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Volunteers Pull Together to Remove Invasive Plant From Mill Pond

Effort to Remove Plant for Recreational Reasons, Safety Concerns and Ecological Importance

Volunteers gathered on Wednesday, July 8 at the Mill Pond in Oyster Bay and took to their canoes to remove a harmful invasive plant that is overtaking the waterway, according to The Nature Conservancy, Friends of the Bay, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The plant, water chestnut, is a concern to both people and nature. Over 35 cubic yards of water chestnut have been removed from Mill Pond in the last two years.

 

Barry Lamb, FOB board member was out in a boat pulling up water chestnut plants. Their long tendrils were dripping off a hoe as he loaded the plants into the boat – to be carried to shore, unloaded and put into a truck for disposal. FOB was involved in the work last year and a local resident was put off by the fact that the plant didn’t go away, but it is a lengthy process that will take a few more years to complete, said the experts.

The plant removal was to have been done on Saturday, July 4 but rain cancelled those plans, said Mr. Lamb. The volunteers planned to be back at the Mill Pond on Saturday, July 11, weather permitting. They plan to be there for about four times this year.

Water chestnut is an annual floating plant with bright green leaves that invades shallow to deep, fresh water habitats in the northeastern United States. It forms dense, floating mats on the water’s surface while rooted to the bottom. Leaves visible on the surface of the water are alternate and triangular in shape.

The dense, floating mats restrict light availability, reduce the oxygen content of the water, and displace native vegetation important to area wildlife. Water chestnut is not only a looming ecological threat to Long Island’s fresh waters, but it can also limit boating, fishing, swimming and other recreational activities and the mature seeds have sharp spines that can injure anyone who steps on them. Water chestnut is native to Europe and Asia and was first observed in the United States in Massachusetts in the late 1800s. It’s important to note that this plant is not the edible water chestnut usually found in Asian cooking.

“The best time of year to remove this harmful plant is in late spring or early summer before it sets seed. The seeds are viable for up to 10 years so control efforts must be conducted for many years, but luckily this plant has only been found in two locations on Long Island,” said Kathy Schwager, invasive species ecologist for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “Pulling this weed is a win-win situation for both the environment and the community.

“According to Mill Pond neighbors, they first noticed the invasion of this aquatic plant between 2005 and 2007 and were astonished at its prolific expansion each year. Each individual seed can produce 10 to 15 rosettes, and each rosette can produce 15 to 20 seeds. So each seed can produce 300 new seeds in one year! The Refuge confirmed the infestation in June 2008 and acted rapidly to remove as much water chestnut as possible that summer season. If left uncontrolled, it will cover the entire pond within a few years,” said Azucena Ponce, refuge biologist for the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex.”

Michelle Williams, refuge manager added, “We would like to thank the Town of Oyster Bay for their generous support in providing a location for the removed plant material. Additionally, we would like to thank the many volunteers who have worked so hard in making this project a success.”

Invasive species damage the lands and waters that native plants and animals need to survive. They hurt economies and threaten human well-being. The estimated damage from invasive species worldwide totals more than $1.4 trillion – 5 percent of the global economy.

The Nature Conservancy is working to prevent and control the spread of invasive species in all 50 states and across more than 30 countries around the world. Together with our partners we are focusing on prevention and early detection as the most effective strategies to combat invasive species.

The Oyster Bay water chestnut pull is an official “United We Serve” event. United We Serve is an extended call to service by President Obama challenging all Americans to help lay a new foundation for growth in this country by engaging in sustained, meaningful community service. The United We Serve summer service initiative began June 22, and runs through the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11th. This Federal service initiative is led by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency dedicated to fostering service in communities across the country. This event and other volunteer opportunities are listed on the www.serve.gov website.

Also joining the event were students from The Nature Conservancy’s Internship Program for City Youth, a unique partnership that couples environmental school learning curricula in urban nature with real world conservation work through paid internships on nature preserves across the Northeast. The program, launched in 1995, is a partnership with the Friends of the High School for Environmental Studies and the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment. This partnership has helped underserved urban youth gain critical life and workplace skills, provided continuous and sustained exposure to both rural and urban nature, and helped a diverse array of students pursue higher education opportunities and career paths in environmental fields.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. On Long Island, The Nature Conservancy has helped to preserve more than 150,000 acres. Visit us on the web at nature.org/longisland.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov