The Effects of Invasive Garlic Mustard

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Garlic mustard flowers appear after the second year. Photo via MNA archives.

Garlic mustard flowers appear after the second year. Photo via MNA archives.

At first glance, garlic mustard looks like any other native flower. It has tiny, white flowers that sit atop a bed of green leaves along the forest floor. Passersby may not realize that this plant is one of the worst invaders of forests in the American Northeast and Midwest that was brought to America for food and medicinal uses from Europe and Asia in the 1800s.

Garlic mustard is an invasive herb that has spread throughout much of the United States over the past century. It can be identified as young plants by the garlic odor that is released when the leaves are crushed. The flowers develop on an unbranched stalk and they have four small white petals in a symmetrical arrangement.

Garlic mustard is usually found in undergrowth of disturbed woodlots and forest edges. It spreads fast and easily dominates the undergrowth of some forests, pushing native plants back and reducing diversity among native species. Garlic mustard can form in a dense blanket on the understory. This can kill off native plants that grow there because it controls the light, water and nutrients that are available. Plants most affected by garlic mustard are herbaceous species that grow in similar moist soil in the spring and early summer.

Garlic Mustard at Rizor Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Natalie Kent- Norkowski

Garlic mustard grows in dense clusters and has the potential to cover the forest floor. Photo via MNA archives.

Garlic mustard has been tied to the decrease in native herbaceous species in forested areas. It also releases chemicals that hinder the growth of other plant species and inhibits the growth of grasses and herbs. Other areas of the ecosystem could be affected due to the change in the vegetation. Altering the plant diversity can change leaf litter availability for creatures that survive in them, insects could be affected due to the loss in diversity of egg-laying substrate and plants, and it could prevent tree seedlings from growing.

Deer and other herbivores eat the garlic mustard, but they only remove about two percent of the leaf area. Manual removal of the plant is an effective method for eliminating the species and preventing it from spreading. Many volunteer days at MNA this spring are dedicated to helping remove and prevent garlic mustard in MNA sanctuaries. Take a look at some upcoming dates to get involved and visit www.michigannature.org/events for more dates and information!

  • Wednesday, April 30: Join MNA at the Riley-Shurte Nature Sanctuary (Cass County, near Cassopolis) to help keep the woods free of garlic mustard.
  • Friday, May 2: Help pull garlic mustard in the forest at Lyle and Mary Rizor Nature Sanctuary (Livingston County, near Hartland).
  • Saturday, May 3: Join volunteers to pull garlic mustard in the wooded paradise at Powell Memorial Nature Sanctuary (Lenawee County, near Hudson).
  • Monday, May 5: MNA will host a garlic mustard pull at the popular Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary (Cass County, near Dowagiac).
  • Monday, May 5: Enjoy the beautiful woods, Wolf Creek, and spring wildflowers as we pull garlic mustard at Frances Broehl Memorial No. 1 (Lenawee County, near Onsted).
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Rare Turtles, Go Green Trikes and the Keystone Pipeline: This Week in Environmental News

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

The blanding's turtle has been a threatened species in Ontario since 2004. Photo by Shannon Keith via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

The Blanding’s turtle has been a threatened species in Ontario since 2004. Photo by Shannon Keith via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

Turtles vs. turbines (Great Lakes Echo): The Ontario Divisional Court has ruled in favor of a wind turbine project that put groups at odds with each other. The opposing groups are for alternative energy and protecting a threatened turtle species and fragile soil. There are nine turbines and access roads planned. if the turbines go in, then the habitat will be destroyed.

National Arbor Day Tree Planting to take place on April 25 (MSU Today): This year marks the 142nd anniversary of Arbor Day. To celebrate, Michigan State University is planting a 15-foot-tall Norway spruce outside the MSU Union at noon on Friday, April 25. The tree will replace a historic Norway spruce originally planted in 1865 that was lost during a windstorm last year.

Earth Day 2014 is launch date for environmentally friendly Go Green Trikes (mlive): On Earth Day, a business launched called Go Green Trikes, which is a company looking to deliver goods and services around Lansing. The bikes, called ELF, are large, orange, three-wheeled bikes that come complete with turn signals, break lights, and are battery-powered by a large solar panel.

Views You Can Use: Keystone XL Gets Put on a Shelf (US News): The Obama administration announced Friday that it will delay making a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. The party is split on the issue, with Democrats from states with large oil economics calling for approval, but others are rejecting it for environmental reasons. The pipeline would run 1,700 miles from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

State, university officials and entrepreneurs waiting for drone industry take-off (Great Lakes Echo): The status of using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles commercially is banned by the FAA and it remains in effect until the case is ruled on again. Though it is against the rules, there are a number of companies that continue to use the drones for a variety of reasons, including photography and land management. It has been five years since officials began writing drone usage laws and they still are not finalized.

White Nose Syndrome Plagues Bats in Michigan

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

It has devastated bat colonies around the country causing widespread death with no known cure. According to biologists, white nose syndrome has caused “the most precipitous wildlife decline in the past century of North America.” There is 100 percent mortality in some colonies and it could possibly lead to the extinction of some bat species.

White Nose Syndrome has been found on bats in Michigan for the first time. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Wikimedia Commons.

White Nose Syndrome has been found on bats in Michigan for the first time. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Wikimedia Commons.

White nose syndrome is a disease that has spread through the northeastern to central United States at a distressing rate. The disease is identified by the white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects the skin on the nose, mouth, ears and wings of bats in hibernation with a white fuzzy growth. During hibernation, bats also display abnormal behaviors such as moving closer towards to the cave opening and waking up and flying during the day. These abnormal behaviors contribute to the early usage of the excess fat they store for the winter months in order to insulate them from the frigid temperatures. Exhausting their fat storage prematurely leads to emaciation and starvation.

White nose syndrome was first documented in 2006 in a cave in New York. Since then, the disease has eradicated more than 5.7 million bats. Species infected include the little brown bat, northern long-eared bat, eastern small-footed bat, Indiana bat, Gray bat, tricolored bat and the big brown bat. The syndrome is transmitted through bat-to-bat contact or infected environment-to-bat contact. Humans can also disseminate the fungus into new areas by using infected clothing and climbing gear and transferring it to a new cave, mine or roost.

White nose syndrome was discovered within Michigan’s borders in April 2014. It was found in three counties: Alpena, Dickinson and Mackinac. Five little brown bats were collected in February and March that showed signs of the disease. White nose syndrome was diagnosed in the bats by Michigan State University’s Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, in cooperation with the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory. Continue reading

Birds Aplenty, EPA Emission Standards and a ‘State of Disaster’: This Week in Environmental News

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Each week, MNA gathers some of the top news stories related to the environment from around the state and country. Take a look at what happened this week in environmental news:

Michigan offers numerous opportunities for excellent spring birdwatching. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Michigan offers numerous opportunities for excellent spring birdwatching. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Birds aplenty at annual bird watching festival (mlive): Migratory birds are beginning to return to Michigan, and more than 500 bird species will return to the Upper Midwest this spring. Michigan offers numerous opportunities for spring birdwatching, with many spring birdwatching festivals. Many events offer guided tours, group socials, workshops and speakers on various topics.

Southwest Michigan wildfire danger will be high—when the snow’s gone (mlive): Wildfire season is here for Southwest Michigan, and there is already an increased risk of fire spreading out of control. DNR firefighters are conducting several prescribed burns to remove dry grasses, leaf litter and invasive plants, but homeowners should be cautious about using fire to burn leaves until they get full grass green-up.

Court Upholds EPA Emission Standards (ABC News): A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s first emission standards for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from coal and oil fired power plants. The court rejected state and industry challenges to rules designed to clean up dangerous toxins. The ruling is a giant step forward on the road to cleaner, healthier air.

Gov. Rick Snyder seeks to double Michigan recycling rate in next two years (mlive): Gov. Rick Snyder released a plan to boost recycling of household solid waste in Michigan. Our state lags behind other states in this field. The initiative calls for doubling within two years the rate at which Michigan recycles cans, newspapers, bottles and other household refuse. The plan would take a four-pronged approach.

Governor declares ‘state of disaster’ for Osceola, Newaygo counties (Up North Live): After severe storms, melting snow and heavy rain that caused severe flooding and wind damage, the Governor for Newaygo and Osceola counties declared a state of disaster. This will allow the state to make resources available to help with local response and recovery efforts. Both counties were severely affected by flooding and it forced many to evacuate their homes.

Celebrate Earth Day with MNA

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Before Earth Day, protecting the planet’s natural resources and the environment was not part of the national agenda. Factories spewed pollutants into the air and dumped toxins into lakes and rivers without any ramifications. Something had to be done to protect the environment and the inhabitants that rely on it.

Earth Day is on Tuesday, April 22. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Earth Day is on Tuesday, April 22. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Earth Day was founded in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues, which Americans had become more aware of since the 1960s. The idea came to the founder of the movement, Gaylord Nelson, who was a Senator from Wisconsin at the time. He had witnessed the detrimental effects of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969, which inspired him to do something. After seeing an anti-Vietnam war movement by college students, he realized that he could use that passion and energy that students had to bring public awareness to air and water pollution. He hoped that bringing these two things together would push environmental protection on to the national political agenda.

As a result, on April 22, millions of Americans banned together coast to coast in rallies to demonstrate for a clean and healthy environment. Public opinion polls indicate that there was a permanent change in national priorities following the first Earth Day. it was seen as an important goal to protect the environment. During the 1970s, the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substance Control Act, the Surface Mining Control Act and Reclamation Act were all passed. The Environmental Protection Agency, which was tasked with protecting the human health and the environment, was also created.

Helping to clean trash from lakes and rivers will help the wildlife that live there and can be harmed by trash. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Helping to clean trash from lakes and rivers will help the wildlife that live there and can be harmed by trash. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Today, Earth Day is a globally celebrated event and is even sometimes extended to Earth Week. Earth Day was successful because it organized itself. There was a huge response that led to millions of people organizing and participating in a short amount of time with little direction. The fight for a clean environment continues year to year to help protect our environment to keep it beautiful and healthy for generations to come.

There are many things that we can do to help celebrate Earth Day and better the environment. By planting trees, recycling and cleaning up trash from lakes, rivers and parks, we are protecting the plants and animals that thrive on a clean environment. MNA has many opportunities to get involved so be sure to check out their volunteer days!

  • Tuesday, April 22: Celebrate Earth Day at Powell Memorial Nature Sanctuary (near Hudson, Lenawee County) to help pull invasive garlic mustard from this wooded paradise!
  • Wednesday, April 23: Help pull invasive garlic at Phillips Family Memorial Nature Sanctuary (near Decatur, Van Buren County) to help keep these woods beautiful and thriving.
  • Friday, April 25: Help pull invasive garlic mustard and dame’s rocket in the floodplain forest at Joan Rodman Memorial Plant Preserve (near Saline, Washtenaw County).

Get involved! Visit www.michigannature.org/events for a complete list of events and details. If you’d like more information about volunteer opportunities at MNA, call (866) 223-2231.

Oil Spill Effects, Michigan Trail Networks and a Deadly Bat Fungus: This Week in Environmental News

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to conservation and the environment that has happened throughout the state and country. Here are a few highlights of what happened this week in environmental news:

Little brown bats have been found to carry white-nose syndrome in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Little brown bats have been found to carry white-nose syndrome in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Deadly bat fungus found in Michigan may lead to mass die-off, crop damage and mosquito bites (mlive): A deadly bat fungus has been identified for the first time in Michigan. It could dramatically reduce the state’s bat population and have an effect on the agricultural industry. The fungus, called white-nose syndrome, causes skin lesions that can interrupt hibernation patterns. Scientists have predicted up to 90 percent of the bats susceptible to the disease may die off in the next three to five years. A large bat die-off could lead to more mosquito bites for Michigan residents and the loss of a natural pesticide service for farmers.

State officials launch tourism initiative to promote trail network (Great Lakes Echo): In order to make trails in Michigan easier to find for tourists, the Department of Natural Resources wants to provide information for all trails in Michigan at the click of a button. A package of five bills was introduced that would label all trails as Pure Michigan trails. Cities hope that this will help increase tourism in their towns.

Michigan Mercury Collection Program keeps potentially hazardous mercury from reaching Michigan landfills and waterways (mlive): The Environmental Quality Company and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Mercury Collection project have teamed together to provide free mercury collection services to residents and businesses in Michigan. If the mercury enters landfills, it can reach the water and the air and cause mercury pollution.

The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still affects marine life living there. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still has detrimental effects marine life living there. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wildlife in Gulf of Mexico still suffering four years after BP oil spill: report (the guardian): Four years after the oil spill, the report from the National Wildlife Federation found that some 14 species still showed symptoms of oil exposure. The oil is sitting at the bottom of the gulf and washes up on the beaches. There is also some oil still residing in marshes. There has been a high report of animal deaths, with more than 900 bottlenose dolphins being found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April 2010. NWF scientists said it could take years before the full effects of the oil spill were understood.

Salamander’s Hefty Role in the Forest (The New York Times): Woodland salamanders are a large asset to forests; on an average day, a single salamander eats 20 ants, two fly or beetle larvae, one adult beetle and half of an insect. Collectively, salamanders affect the course of life in the forests in which they live. They play a significant role in the global carbon cycle by eating the invertebrates that spend their lives ripping leaves to bits and eating them, which consists of about 47.5 percent carbon.

How Will This Harsh Winter Affect Wildlife?

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA  intern

The polar vortex may be finally past us, but cold temperatures are still prevalent throughout Michigan. We all know it made for a miserable winter for us, but how was wildlife affected?

Karner Blue Butterfly

The Karner blue butterfly lays it’s eggs near the ground so the snow can help insulate them through the winter. Photo from MNA Archives.

Many wildlife species are well adapted to thrive in cold temperatures. This winter proved to be beneficial for some endangered species here in Michigan. The Karner blue butterfly will hopefully see a spike in population from the excessive amounts of snow this winter brought. The butterfly’s eggs, which are laid on leaf litter near the ground over the winter, do best when there is deep snow cover on the ground over the course of the entire winter. The snow keeps them from drying out and provides extra insulation from air temperatures which can be colder than the ground temperatures.

Cisco fish are another endangered species that will benefit from the cold. They lay their eggs under the ice of the Great Lakes which protects them from getting thrashed around too much by waves. When there is little to no ice coverage, the waves cause the eggs to break. The heavy and vast ice coverage that the Great Lakes has had this winter will help provide a great barrier for the eggs and hopefully lead to more of them surviving.

When temperatures get cold, honeybees cluster and vibrate their wings to create heat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When temperatures get cold, honeybees cluster and vibrate their wings to create heat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Honeybees continue to thrive in the hive during extreme cold streaks. They gather in massive amounts to form a dense cluster around the outside of the hive when the temperature drops. As it gets colder, the cluster of bees becomes tighter and they move closer inside the hive. In order to stay warm and keep the queen warm, they exercise by rapidly vibrating their wings. It also creates air currents that expel carbon dioxide and moisture.

Not every species benefits from the extreme cold. Many invasive species are unable to handle the sub zero temperatures. Although it is unfortunate for the insects, it is good news for the plants affected by them and it could help solve issues with some invasive species in Michigan.

The emerald ash borer larvae can withstand temperatures as low as negative 20 degrees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The emerald ash borer larvae can withstand temperatures as low as negative 20 degrees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Temperatures were cold enough in certain areas to freeze and kill many invasive species, such as the emerald ash borer. They are able to withstand several degrees below zero, but if temperatures hit 20 or 30 degrees below zero, they may not be able to survive.

Other invasive species do not fair as well as the emerald ash borer. The gypsy moth begins to freeze when temperatures hit below 17 degrees and the wooly adelgis, which has killed thousands of hemlock trees in the Northwest, dies when temperatures fall just below zero.