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.