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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Felt-free for Aquatic Species

On Jan. 1, Alaska and Rhode Island became the latest states to ban felt-soled wading boots, popular because they offer anglers good traction on slick river beds.

Turns out they can also offer rivers something less attractive: Invasive species.

Felt-soled bootsA pair of felt-soled wading boots. Phot: Cheryl Anderson/USFWS

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The Cost of Invasive Species

Even if you’ve never heard the term ‘invasive species’, chances are they’ve affected you in one way or another.  Invasives are any non-native species or organism that cause harm to a non-native environment.  For example, you may have heard about the brown marmorated stink bug, introduced accidentally into Pennsylvania from Asia, which has descended on towns along the east coast.  With no natural predators, the insects are able to multiply, feeding on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, hurting farmers and their crops. 

Brown Marmorated Stink BugCredit: David R. Lance, USDA APHIS PPQ

A widely referenced paper cites the cost of invasive species to be more than $120 billion in damages every year to the United States. 

I’ll say it again - $120 BILLION dollars in damages from invasive species.

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New York: Invasive Insect Infestations Spread Further North, Threatening Hemlock Forests

A bug in a wooly nest with larvae

A hemlock woolly adelgid infestation can destroy a hemlock tree in just a few years. The insect gets its name from the fuzzy, white masses that the females produce. Photo: Michael Montgomery, USDA Forest Service.

In New York, climate change may make it easier for an invasive species to continue its spread to hemlock forests further to the north.

The threat comes from the hemlock woolly adelgid, an aphid-like insect that feeds on hemlock trees. The species gets its name from the fuzzy, white masses that the females produce. The adelgid uses its long mouth to extract nutrients from hemlock needles. This disrupts the flow of nutrients in the tree. Needles dry out, turn color, and drop off. Larger limbs start dying off within a couple of years. Trees become badly damaged and in many cases die after several years.

Hemlock forests provide unique habitat for wildlife. Their shade helps keep soil and water temperatures cool and provide microclimates in which many plants and animals thrive.

The hemlock woolly adelgid was first discovered in the United States in Virginia in the 1950s. It is native to Asia and was likely introduced to the U.S. by accident.  It has thrived along the east coast and has damaged hemlock forests from Maine to Georgia.

In New York State, the hemlock woolly adelgid was discovered in the 1980s. Infestations are now found in 25 counties. The infestations are clustered in two regions: the Hudson Valley, which includes most of the lower portion of the state, and the Finger Lakes. There is great concern over the possibility of the insects eventually spreading to the forests of upstate New York, including Adirondack Park.

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Massachusetts: Changes at Walden Pond

A meadow with yellow flowers

Adaptation iconLocation: Concord, Massachusetts
Size: over 3,800 acres
Open to the public: Yes 
Related Websites:
U.S.A. National Phenology Network

Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
USA National Phenology Network           
Project BudBurst
Climate Change Threat: Warming temperatures, invasive species
Contacts: Terri Edwards, USFWS Public Affairs, (413) 253-8324 

Photo at left: A field of native flowers, Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. Credit: USFWS.

Massachusetts: Changes at Walden Pond

by Frank Wolff

“It is astonishing how soon and unexpectedly flowers appear, when the fields are scarcely tinged with green. Yesterday, for instance, you observed only the radical leaves of some plants; to-day you pluck a flower.”  -- Henry David Thoreau

Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is located in Concord, Massachusetts. The area was home to a dedicated naturalist in the mid-1800s. He built himself a house on 14 acres of woods on the bank of Walden Pond. He dutifully and diligently recorded the flowering times of hundreds of plants as well as the behavior of rabbits, red squirrels, mice, birds and other animals for six years.

A photo of Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau, 1856

Credit: Photo courtesy of The Thoreau Society Collection at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods

His name was Henry David Thoreau.

Thoreau provided an extensive array of data that has proven invaluable as a baseline for phenological research that continues today. Phenology is the study of events in nature that are influenced by climate and seasonal change.

A study conducted by Abraham J. Miller-Rushing and Richard B. Primack found that climate change is causing many plants to flower much earlier today than they did in the past. The two researchers used Thoreau’s observations, as well as the work of Alfred Hosmer, another naturalist who studied the ecosystem around Concord, as a comparison to their own modern-day observations. Their research concludes that in Concord, plants are now flowering seven days earlier on average than they did in Thoreau’s time.

But not all plants are equally impacted by climate changes. Some species have the ability to track seasonal temperature change and will flower earlier when temperatures are warmer. Other species don’t track temperatures as well, and will continue to flower at the same time every year—regardless of temperature variations. The ones that don’t track temperatures as well are more likely to suffer a decline in numbers; they also tend to be related to one another, so entire plant families are impacted.

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