New suite of research on aquatic invasive plants kicks off
Starting this summer, MAISRC researcher Dr. Dan Larkin is launching new research on four invasive plants of great concern in Minnesota: hydrilla, starry stonewort, curly-leaf pondweed, and Eurasian watermilfoil.
The research needed for these plants varies depending on their stages of invasion in Minnesota and what is already known about the species. Therefore, research will include:
- Hydrilla, a very harmful aquatic invasive species that is present in the U.S. but not yet in Minnesota. Using ecological modeling and conducting laboratory growth experiments, our research team will test how hydrilla performs under different climate scenarios for Minnesota. We will then create a risk map showing regions of predicted low to high suitability for hydrilla, factoring in the warmer winters that may result from climate change. This will help target early detection efforts.
- Starry stonewort, Minnesota's newest invader, shows preference for some lake environmental conditions over others. Researchers will apply this knowledge to predict which Minnesota lakes are most at risk of this invasive algae surviving and expanding should it be introduced. In the lab, we will test how long this species' fragments and reproductive structures can remain viable out of water to understand risk of overland spread by boaters. Finally, we will test the efficacy and selectivity of different herbicides to control starry stonewort where it has invaded.
- Curly-leaf pondweed and Eurasian watermilfoil, two of Minnesota's most established and long-researched invasive plants. Our ability to effectively control these species and to support the recovery of native plants is still limited. In partnership with MAISRC's citizen-science program, this research will conduct new field work and analyze existing datasets to improve our understanding of factors that drive invasion of these species and influence the effectiveness of management efforts. Additionally, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, researchers will conduct lab work, research on phenology, and testing of growth rates and competitive interactions between native, Eurasian, and hybrid milfoils.
As part of this program, Dr. Larkin recently convened a group of international experts at the University of Minnesota to identify knowledge gaps and research priorities for preventing and managing invasion by starry stonewort. The group included scientists and resource managers from the New York Botanical Garden, Central Michigan University, UW-Stevens Point, the Minnesota DNR, and the University of Geneva in Switzerland.
"A lot is still unknown about this invasive algae," said Larkin. "In order for MAISRC to support sound, science-based management, it was critical that we synthesize what is and is not known about this new invader." If you missed it, you can watch a recording of the webinar here.
Aquatic invasive plants can form dense mats on the surface of lakes and rivers, 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. Learn more about these plants and our research here.