The Great Water Chestnut Pull

Just days ago, squirrels could be seen scampering across a section of Tonawanda Creek on a floating mat of water chestnuts which had filled the creek bank to bank. An invasive species which “escaped” from ornamental ponds a century ago, the European water chestnut had established this worrisome foothold alongside the island in Ellicott Creek park that was created by construction of the Erie Canal. With the potential for the invader to spread further into the canal system, the Niagara River, and adjacent waterways, a response plan was put together and the remediation got underway in earnest this month.

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The European water chestnut (not to be confused with the edible plant used in stir-fry) is a particularly aggressive species which can smother an entire water body, blocking sunlight from reaching fish and plants below. It also interferes with recreational use of the water for fishing, swimming, and boating.  It’s been a problem in many waterways across New York and the northeast.

In Tonawanda Creek, the water chestnut was attacked with a combination of mechanical equipment and community determination to care for our waterways. A partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Lower Great Lakes Fish and Conservation Office (based here in WNY) and Erie County brought in a harvester machine which accomplished the bulk of the work. But the machine can only get so close to the water’s edge and obstacles such as the park’s notable arched pedestrian bridge, which is where a determined community coalition brought its skills — and strong backs — to bear.

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Taking the lead on organizing volunteers and logistics was RestoreCorps, a joint effort by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and Western New York AmeriCorps. RestoreCorps brings to bear considerable knowledge, skill, and organizing capacity for habitat restoration and invasive species management. Staff and volunteers were out in force over the weekend, on the water and on land, making sure that no patches of water chestnuts escaped the removal effort. And through ongoing monitoring over the next several years, they’ll prevent the water chestnuts from being able to regain a foothold.

When invasive species enter an area, they often have few or no natural predators, and can quickly displace native species. This creates significant impacts and hardships on native animal species which symbiotically depend on native plant species for their survival. Invasive species can create other, often severe, ecological and economic consequences, and their management has taken on new focus and urgency in recent years.

New York State’s current plan to manage invasive species involves forming regional partnerships.  Western New York’s partnership is coordinated by Paul Fuhrmann of Ecology and Environment.  New York Sea Grant and Cornell Cooperative Extension have partnered in providing a clearinghouse for information on invasive species in New York.  Among the threats giving these folks — and all of us — a bad night’s sleep are the Emerald Ash Borer (like Chicken Heart, it’s in our home state — thump thump — it’s at our back door — thump thump — ) and the Asiatic Carp which threaten to break (leap?) through barriers between the Mississippi watershed and the Great Lakes.

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But for now, volunteers of all ages and descriptions are satisfied with their victory in this month’s battle to retake one of our water bodies from a smothering invader.  Folks left the battlefield wet, swampy, and a wee bit worn out — but also knowing they made a noticeable difference in the environment of their community.  And chomping at the bit to get to their next project.

To see more of the effort, check out this slideshow:

Get connected: Check out RestoreCorps and get on the volunteer list here.

About the author  ⁄ RaChaCha

13 comments
Crisa
Crisa

"Extra! Extra!" and a follow up: Today's TBN Blogzerpts score leads to zero usernames which leads to minuses upon minuses of zeroes of information for those who do NOT own or have access to the Internet, (take a breath here), therefore having NO clue to what Blogzerpts is NOT about and how seriously limited the "Blogzerpts" column IS!

At a time when WNY's older population should be heading online, TBN appears to be keeping those of their faithful followers in check.

Its as if today's college students' required reading were still "Dick and Jane" advancing only to "Watch Spot Run"...

Crisa
Crisa

As of August 1st (or 2nd?), 2010, The Buffalo News online will no longer accept usernames at buffalonewsdotcom. Therefore, knowing that there is much more online than what is in "Blogzerpts" (which is nowhere near online-abled), I read the paper-printed edition simply to see how many TBN online quotes are actual names versus how many TBN references to anything posted online might still be usernames. Today's count: 6 actual names, 1 username.

Next, because whomever might be pronounce-a-word-three-times-and-its-your's-biniszewicz, (its a he), is much better identified IN and is no less than 1/4th OF today's TBN Blogzerpts, now I have to wonder what the above-mentioned Robert "Bini" does not see about my choice of avatar!

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

Bini, yes. And if we could figure a way to do that involving old grain elevators...

biniszkiewicz
biniszkiewicz

Instead of spending billions every month on wars of dubious value, we should spend billions each month figuring out how to turn invasive plant species into biofuel.

biniszkiewicz
biniszkiewicz

that happy face icon seems a little misplaced, Crisa.

Crisa
Crisa

Aha! Under 5 minutes! Thank you.

Crisa
Crisa

ADMINISTRATION: Today was not the first time I submitted a comment (no matter which time zone) and it took more than 40 minutes for it to post.

In today's case, I don't know how much MORE than 40 minutes my first comment at this topic finally posted because I stopped watching for it. What happened to the 5 minutes waiting time?

NorPark
NorPark

Crisa, It appears you forgot to switch your clock for day light savings...

Crisa
Crisa

I savekeep my comments such as these, therefore, I want to comment: what the heck and more hmm.

Crisa
Crisa

I commented here about 2:05/10 this afternoon. Now, at 3:40 pm same day, still no comment. Hmm

JM
JM

All japanesse knotweed must die!!!

Crisa
Crisa

I'm surprised that only whats growing on Ellicott Creek is reaching the media. Take a ride into corn country and see the green stuff taking over small man-made lakes and slow-moving streams this year.

And that extremely invasive vine seen in W. Virginia and the Carolinas is here also.

Killer carp are showing up.

But the necessary honey bees are mostly missing world-wide.

JohnQBuffalo
JohnQBuffalo

They may be invasive but studies have shown that they are invaluable for pollution remediation removing storm and sewage (sewar system over-flows) from our waterways, removing residential and agricultural fertilizers and pesticides for another.

I wonder how this or other invasive species might help clean up scajaquada creek for example?

We dont necessarily have to give up our recreational waterways but we could restore wetlands for these plants to serve a purpose.

One thing is for sure...invasive species will be with us for a very long time and we will have to find a way to fight them and to use them to our advantage productively.

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