term funding, sustained research, and creative problem solving. They believe that a collaborative push to meet the challenges posed by nuisance aquatic plants will support a sustainable civilization that depends on clean and abundant freshwater resources.
Fishing, Swimming, and Creatures from the Deep
Now that I think back a bit more carefully, aquatic plants were lurking below the surface a few times during my youth. We kids often grabbed bamboo fishing poles and a can of worms so we could spend the afternoon on our farm creeks. Thistles and poison ivy hid along the banks in the pasture, but the main aquatic plants we dealt with were spindly reeds and batches of algae—sometimes clumps of the slimy green substance were the only weighty catch we hauled in for the day.
Algae and other lily-type plants clogged the nearby farm lake we fished in, and decades ago the authorities worried about silt and obstructed water outlets there. County officials recently dredged the area and constructed a new dam with the hope that camping and local tourism would increase. The battle against aquatic nuisance plants will no doubt be part of their maintenance program.
Once we hit the car generation, we joined friends for summer outings at a place we called the Gravel Pit. As teens, we’d swim there in cut-off jeans and swing off old ropes tied to overhanging trees. Legends floated there about a drowning at the far edge of the pit where algae and tangled aquatic plants could pull a swimmer under. I don’t know the facts, but it was enough to keep us cautious; the Creature from the Black Lagoon might not be real, but water hazards are.
Global water issues are now front and center, but many are unaware of the problems aquatic nuisance plants add to looming water crises. CAST’s new paper gives a solid background and plenty of practical suggestions. Today Black Lagoon Creatures come in the form of invasive plants that damage our water systems—both rural and urban folks need to figure out solutions.
by dan gogerty (pic from agauchpress.com)