Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

For Peat’s Sake: Managing a Moving Target – Invasive Species Management in a Changing Climate

For Peats Sake LogoBy Marla J. Stelk, Policy Analyst, ASWM

Last week I attended the Restore America’s Estuaries/Coastal Society’s 2016 Summit in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was a sacrifice to have to leave the single digit weather in Maine in December for the more temperate clime in New Orleans, but somebody had to do it, right? I had never visited New Orleans during the holiday burbonstreet122216season, and I have to say, it was beautiful. I’m terribly fond of New Orleans and its beautiful architecture to begin with, but add in the holiday bows and lights and even Bourbon Street has a bit of a magical, somewhat wholesome feel to it.

The reason for my attendance at the Summit was to facilitate a workshop on invasive species. It’s an area of research that I find myself drawn to, as it constantly opens up more questions for me than answers, and I love a good puzzle. Specifically, I am interested in the intersection of climate change, invasive species and ecosystem services. Several months ago, I stumbled on a report that was published in 2014 entitled “Bioinvasions in a Changing World: A Resource on Invasive Species-Climate Change Interactions for Conservation and Natural Resource Management.” It discussed many of the same concerns I held regarding our current approach to salvinia4invasive species management, i.e. how do we prioritize invasive species management projects, how can we manage them when ecoregions and habitat are shifting rapidly due to climate change, what do we do when invasive species have evolved to provide critical ecosystem services in the absence of native flora or fauna? I was really pleased when Tom Hall (USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), one of the Co-Chairs of the report, accepted my invitation to come to our workshop and give a presentation on the report’s findings.

The first presentation in the workshop was given by Myra Price, a Project Specialist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Wetlands Division. She provided some background context in regard to the National Wetland Condition Assessment recently completed by the EPA.  It became clear during her presentation that the presence of invasive species is closely beaver2correlated to poor wetland condition. Her presentation was followed by Tom Hall’s to provide more background context in regard to the challenges we are facing with invasive species management in a changing climate. To make our workshop useful for folks locally, we focused the remaining presentations on invasive flora and fauna that are particularly troublesome in Louisiana and the Gulf region in general:

  • Nutria Overview & History (Jennifer Hogue Manuel, Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries)
  • Louisiana Coastwide Nutria Control Program (Catherine Normand, Biologist, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries)
  • A Collaborative National Strategy to Manage Feral Swine Impacts in the U.S. (Wendy Anderson, TWS Certified Wildlife Biologist, USDA APHIS)
  • Feral Swine Case Study (Dwight LeBlanc, State Director, USDA APHIS Louisiana Wildlife Services)
  • Giant Salvinia Overview & History (Jill Day, Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries)
  • Giant Salvinia in Louisiana Coastal Marshes (Ronald Paille, Senior Field Biologist, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
  • Monitoring Invasive FAV, Focusing on Salvinia Bio-control Effectiveness (Julie Whitbeck, PhD, Ecologist, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve)
  • Water Hyacinth Overview & History (Lori Moshman, Louisiana State University)

We then wrapped up the day with a facilitated discussion led by Dr. Rodrigo Diaz, Louisiana State University and Jeanne Christie, Executive Director of the Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM). We discussed what we had learned, what we still don’t know, and identified some areas for future research and study.  We are posting all the PDFs of the presentations plus other useful resources on our website here.

swine1I certainly learned a lot that day about various approaches to invasive species management, including biocontrol methods, herbicide applications, volunteer programs, nutria, and the extremely troublesome proliferation of feral swine across the U.S. The challenge is immense and we seem in many ways to be losing the battle. But the determination and the creative thinking of the folks who participated in our session, both speakers and attendees, were encouraging. Effective management will require a variety of tools – there is certainly no cookbook recipe to lean on – and regional cooperation and large collaborative efforts will be required to make a difference.

At ASWM we are looking forward to exploring these issues more closely in 2017 through a webinar series and through further conversations with our colleagues across the country.

So For Peat’s Sake, we hope you will join us! And have a very merry holiday season and New Year!

This entry was posted in aquatic plants, climate change, coastal Louisiana, coastal restoration, coastal wetlands, ecosystem services, invasive species, resource management, Restoration Planning, watershed management, wetland restoration, wetland science and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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