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Proposed anti-plant legislation

Richard Sexton wrote in regards to Michael McAllister's letter:

>My gut reaction is the boat and fishing guys are behind this.

No, actually, Senator Fargo is working this from the viewpoint of
environmental management.  She is correct, non-native introductions are a
_very big_ environmental problem in this state. (and elsewhere)  Almost
every native aquatic plant that is listed as threatened or endangered is in
that position because of non-native introductions.

>I fail to understand what advantage a non-native spcies of aquatic
>plant has over a native one. Ducks won't eat non-native plants ?

>>reptiles, and amphibians.  Fish and birds become entangled and strangled
>>to death in the roots.  All forms of aquatic life are struggling to find
>>precious food sources, now choked out by these weeds.
>And this doesn't happen with native aquatic plants ?

Many of the introduced non-natives _do_ lack the predators that our native
species have, although the reasons are not always clear.  They definitely
_do_ reproduce and spread more quickly.  Of course, we are talking about a
few particularly invasive species here, not _all_ non-native aquatics.

>>           According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, exotic aquatic
>>plants have been a major factor in the listing of one-quarter of all
>>threatened and endangered species in the United States.  We are losing
>>the natural heritage of plants and animals that sustain our natural
>>world and enrich our lives.
>Evolution in action. If a bird carries a seed from say, Africa to
>florida 100,000 years ago, and that species becomes established
>even if it displaces other species, this is natural, but if
>man does it , it's not ?

Man has increased this process by a _HUGE_ factor.  We are losing species
on a daily basis world wide, and this is almost exclusively caused by human
interference.  The fact that some species do spread naturally, and that
some species do die out naturally does not give us carte blanche to
cavalierly exacerbate the problem.

I think that the Mr. McAllisters letter fairly addresses _all_ the sources
of non-native introductions.  Senator Fargo's office is not suggesting that
aquarists have played a major role in these introductions, but we _all_, as
human beings share the blame for what our species has done to this planet.
We _all_ should share in responsible attempts to turn the tide.  For
aquarists and even more importantly pond keepers, that means that we need
to educate other, newer aquarists about the responsible use and disposal of
_all_ biological material, whether we "think" there is any danger of a
plant (or other organism) establishing itself or not.

>Huh ? Hybrid aquatic plants ? If they hybridize and form fertile offspring
>they were the same species. 

That is absolutely incorrect.  MANY plant "species" are capable of
producing fertile hybrids.  Remember too, that with plants, sexual
propagation is only one of a number of methods of reproduction.  Some are
much faster.  We could certainly argue what makes a valid species, but
that's a subject for another discussion.  The "species" under discussion
here are ones that have been given that status by qualified taxonomists.
>>declines and species' extinction.  Unfortunately, a fundamental cause of
>>the explosive aquatic weed growth in recent years is the excessive
>>nutrient loading from faulty sewer lines, septic systems, and storm
>>drains.  That is to say we are all contributing to increased amounts of
>>phosphorous in our lakes, ponds, and rivers.
>>	As the weeds die, they fall to the bottom and decompose.  Fish consume
>>fatal doses of phosphorous concentrated in the sediments.  The crowding
>>vegetation and phosphorous deplete oxygen levels in the water.  Fish are
>>choking to death. Increased sedimentation speeds	
>>up the process, known as eutrophication, in which lakes and ponds fill
>>and 'turn over' into wetlands, bogs, and marshes.  For example, Hardy
>>Pond in Waltham was nearly 40 feet deep a few decades ago, but is now
>>only 4 feet deep.  Filled lakes and ponds remove one of the key links in
>>the water cycle, the recycling of precipitation and the replenishment of
>>drinking and recreational water supplies.  
>Are we supposed to believe that a non endemic species of plant hase
>grown, died, and filled 26 FEET of a pons in 40 years ? However
>do these killied plants maintain an aquatic envinonment in their
>native locale?

That is not what the post says.  It specifically says that eutrophication
in general causes this.  _NO_ plants can grow in such quantity without a
heavy nutrient source.  Hardy Pond is in a very urbanized area, and has
suffered from man-made runoff and waste water problems for close to 200
years.  Not all the plants in the pond are non-natives, but Eurasian
Milfoil and Trapa Natans grow explosively under these conditions.  As an
aside, is it possible that these plants that DO become such a nuisance are
better adapted to take advantage of high nutrient levels and therefore
overgrow and out compete slower growing native species adapted to cleaner

>The problem isn' the plants, it's the sewage.

The problem is _both_!!!!  At this point, it is actually easier to deal
with the nutrient problem than with the invasive plants.

>>These exotic aquatic species have no known natural enemies.  
>Then why havn't they complete taken over the lans masses where they
>hail from?

Obviously they are taking about enemies HERE.  Don't even _consider_
suggesting that they introduce non-native bugs, plant diseases etc.!<g>

>>These plants are growing and
>>expanding in our waterways at an alarming rate.  They cover the water,
>>preventing recreation, tangling boats and fowl,
>>keeping fish and aquatic
>>wildlife from food sources in these areas, and depleting oxygen from the
>At night maybe. During the day they replenish the oxygen that the
>sewage has taken out.

Not really, you're thinking in terms of healthy, balanced ecosystems.  In
really eutrophic conditions, the rotting of all the dying materials takes
out more O2 than the plants can put back into the system.  It's not all
sewage either.  Its people's obsession with the green lawn.  Lawn chemical
run off is a major contributor in suburban areas.

>> As the increasing plant matter decomposes, the process of
>>sedimentation accelerates, leading to impaired water quality and
>>offensive odors.
>Dead plants don't particuarly smell. Sewage does.

You obviously don't have a lot of first hand experience in this climate.
Ever smell a pile of grass clippings left to rot for a few days in hot
humid weather?  Doesn't smell much different from sewage.  

>They really think they can eliminate Mriophylum ? They're kidding,
>right ?
>The chemicnal control kinda scares me. You have a whack of sewage in the
>horribly polluted charles river. Plants grow as a natural response,
>like mad. You kill all the plants (I'd like to see a selective
>native/non-native herbicide) so nothing green will grow.
>Man, is that gonna get stinky.

You're right, and the original letter also said that it is very difficult
to eradicate these introductions.  That's exactly why it's important to
keep it from being spread further, and to avoid other potential

>>Why this legislation does not impose a fee on boat owners.	 
>Because they lobbied hard to prevent that maybe ?

I have some trouble with this one too.  While the amount collected may not
totally fund the program, and boaters probably shouldn't be made to
shoulder the entire burden either, (as you pointed out excess nutrients are
the biggest part of the problem) Any amount would help.  As a resident of
"taxachussetts" I prefer to see funding for clean-ups come at least in part
from the sectors that contribute to the problem.

>Sounds like a crock to me.

I have read through this legislation carefully, and think it is pretty
reasonable.  The only plant on the "hit list" that is commonly used in the
aquarium is Cabomba caroliniana, which doesn't do well for most people
anyway, and for which there are other, mostly easier replacements from a
decorative standpoint.  I think it is very encouraging that the people who
will decide which plants should be banned are people with training and an
interest in aquatic plants.  We will _NOT_ be in the position of having
legislators make blanket decisions on things they don't understand. (which
is what happened in N.H.)

You are right to look at all legislation carefully, but be _very_ sure you
are also doing your part by not making light of these problems, and by
educating other people to act responsibly.