Introduction to Aquatic Invasive Species
An invasive species is a plant or animal that is introduced to an area where it does not naturally belong. Since these species are not native (belong naturally) to that area, they have no local predators and can begin to reproduce and grow unchecked. Generally, aquatic invasive species are harmful to all aspects of a watershed including water quality and health, recreational activities, and the local economy in terms of businesses and property values. Organisms like zebra mussels, milfoil, and mystery snails begin to dominate an area and outcompete other aquatic life for necessary resources like living space and nutrients.
Lake associations do their part by helping to spread information and employing Courtesy Boat Inspectors, who are like the last line of defense before an invasive species enters a body of water. They check boats and trailers before they enter a lake and again as they come out for unwanted hitchhikers, like milfoil. As a back-up, the Invasive Plant Patrolthrough the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, searches lake bottoms for invasive plants. The goal of the IPP is early detection of these invaders, so that they can be removed before they cause problems in the lake.
The more you know about aquatic invasive species, the more you can do to help prevent their introduction and spread in a watershed.
- Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program: Maine has over 6,000 lakes and ponds, certainly too many for the Department of Environmental Protection to monitor alone. Instead, they rely on help from hundreds of volunteers to collect Secchi depth measurements and keep an eye out for invasive species.
- Species ID Cards: Have trouble differentiating between native species and invasive species? Check out these species ID cards which include images, seasonal information, and look-a-likes.
- Guide to Invasive Aquatic Plants of Connecticut: Looking for more technical information about invasive aquatic plants? The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station compiled a guide which discusses many of the same invasive species making their way to Maine. Or, go to the US Geological Survey for a list of over 300 Northeastern wetland plants, complete with photos and a technical overview.
- Only interested in photos for identification? “More Plants You Should Know” is a resource from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point that contains a catalog of photos of native and invasive aquatic plants.
- Through the Looking Glass: is a large-format field guide to North American aquatic plants, written for people of all ages and technical backgrounds.
All About Maine – Aquatic Invasive Species
Maine is known for its pristine lakes, rocky and hemlock-covered coast, western mountains, and vast forests. Visitors from all over the world come here to camp, fish, swim, hike, tour, and just enjoy ‘the way life should be’. Unfortunately, visitors from away can also bring aquatic invasive species with them on their trailer hitches or motors without even knowing it! Browse the following links to learn more information about known invasive infestations in Maine, laws and regulations concerning the transportation of invasive species, Maine native species ‘look-a-likes’, and outreach.
- Maine Bureau of Land and Water Quality: Top 11 Most Wanted (invasive aquatic plants, that is) Help keep these pests out of our great state!
- Defenders of Wildlife: Tools for identifying and deterring invasive species through outreach and education.
- Maine Invasives Map: Provides the known locations of invasive aquatic plants in Maine as of March 2011
- Maine Field Guide to Invasive Aquatic Plants, and their common native look alikes: Excellent technical field guide for people who want to be more actively involved in scouring their lake for invasive aquatic plants.
Resources for Educators – Aquatic Invasive Species
Let us do the lesson-planning for you! Browse the following links for ideas, tools, or full lesson plans about all sorts of environmental topics. Most sources have a focus on invasive species but several (Lesson Planet, NBII) have a global view of environmental issues and discussions.
- ME Bureau of Land and Water Quality: Lesson Plans on topics ranging from macroinvertebrates to lake ice outs for kids in elementary and middle school.
- National Geographic: Scenario Cards with four different situations of invasive species. Students can read the scenarios in small groups and discuss the environmental and ethical problems faced in each situation. Appropriate for middle school aged kids.
- Aquatic Invasive Species Toolkit: An educational tool developed by Oregon State University. It contains information and activity guides about many different types of aquatic invasives, several of which have been found in Maine or are close to its borders.
- Captain Planet: Don’t let Batman and Spiderman hog the spotlight – Captain Planet can teach kids about hands-on environmental projects they can do in their community.
- Lesson Planet: A great search engine to find specific lesson plans for your classroom’s environmental projects.
- National Biological Information Infrastructure: Educational resource for a wide range of environmental topics, including invasive aquatic species.