- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2002

BALTIMORE A broad group of experts gathered Tuesday to devise strategies to limit the impact of nonnative plants and animal species on the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Nonnative species cause economic and environmental harm by marginalizing native species and altering the existing ecosystem.
David Lodge, a biologist from the University of Notre Dame, called them the "most irreversible form of pollution," because once they take root in a new environment, it's almost impossible to completely eradicate them.
More than 200 nonnative species are living in the Bay watershed, but the conference, organized by the Maryland Sea Grant, focuses on only a half-dozen. The six were chosen to represent a range of problems, so that potential solutions can be applied to other species.
Among them are a few notorious and rapidly reproducing foreigners, including the mute swan the elegant but aggressive Eurasian that's overgrazing the Bay's underwater grasses and the nutria, the beaverlike South American rodent that is eating away at the roots of native marsh plants on the Eastern Shore.
Also on the list is the zebra mussel, which devastated the Great Lakes after being transported from Eastern Europe in the ballast of commercial ships. The mussels have not made inroads in the Chesapeake itself, although they has been found at the northernmost end of the watershed, in New York state.
The final three are plants: phragmites (common reed), the purple loosestrife and the water chestnut.
By the end of the two-day conference, attendees including local, state and federal officials, academicians and environmentalists are hoping to sketch out rough management plans for the six species.
The workshop also tapped into the expertise of those from other regions that have contended with invasive species, including the Great Lakes and Yellowstone National Park.
At Yellowstone, a large lake trout was introduced somehow into Yellowstone Lake, where they are feeding on the cutthroat trout, a popular native game fish. Park rangers are trying to suppress the lake trout population by catching the fish in nets that cause them to suffocate.
But Jason Shogren, an economist at the University of Wyoming, warned that economic realities must be considered.
For example, he said, Yellowstone gets 2.2 million visitors a year.
"You can either go after the lake trout, or fix the roads," he said.
Katherine Glassner-Shwayder of the Great Lakes Commission touted the benefits of looking beyond state borders to form a larger panel.
"When we go to Congress to ask for funding, we have more leverage," she said of her organization, which includes representatives from Canada. "And I think that's the bottom line here: How do we get more money?"
Fredrika Moser, an assistant director for research for the Maryland Sea Grant, agreed that strategies need to be both local and regional, because nonnative species spread without regard to maps.
"The only thing that's comparable is probably air pollution," she said.


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