Risk assessment, control, and restoration research on aquatic invasive plant species

Project manager: Daniel Larkin

Description: Aquatic invasive plants are a major threat to Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and wetlands. Aquatic invasive plants can form dense mats on the water’s surface, reducing space and light available to other plant species. This can lower native plant diversity, reduce habitat quality for fish and other animals, and change the way lakes function. They can also interfere with boating, recreation, and other human uses.

Using applied research on three high-priority aquatic plant species that are invasive or potentially invasive in Minnesota lakes, this research aims to address the need for more guidance and options for controlling these nuisance plants. Species of research include:

  • Nitellopsis obtusa (Starry stonewort), a new invasive alga in Minnesota. Researchers will assess the risk of spread through modeling and will also test how long starry stonewort can remain viable out of water to better understand how best to prevent its spread. Additionally, researchers will conduct laboratory experiments to test the efficacy and selectivity of different herbicides and algaecides. This information is urgently needed during this window of opportunity to minimize impacts of starry stonewort to Minnesota lakes.

  • Myriophyllum spicatum (Eurasian watermilfoil) and Potamogeton crispus (curly-leaf pondweed), both of which have been in Minnesota for several decades and are now found in hundreds of lakes throughout the state. Although both of these species have been a focus of management and research for several years, there are still limits in our ability to effectively control these species and to support the post-control recovery of native plant species. Researchers will analyze existing datasets, perform new field work, and develop a citizen-science monitoring program to improve understanding of factors that drive invasion of these species and that influence the effectiveness of management efforts.

Collectively, this research will aim to create biologically and economically sound solutions to prevent and control these invasive plants and to disseminate scientific information that assists the DNR, watershed districts, lake associations, and citizen groups around the state with management strategies.

Project start date: 2015

Estimated project end date: 2019

Updates and progress: