Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
KODIAK: Invasive Plants on the Run
Alaska Region, January 24, 2007
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Escorted by a bear guard [photographer], volunteers spot spray hawkweed at Camp Island. Bill Pyle/USFWS
Escorted by a bear guard [photographer], volunteers spot spray hawkweed at Camp Island. Bill Pyle/USFWS - Photo Credit: n/a
Weed pull events serve to enhance awareness and collaboration. Blythe Brown/USFWS
Weed pull events serve to enhance awareness and collaboration. Blythe Brown/USFWS - Photo Credit: n/a

Throughout America invasive plants are gaining ground and threatening native species. Once established, plants such as purple loosestrife, kudzu, and water hyacinth usually multiply and soon become dominants, choking out native species. In Alaska, invasive plants are a "growing" concern for the Fish and Wildlife Service. Although natural, highly productive ecosystems currently prevail on Kodiak Island, an alien invader, orange hawkweed, has threatened to upset nature's balance. In response, Kodiak Refuge, in concert with a host of partners, has continued its efforts to thwart orange hawkweed and other invasive plant species.

Assisted by volunteers, Kodiak Refuge successfully completed a third year of orange hawkweed control at Camp Island, Karluk Lake--an area known for its exceptional salmon and brown bear habitat values. Since 2003, the Refuge has routinely spot-sprayed hawkweed with a highly specific herbicide every June and September, as directed by its Integrated Pest Management Plan. Evaluation of response to herbicide treatment indicated that hawkweed distribution has declined by 55% and density has decreased by 98% after seven herbicide applications (June 2003-June 2006). Since 2004, most hawkweed growth has consisted of seedlings and young plants that apparently germinated from the extensive pre-treatment seed pool. Native grasses have dramatically increased and are now the dominant cover on meadow sites formerly overrun by hawkweed.

In June, the Refuge also targeted invasive plants in a host of other control and education actions. Missions to Uganik Bay, located along the west side of Kodiak Island, included several tasks: the establishment of plots to measure response of Canada thistle to treatment; mowing the thistle stand; and surveying for invasive plants at remote lodges, a cannery, and commercial fishing sites. Of the six sites visited, three contained weeds of concern and facility owners at two sites had initiated mechanical control--in response to previous outreach contact. The Refuge also partnered with the Woody Island Tribal Council and Kodiak Soil and Water Conservation District in a "weed pull", an event geared to heighten the Kodiak community's awareness of threats posed by invasive plants. Broadcast live by KVOK, a local radio station, the effort attracted 10 organizations, garnered participation of 30 volunteers, and produced 50 bags of hawkweed for incineration. Lessons learned and successes achieved by the Refuge and its partners were communicated via radio interviews, newspaper articles, the county fair, and of the annual meeting of the Alaska Committee for Noxious and Invasive Plant Management (CNIPM), an interagency group focused on facilitating statewide management of invasive plants. 

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov
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