You Can Help Protect Your Lake From Invasive Plants
| Brooke Hafford MacDonald
Hydrilla Monster: MDEP biologist Denise Blanchette emerges from a Hydrilla infested pond in Woolwich, Maine. Photo taken by MDEP biologist John McPhedran (used with permission).
Like each and every one of you, I know that northern Maine is an incredibly special place. The quiet waters, unique wildlife, and acres and acres of undeveloped forest provide the perfect backdrop for endless outdoor adventures. In addition to being a lover of wilderness, I am deeply connected to this area because it is where I grew up – no matter where I go, Aroostook County will always be “home”.
Having spent time on lakes and ponds throughout the state, it is clear that waters in The County do not have the same level of development pressure as our southern Maine counties. Because of this, it is easy to believe that their primitive character may never be in jeopardy. However, there is another threat, something much more “natural” looking and seemingly benign, that can cause irreparable harm to our beloved waters: aquatic invasive plants.
What is an invasive aquatic plant?
An invasive species is an aggressive, non-native species whose introduction is likely to cause environmental damage. Invasive aquatic plant species spread rapidly, displace native plant communities, diminish water quality, reduce fishing and water recreation opportunities, and are expensive to manage.
What kinds of plants are a problem for Maine?
Variable Leaf Milfoil is the most common invasive aquatic plant in Maine. Other species include Curly Leaf Pondweed, European Frog’s Bit, Brittle Waternymph, Hydrilla, and Eurasian Water Milfoil. All of these species are bad news for Maine’s lakes and ponds!
How do these plants enter new lakes?
Aquatic plants do not migrate; they invade new lakes by hitching a ride. As any boater can attest, it is quite common to find all sorts of vegetation on equipment – motor blades, boat bottoms, trailers, even fishing gear – after spending time on a lake. Equipment must be cleaned off from all vegetation and debris before moving to a new waterbody, or these invasive hitchhikers will devastate yet a new lake. Once established, these nuisance species are nearly impossible to eradicate, permanently altering the lakes we know and love. Even though most infestations have occurred in southern Maine lakes these species are moving further and further north. It would only take one tiny hitchhiker to start a devastating chain reaction.
What can I do to prevent aquatic invasive plants from entering my lake?
The good news about invasive species is that you can remove the risk of transport if you follow some simple guidelines. Before moving your boat between waterbodies, make sure to:
- CLEAN off any mud, plants, and animals from boat, trailer, motor, and other equipment.
- DRAIN all water from boat, boat engine, and other equipment.
- DRY anything that has come into contact with the water. Drying your boat, trailer, and equipment in the sun for at least five days is recommended. (https://www.maine.gov/dep/water/invasives/index.html)
Please follow these rules even if you only use your boat in northern Maine lakes. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Pop Out Box:
Help Find Invasive Aquatic Species
The sooner new invasions of aquatic plants are identified, the faster the work to reduce their spread can start. Consider becoming trained as an Invasive Plant Patroller! This group of trained volunteers survey lake and pond shorelines in search of invasive aquatic plants. Lake Stewards of Maine runs training workshops each spring for new volunteers. To learn more, or to volunteer as an invasive plant patroller, visit www.lakestewardsofmaine.org.
Brooke Hafford MacDonald, Maine Lakes
About Maine Lakes
Maine Lakes is a non-profit membership organization that works to protect lakes and ponds, and their surrounding wildlife and habitat. They do that by supporting everyone who values and benefits from clean waters and healthy lakes in Maine, including lake residents and visitorslake associations, young people and lake community members. LakeSmart, their flagship program, is an education and reward program that helps lakefront homeowners manage landscapes in ways that protect water quality. To learn more, visit: https://www.lakes.me/