Elodea- An Aquatic Invasive Species

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(Deborah Kornblut/USFWS)

Elodea is Alaska’s first aquatic invasive plant species, originally found in Eyak Lake in southeast Alaska in the late 1980s. It’s currently found in seventeen waterbodies within the state, including around Cordova, the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. Elodea grows in long, trailing stems of light green leaves that form tangled masses in relatively shallow lakes, sloughs, rivers, and estuarine areas. It can create large, single-species stands that slow water velocity and increase the amount of soil retained in an area. These changes can adversely affect the habitat of salmon and other fish, as well as clog areas such as boat launches, float plane access points, and subsistence hunting areas.

Elodea spreads rapidly because it can survive under ice, reproduce rapidly, and float long distances downstream where it establishes new colonies. Elodea reproduces primarily from small pieces of broken roots and stems that can grow to become new plants. In the rare case that the plant produces flowers, they are the only portion of the plant that emerges from the water. The leaves are short, from ¼ to ½ inches in length, and grow in whorls of three.

Preventing the spread of Elodea from contaminated boats, aircrafts, and gear is a priority. Follow these steps when moving between any two bodies of water to protect the pristine rivers and ponds on the Yukon Flats (and Alaska!) from invasive species:

Clean all visible mud, plants, fish/animals from equipment. Use hot or salt water if possible.

Drain water from all equipment before transporting. Much of the recreational equipment we use can collect water and harbor hitchhikers.

Dry anything that came in contact with water. Allow 5 days to dry before entering new waters.

Never release plants, water, fish, or animals into a body of water unless they came from that water body.