National Invasive Species Information Center (NISIC) and The InvasivespeciesInfo.gov Website

Photo: Autumn olive, twigs/shoots with thorns and leaves in April, James H. Miller; USDA, Forest Service

The National Invasive Species Information Center (NISIC) was established in 2005 at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA’s) National Agricultural Library (NAL) to meet the information needs of users, including the National Invasive Species Council (Council).

The website, InvasivespeciesInfo.gov is managed by NISIC. This website serves as a reference and educational gateway to information, organizations, and services about invasive species.

Below is an outline overview of National Invasive Species Information Center (NISIC)’s site content. This overview is not exhaustive.  Please take some time to explore and navigate through the various sections. The Species Profile List section includes both common and scientific species names.  It also provides users with links to photos and other information.

Invasive Species Intro:

  • About Invasive Species
  • What are invasive species
  • Federal Government’s Response (Including National Management Plan)

Species Information:

  • What are Species Profiles?
  • Terrestrial Invasives
  • Aquatic Invasives
  • Species Profiles List
  • Species Not Established in U.S.

Resources:

  • Resources by Location
  • Resources by Subject or Type
  • Resource Search

News:

  • All News and Events
  • Emerging Issues
  • Conferences and Events
  • Federal Register Notices
  • Newsmedia

What’s New

Protecting the Chesapeake from aquatic invaders

By Kathryn Reshetiloff.

This article and the accompanying photos are reproduced with permission from the Chesapeake Bay Journal.

Red-eared slider

The red-eared slider, a popular aquarium species native to the southern and southwestern U.S., is spreading to northern states, helped along by people who release them when they grow too big. (Robert J. Sharp/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Across the nation, invasive, nonnative plants and animals are becoming a larger threat to our waterways. And the Chesapeake Bay watershed is not immune.

These unwelcomed species didn’t just show up on their own. Most were introduced, either intentionally or accidently, by people. The possibility of these species multiplying in our waters — and eating, displacing or infecting native aquatic life — is a real concern to natural resources managers and citizens.

All living things have evolved to thrive in specific places on Earth. Local climate, geology, soil, available water, nutrients and food all determine which plants and animals can live in a particular ecosystem.

Species that have evolved in a particular place are considered native; those that arrive from elsewhere are considered nonnative — but are not necessarily invasive. That distinction belongs to plants and animals that threaten native species, often by crowding them out or establishing themselves more quickly in disturbed land, in the case of plants, or outcompeting them for food, in the case of animals.

Northern snakehead

The northern snakehead, a native of Asia, was first discovered in the Bay watershed two decades ago and now seems to be firmly established. (Brian Gratwicke/CC BY 2.0)

 

Invasives may also have an advantage over natives because of a lack of natural controls, such as predators or disease. Conversely, invasive herbivores and carnivores may eat native species, and invasive plants could introduce a disease deadly to natives.

Invasive species damage natural systems by disrupting the intricate web of life for native plants, animals and microorganisms, including those that are rare or close to extinction. Once invasives have consumed all of the food sources or destroyed the habitat for other wildlife, they move on to the next suitable site.

They are often spread — unknowingly — by people while boating, fishing or taking part in other recreational activities. Invasive “hitchhikers” attach to boat bottoms, motors and other items, then are transported to new waterways.

Dumping unwanted aquarium fish and plants and releasing unused live bait are another way they are introduced.

Other invaders arrive in the discharged ballast water of ships arriving from all over the world.

Invasives, like the zebra mussel, reproduce and spread quickly, wreaking havoc on native wildlife, ruining boat engines and large water-intake systems, and making lakes and rivers unusable for boaters and swimmers.

Purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife, a wetland plant brought to North America in the 1800s as an ornamental, is aggressively displacing native marsh species. (St. Arnualer Wiesen/CC 0)

Another infamous invader is the nutria, a voracious, almost beaver size, rodent native to South America. An aggressive trapping and hunting program has all but eradicated them from the Eastern Shore, where they had chewed their way through marshes, accelerating the loss of thousands of acres of wetlands.

The list goes on. The northern snakehead fish, a native of Asia introduced in 2000, is essentially out of control. Blue and flathead catfish, natives of the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio river watersheds compete with Bay species for food and habitat. The spotted lanternfly, spreading like wildfire through the region, is killing trees and devastating orchards and vineyards. Purple loosestrife, an invasive wetland plant, was introduced as an ornamental plant in the 1800s and now dominates marshes. Even the seemingly innocent red-eared slider, a semi-aquatic turtle native to the southern and southwestern U.S. — a very popular pet — is invading northerly states because many owners set it free when it outgrows its aquarium.

Once an invasive species has a foothold, the cost — in terms of degraded natural areas, loss of native wildlife or control efforts — can be incalculably high. In addition, other economic resources and lifestyle choices are lost. Recreational activities, such as swimming, fishing, boating, or wildlife-watching are affected, as are the sources of income associated with these activities: the seafood industry, sales of outdoor equipment and clothing, hunting and fishing licenses, guide services, travel and tourism, and service stations for boats and automobiles.

Lanternfly

The Asian spotted lanternfly first showed up in Pennsylvania in 2014, but it has since spread southward into Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, ruining vineyards and orchards. (Rhododendrites/CC BY-SA 4.0)

What can you do to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species? The overarching rule of thumb is this: Never release a plant or animal in an environment if you are not certain where it came from. Bait can come from anywhere, and it is believed that rusty crayfish, a very troublesome invader from the Ohio River watershed, has established itself in the Bay region mostly as discarded bait.

Some organisms are so small you may not even realize they are hitching a ride with you. So it’s important to follow this checklist every time you leave any body of water. Examine your boat, trailers, clothing, shoes and gear, then:

  • Remove any plants, fish or animals.
  • Remove all mud, dirt and plant fragments. The larvae of an animal, perhaps too tiny to see, can live in mud, dirt, sand and plant fragments.
  • Eliminate water from equipment before moving it.
  • Clean and dry anything that was in contact with water (boats, trailers, equipment, clothing) before using it in another waterway.

The Chesapeake Bay Program estimates that approximately 200 invasive species have established themselves in the watershed. To learn about invaders in your area, contact your state’s natural resources or environmental protection agency. One of the most comprehensive and user-friendly online resources for invasive species is the USDA’s National Invasive Species Information Center, at invasivespeciesinfo.gov.

Kathryn Reshetiloff, a Bay Journal columnist, is with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office in Annapolis.

Do You Have Room for a Shade Tree?

Article and photo by Plant NOVA Natives

If your yard sits in the blazing sun in the summer, it may have already occurred to you that a native shade tree would benefit you tremendously. But even if your yard is already graced by one or more mature tree, you should give some serious thought as to whether it is time to start the next generation. Trees in natural areas can live many hundreds of years, but urban and suburban conditions present stresses that may cause premature decline, a problem that can be seen in many of our older neighborhoods. If you wait until a tree dies, it will be a long time before a seedling can grow to full size. Very likely, the time to plant a replacement is now.

There is an unfortunate tendency to replace tall canopy trees with short ornamentals. This does a disservice to the people who will come after us and who will have to contend with even hotter summers and more torrential downpours than we have now. The larger a tree’s canopy, the more benefits it provides in terms of cooling the environment and controlling stormwater, not to mention sequestering carbon, sheltering birds and other critters, and providing food for the caterpillars that are needed to feed baby birds (which only native trees support in noticeable quantities.)

Shorter native trees and shrubs are appropriate for many situations, such as under a power line or in a small yard. There are specific recommendations on the Plant NOVA Trees website about how far from obstacles to plant your trees and how large a soil area to allow. The roots of trees can overlap, though, so you can plant them as close as fifteen feet apart and within five feet of shrubs.

Trees produce shade, but most canopy trees cannot grow in the shade. (The understory is the space where shorter native trees such as Flowering Dogwood and Redbuds thrive.) It is easy to overestimate the available sun. The number of hours of direct sun per day should be measured when the nearby trees have already leafed out. Good choices for planting under existing shade trees include oaks, American Holly and Black Gum, which will grow slowly but steadily in those conditions then rapidly take off if the overstory lightens up in the future. Native oaks hold the place of honor as the most valuable of trees –  the reasons for this are outlined in Doug Tallamy’s most recent book The Nature of Oaks – but any native tree provides major ecological benefits.

There is deep gratification to be had from planting and nurturing a little native tree, even if we ourselves may not be around later to sit under it. It is a simple act, easily accomplished. To find out how easily, see the Plant NOVA Trees website.

February Birding in Nicaragua

Article and all photos by FMN Robin Duska

Reprinted with permission from Northern Virginia Bird Club, originally published in The Siskin, April 2022

Strong-billed Woodcreeper

The prospect of birding near volcanos and in cloud forest drew me to Bill Volkert and Connie Ramthun’s February 2022 tour to Nicaragua. Likely because of its perennially fraught political climate and, despite its 750+ bird species, its lack of endemics, Nicaragua attracts few international birders. This was, however, the 16th trip for Bill and Connie, experienced and intrepid world travelers. Bill, an ornithologist and former naturalist at Wisconsin’s Horicon Marsh, and Connie, who ran a native plant nursery, live in Wisconsin’s northern Kettle-Moraine.

Birding in gardens at the Best Western Mercedes Hotel across from Managua Airport netted my first trip lifer, a Hoffman’s Woodpecker. We then set off to Volcan Masaya

Masaya volcano

National Park and Visitor Center for an introduction to the geology of this volatile region where three tectonic plates converge. Peering down into the smoking, active Masaya volcano, we watched two Peregrine Falcons flying along its cliffs. Recommended human exposure to the sulphureous fumes? No more than 15 minutes.

Crimson-collared Tanager

By midday, we were in the dry forest of Montibelli private reserve, home to 175 species including Turquoise-browed and Lesson’s Motmots and 10 species of hummingbirds. I wish I’d recorded the surprisingly loud wingbeats of Red-billed Pigeons passing overhead there and at the nearby Chocoyero-El Brujo reserve—the flocks sounded as loud as small aircraft.

We worked with local guides at each site on our trip but unfortunately we “dipped” on Nicaragua’s only near-endemic, the Nicaraguan Grackle (Quiscalus nicaraguensis), allegedly found along Lake Cochibola (Lake Nicaragua) and nearby Lake Managua. Our leaders had occasionally seen it on earlier trips.

From our next base in the attractive colonial city of Granada, we took a morning boat trip amid the 365 islands that were formed when nearby Mombacho volcano erupted around 20,000 years ago. Mangrove Swallows and my favorite Scissor-tailed Flycatchers dipped into the water as we motored around. Among the 39 species seen that morning were a Bare-throated Tiger Heron and amid hundreds of Montezuma Oropendola nests, an optimistic Giant Cowbird. Later, we stopped in San Juan de Oriente, home to potters for over 1000 years. The beautiful and inexpensive pottery features both pre-Colombian and modern designs.

Highland Guan

Next we took the Pan-American Highway into the Matagalpa-Jinotega highlands, beautifully green even in the dry season. El Jaguar Reserve, run by eBird reviewer Liliana Chavarria-Duriaux and her husband, is home to 378 species. In the cloud forest surrounding Liliana’s coffee fields, vulnerable Highland Guan reliably amble out into view. We had fine sightings of three of my favorite trip species: Black-crested Coquette, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, and Slate-colored Solitaire with its ethereal calls.

I especially enjoyed a morning to the west of El Jaguar at Reserva Natural Cerros de Yali where the oak-pine forest, a vital wintering area for warblers including Grace’s and Golden-winged, reaches its southern boundary in Central America. To our delight, four very similar warblers—Townsend’s, Hermit, Golden-cheeked, and Black-throated Green—showed up within minutes of each other. Nearby, a pair of Red Crossbills, a wide-ranging species, fed placidly in a pine.

We went on to enjoy more cloud forest at Selva Negra (Black Forest), where we stayed in lovely green-roofed German-influenced chalets. A

Three-wattled Bellbirds

Pale-billed Woodpecker, like other Campephilus woodpeckers including the extinct Ivory-billed, did its double-knock drumming out along a steep trail. I especially enjoyed watching male and female Three-wattled Bellbirds interact and listening to the male’s echoing call.

Spectacled Owl

Nicaragua’s handful of ornithologists participate in the Neotropical Flyways Project, monitoring and tagging birds for the Motus Wildlife Tracking System. Ecotourism provides valuable support in this vulnerable habitat, but travel now is complicated by the Nicaraguan government’s Covid testing documentation requirements and concerns about birding equipment. Four travelers from Bill and Connie’s two February tours were unable to enter the country, due to the former. After our leaders’ equipment was confiscated upon their arrival, they successfully negotiated for its return and for ours to be allowed in when the rest of us arrived on later flights. I therefore recommend birders not travel independently to the country at this time unless they have contacts in Nicaragua who can help them negotiate such possible impediments.

Despite the pre-arrival issues described, this was one of the more pleasant, well-paced, and satisfying birding trips I’ve taken. As the only non-Wisconsinite in our group, I also enjoyed learning from others who had far more hiking/hunting/farming/gardening experience than I do. Lodgings were comfortable and very clean.

Our group trip list was 211 species during 10 birding days. Bill and Connie plan to return to Nicaragua in 2024 and can be contacted via his website, which also links to Bill’s “Where To Watch Birds in Nicaragua” guide: http://www.billvolkert.com.

Madagascar: Exploring a Biodiversity Hotspot through its Lemurs and Birds, May 17th

Photo: Collared Nightjar, Elizabeth Lyons

Tuesday, May 17, 2022
7 – 8:00pm
Where: ONLINE
Cost: Free
Register here.

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia presents, Madagascar: Exploring a Biodiversity Hotspot through its Lemurs and Birds.

Dr. Sally Bornbusch and Dr. Libby Lyons, a mother-daughter scientist team, will immerse the audience in the fascinating biodiversity of Madagascar. Based on their first-hand experience with Madagascar as a biodiversity hotspot, they will focus on its famous lemurs, a group of primates found only in Madagascar, and its suite of endemic birds. They will discuss some of the recently extinct animals, the human impacts that continue to challenge the island nation, and conservation efforts being undertaken to protect Madagascar’s unique biological richness. They will also reflect on their scientific career paths in hopes of helping young women and girls pursue their own passions in environmentalism and science.

For more information about this event please click here.

Sun Dogs Over Fairfax County

Article and all photos by FMN Stephen Tzikas

Feature photo: 11/15/16 Sun dog observed from East Falls Church Metro Station near sunset. One can see the smaller left Sun dog over a building. The brighter Sun is on the right.

A long time ago, probably at a flea market, I saw a used book for sale.  It had a catchy title, which one might see on the front page of the National Enquirer.  That catchy title, Flying Saucers on the Attack (1967) by Howard Wilkins, caught my attention.  With a smirk on my face, I picked up the book and browsed through it.  Soon I had completely forgotten about the book’s title because the book had a very interesting list of natural meteorological phenomena in Chapter 10, which the author tried to convey as flying saucers.  Specifically, I recognized

2/22/17 Sun Dog (center) seen above Reston Metro platform near sunset.  Notice this right lobe has a parhelic circle extension (looks like a horizontal ray to the right of the Sun dog).  The faint vertical ray above and below the Sun dog is part of a 22 degree halo.

some of these entries as Sun dogs.  I also realized I had never seen a Sun dog, so I made it a priority to do so.  It didn’t take me long after that commitment to spot my first Sun dog.  In fact, over several months I saw four Sun dogs.  Their photographs are presented in this article.  Three of these were in Fairfax County. Perceptual awareness is such a powerful tool!

The Greeks were the first to identify Sun dogs. Aristotle noted in his Meteorology that “two mock suns rose with the Sun and followed it all through the day until sunset.” Sun dogs are formed when sunlight is refracted in the horizontal plane through six-sided, plate-like ice crystals that float in the atmosphere or in high elevation cirrus and cirrostratus clouds.  Sun dogs can appear solo or on each side of the Sun. The visual thrills don’t stop there. Do an internet search to learn about the different types of Sun arcs and Sun pillars, and parhelic circles. The Moon offers similar phenomena including lunar coronas.  

2/23/15 Sun dog spotted over Lake Audubon near sunset.  I caught a Sun dog looking outside my window.  The bright Sun dog is on the left, while the larger Sun is on the right.

I saw two Sun dogs from the Metro on my way home from work in Washington DC.  This is a good time to see Sun dogs low on the horizon in the late afternoon and as a “captive audience” from a train window.  I had my cell phone camera with me so I photographed the phenomenon, one at East Falls Church metro station, and one at Reston metro station. The pandemic put a pause on my Sun dog viewing opportunities, but I hope they will pick-up in the future again.

10/11/16 Sun dog seen (lower center) from the NJ side of the Delaware Memorial Bridge near sunset.  The bright Sun is on the left by the flag pole.  A good spot to find Sun dogs is from the windshield of your car.  On long trips you might see a Sun dog as I had, on my way home from NJ.

Sun dogs are red-colored at the side nearest the Sun.  Farther out the colors blend from orange to blue shades.

Red is the less deviated color, giving the Sun dogs that red inner edge. So Sun dogs are like a reversed rainbow, that is they have a reversed color scheme, because primary rainbows are red on the outside and violet on the inside. Sun dogs tend to occur when the Sun is near the horizon.  Sun dogs most commonly appear during the winter in the middle latitudes.  They can be quite bright, making one think they are actually viewing the Sun, if the Sun is blocked from view, such as being obstructed by a building.

If you have never seen a Sun dog, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with my photographs.  It’s really amazing all the sorts of things one can see in the sky whether during the day or at night.  I am always attentive for interesting atmospheric phenomena. I have seen quite a lot of weird things that I have had to research for answers.  As Master Naturalists we often look down or around us to observe nature, but sometimes a lot can be seen by looking up.

Fairfax County Park Authority Accessible Trails

Photo: Fairfax County Park Authority

Fairfax County has over 334 miles of trails in the County Park system.  The Park Authority’s goal is to provide the public with a trail network that is safe, enjoyable, flexible, maintainable, and environmentally responsible. The Fairfax County Park Authority is also committed to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which includes making programs, services, and facilities accessible for visitors and employees with disabilities.  The County does maintain a list of recommended accessible trails within its trail network.  A list of FCPA accessible trails can be found below.

Click here for information on general characteristics used to denote an accessible trail.

RECOMMENDED ACCESSIBLE TRAILS:

All trails listed below were measured from the closest accessible parking spaces on site to the trail and totaled in a round trip format.

 

New EPA Tool Provides the Public with Customized Updates on Local Enforcement and Compliance Activities

Environmental Protection Agency News Releases: Headquarters

March 22, 2022

Contact Information

EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)

WASHINGTON (March 22, 2022) – Today, EPA announced the release of a new web tool, called “ECHO Notify,” that empowers members of the public to stay informed about important environmental enforcement and compliance activities in their communities.  Through ECHO Notify, users can sign up to receive weekly emails when new information is available within the selected geographic area, such as when a violation or enforcement action has taken place at a nearby facility.

“EPA is committed to empowering communities with the information they need to understand and make informed decisions about their health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.  “We’ve also seen that increased transparency leads to stronger deterrence of environmental violations. As more people play an active role in protecting their neighborhoods from pollution, EPA has developed ECHO Notify so that finding updates on environmental enforcement and compliance activities is as easy as checking your email.”

ECHO Notify provides information on all EPA enforcement and compliance activities as well as activities of state and local governments under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

You can find ECHO Notify on EPA’s website at ECHO Notify, as shown below.

 

Visitors to the ECHO Notify homepage who wish to receive email updates only need to take a few simple steps:

  • Create an account, if you don’t have one already;
  • Select a geographic area and/or facility ID(s);
  • Choose the type of compliance and enforcement information of interest;
  • Enter an email address; and
  • Click “subscribe.”

Once subscribed, the user will receive an automated email (typically on Sunday) containing new information from the prior weeklong period. If no new information is available, no email will be sent. Email notifications include links for users to view additional information on ECHO, including a link to each facility’s Detailed Facility Report. Users can easily update their notification selections or unsubscribe at any time.

EPA has prepared a video that provides an overview of ECHO Notify and explains how to use it.  The video can be seen here, ECHO Tutorial: Intro to ECHO Notify

 

Millions of Trees at Risk in Northern Virginia? Introducing Tree Rescuers!

Photo courtesy of Plant NOVA Natives

Northern Virginia’s oldest and best-loved trees are in danger, and the threat is in plain sight – and yet there are few who can see it.

But help is on the way! Tree Rescuers – a new community education and outreach program – is shining a light on non-native invasive vines, which pose a mortal threat to millions of mature trees in Northern Virginia.

More than 130 people from neighborhoods across Northern Virginia have already volunteered with Tree Rescuers, a new campaign sponsored by Plant NOVA Trees and aimed at preserving our area’s mature trees.

“We were amazed at how many people were ready to do something like this for the trees but didn’t know how to get started,” said Margaret Fisher, one of the coordinators of Plant NOVA Trees. “This is a great time to start, since the leaves are down and the vines can be seen more easily.”

As many as three million trees in Northern Virginia may be at risk, said Fisher.

Many people are unaware that invasive vines like English Ivy can eventually make a tree hazardous (and expensive to remove). Tree Rescuers volunteers learn how to identify problematic vines, then walk their neighborhoods spotting trees that need help.

The Tree Rescuers don’t remove any vines themselves, but they warn landowners by dropping off a brochure explaining the problem and ways to fix it.

Data gathered by Tree Rescuers will also help improve knowledge of the actual number of trees at risk, since the collected data is being aggregated and mapped. A map of neighborhoods surveyed can be viewed here.

Tree Rescuers is part of Plant NOVA Trees, a five-year campaign by local governments and nonprofit organizations to increase tree cover in Northern Virginia. Native trees are a key part of the solution to many community problems, from extreme weather and air and water quality to the health of birds, wildlife, and the Chesapeake Bay.

For more details about Tree Rescuers, or to volunteer, click here.

Plastics! Plastics! Everywhere.

Article and photos by FMN Mike Walker

Like last year, I saved every scrap of “plastic” that came in to my home in January and February. Fortunately I have a wonderful screen porch to store this stuff outside during the cold weather. As you can see above, in two months, I collected a shocking total of about 60 cubic feel of “plastic” stuff, ranging from bubble wrap, packaging waste (even from organic products) prescription bottles, shrink wrap, etc. I even had a plastic hose from my washing machine, plastic “throw-away” sunglasses from the doctor for eye dilation and plastic clips from ink for my printer. A real potpourri of plastic trash.  My wife and I do not go out of our way to buy plastic products, of course, I submit that we are typical consumers. Collecting two months worth of material is a vivid reminder of what is coming into our lives and how difficult it is to avoid an avalanche of plastic material.

After two months of collecting,  I sorted the plastic into what can actually be recycled….see my picture below….a small fraction of waste…15 bottles and some caps. While manufacturers offer “helpful” codes on the bottom of many plastic products, most plastic is simply not recyclable and in Fairfax County becomes waste to be incinerated.

Being aware of our use patterns for “stuff”…whether it be plastic, water consumption, gasoline or other resources is the first step in becoming aware of our impact on the earth and the search for serious reductions in consumption. Taking the time to simply collect the plastic that comes into your home for a period of time can become a real eye opener to the sheer volume and variety of plastics – including non-recyclable plastics – that are encountered everyday. It can really make you mindful to look for ways to reduce your consumption, too.