The Adirondack Park contains thousands of lakes and ponds, so it should come as no surprise that our quality of life is directly tied to water. The region's waterways support our tourist-based economy through recreation and treasured beauty, provide clean drinking water, contribute to overall ecosystem health and even play a role in determining property values. Unfortunately, aquatic invasive species threaten these values, and they are on the move.
Fortunately, the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program Aquatic Project is on the front lines of protecting the region's waterways from harmful AIS, and the summer is a particularly important time for action. Each June, APIPP enlists volunteers as part of its Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program and offers instruction on aquatic invasive plant identification and monitoring techniques. Then, the real fun begins - volunteers select a favorite waterway to search for aquatic invasive plants, a process that is fun, easy and a great way to enjoy a sunny summer day.
Eighty-three eager individuals attended APIPP's training sessions in Bolton Landing, Paul Smiths and Raquette Lake. Throughout the summer, more than 100 volunteers kept watchful eyes for aquatic invasive plants on nearly 100 lakes and ponds, and survey reports are still rolling in. Since the start of the program in 2002, nearly 600 citizens volunteered more than 6,500 hours to monitor 300 waterways - and the tallies from this year will push those numbers even higher.
Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program Education and Outreach Intern Billy Martin samples for invasive spiny waterfleas on Upper Saranac Lake as part of APIPP’s regional aquatic invasive species monitoring program. No waterfleas were detected.
(Photo — Meghan Johnstone)
Volunteers are essential because their vigilance each year enables better understanding of the distribution of invaded and invasive-free waterways in the Adirondack region. Armed with this information, organizations and communities can take prescriptive prevention and management actions, such as having stewards at boat launches to inspect watercraft for attached plant fragments or starting control programs to remove invading plants. Thanks to volunteer and partner staff efforts, we know that the number of invasive-free lakes is more than two times that of invaded lakes, making a compelling case for prevention.
Aquatic invasive plants are not the only AIS that are on APIPP's hit list: aquatic invasive animals are, too. Spiny waterfleas, Asian clams and zebra mussels are relatively recent arrivals to the region. The 2013 field season was particularly exciting because APIPP expanded its monitoring program to include aquatic invasive animals.
Spiny waterflea, an invasive zooplankton, was discovered in Lake George and the Champlain Canal in 2012 and is in at least four other Adirondack waters; however, the regional distribution of this species, among that of other aquatic invasive animals, is not fully understood. As a result, APIPP worked with partners to develop an Invasive Waterflea Monitoring Protocol, which was tested on six lakes this summer: Lower, Middle, and Upper Saranac lakes, Lake Placid, Sacandaga Lake and Jenny Lake. Great news - no invasive waterfleas were detected except for in Sacandaga Lake, which was known to be infested.
Naturally, training on how to identify aquatic invasive animals is fundamental to an early detection program that includes these species. This August, APIPP held its second Aquatic Invasive Animal Identification Training with 19 volunteers ready to help hunt for AIS. Next year's program will be even bigger and better.
With the help of dedicated volunteers, APIPP's Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program is stronger than ever and is crucial to help protect our region's waters from harmful AIS. Great thanks to all volunteers involved in AIS monitoring, and we look forward to working with you again next year!
Help protect your favorite waterway. Contact Meghan Johnstone at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-576-2082 x119 for more information.
Meghan Johnstone is an aquatic invasive species project coordinator with the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program.
Eye on Invasives is a seasonal biweekly column that spotlights a top invader when it is easiest to identify. The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program is a partnership program housed at the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in Keene Valley. Find out more about this award-winning program online at www.adkinvasives.com.