A greenhouse gas, a resurgence of lake trout and a new state park: this week in environmental news

Whitcomb Conservancy on Belle Isle. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Each Friday, MNA shares important environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here is some of what happened this week in conservation and nature news:

Newly discovered greenhouse gas ‘7,000 times more powerful than CO2’ (The Guardian): Researchers in Toronto have discovered the gas perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), which has been in use by the electrical industry since the mid-20th century. The chemical breaks all records for potential impacts on the climate, and is 7,000 times more powerful at warming the earth over a 100-year time span than carbon dioxide. Currently, there are only low concentrations of the gas in the atmosphere, but climatologists warn that PFTBA could have a very large impact on climate change if it grows.

Go lake trout! Native fish overcome seemingly ‘insurmountable’ challenges in Lake Huron (Michigan Radio): For nearly 40 years, biologists have been trying to reestablish a lake trout population by hatching the fish and placing them in Lake Huron. The stocked fish, however, could not reproduce until alewives disappeared. The trout were eating alewives which caused a vitamin deficiency in eggs and young fish. Now the alewives are being eaten by salmon, and it’s likely their population will not recover. The return of lake trout as a big predator may result in a more stable ecosystem in Lake Huron.

Early warning program battles frog bit, other invasive species (Great Lakes Echo): A DNR early warning program is preventing invasive European frog bit from destroying native aquatic plants. The program quickly assesses areas of infestation and examines the extent of damage. Crews from AmeriCorps and Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps are focusing on southeast Michigan have removed more than 1,500 pounds of frog bit from state waterways. Officials hope to keep the invasive from spreading elsewhere in Michigan.

Crews get busy cleaning up Belle Isle for new state-park status (Detroit Free Press): State and city officials, along with 40 companies, government groups and volunteer associations, have pledged that they’re “All in for Belle Isle”. The Detroit park is in the midst of a transition period after which the DNR will operate the 985-acre state park. Restoration efforts including brush removal, trail clearing, and repairs to picnic structures are already underway. The transition period ends on February 10, and after that entry into Belle Isle will require those in automobiles to have the $11 annual state recreation passport sticker. Pedestrians and bicyclists can enter the park at no charge.

Panel: Strong laws can help West Michigan environmental issues (Holland Sentinel): At Tuesday night’s “Great Michigan” Town Hall meeting in Holland, Mich., a panel discussed environmental issues facing west Michigan. According to Erica Bloom, Michigan League of Conservation Voters director in west Michigan, citizens need to raise environmental issues with legislators. MLCV is concerned with pending legislation that would reduce requirements for biodiversity and require nonprofits to open up land to all forms of recreation, including off-road vehicles.

New aquatic invasive species found in Michigan

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

The European frog-bit. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The European frog-bit. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Researchers have recently discovered a new invasive species in Michigan, the European frog-bit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae). It is an aquatic plant that grows in shallow, slow-moving water on the edges of lakes, rivers, streams, swamps, marshes and ditches.

The Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division is leading the effort to control the invasive species. Only recently, it was found in Saginaw Bay, Alpena and Munuscong Bay in Chippewa County. Before statewide monitoring, it was only thought to exist in a few spots in the Lower Peninsula.

European frog-bit was accidentally introduced into Canadian waters between 1932 and 1939 and has traveled to lower parts of Canada and eastern states such as New York and Vermont. The plant is a free-floating, perennial plant that resembles lily pads and grows in extremely dense vegetative mats. The mat covers the water’s surface and shades out submerged plants that rely on the sun to thrive. It threatens native plants’ invertebrate and plant biodiversity as well as disrupting natural water flow and possibly harming fish and wildlife. It has the potential to threaten the $7 billion fishing industry of the Great Lakes in Michigan.

Under the new State of Michigan’s Rapid Response Plan for Aquatic Invasive Species, a response plan was formulated, which includes physical removal of 1,500 pounds of the invasive species and herbicide treatments. The plan also includes assessments of places that have been found to have the European frog-bit.

The European frog-bit has leaves about the size of a quarter and produces a small white flower, usually around June. It can be found in shallow waters within cattail and bulrush stands. If you suspect you have seen the European frog-bit, you can report sightings at www.misin.msu.edu or to Matt Ankney, coordinator of the Early Detection Rapid Response project at ankneym2@michigan.gov or (517) 641-4903.

Modified poplars, Asian carp and a new invasive species: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

Poplar trees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Poplar trees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Poplars modified for ethanol production still fight bugs (Great Lakes Echo): A recent University of Wisconsin study found that genetically modifying poplar trees to more easily produce ethanol had little to no effect on the tree’s susceptibility to insects. The trees were modified in two ways, making the production of ethanol easier. These findings may bring genetically modified poplar trees closer to commercial use for a biofuel made from the cellulose in plant cell walls.

Asian carp DNA detected in Lake Michigan sample (ABC News): Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin has tested positive for the invasive Asian carp, which is the second water sample to test positive for the invasive species in recent years. The Asian carp was accidentally introduced into the Mississippi River and has made its way north. Scientists fear the Asian carp could out-compete native species in the Great Lakes and damage the $7 billion fishing industry. Scientists say it is unknown whether the sample came from a live fish or not, so the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will take more samples.

New invasive species battle brewing in northern Michigan (Up North Live): The Department of Natural Resources has turned their attention to a new aquatic invasive plant called the European frog-bit. This species has been detected in Saginaw Bay, Alpena and Munuscong Bay in Chippewa County. Frog-bit shades out submerged native plants, which reduces plant biodiversity, disrupts natural water flow and may adversely affect fish and wildlife habitat. Control measures are underway, including removing 1,500 pounds of the free-floating plant.

Crying wolf: Michigan’s first hunt heavily influenced by outside interests; follow the money (MLive): The Humane Society of the United States has donated more than $300,000 in an effort to end the Michigan wolf hunt. More than $600,000 was donated in total. Jill Fritz, the director of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign said the newest petition drive is all volunteers. Other opponents to the hunt include native tribes, the Doris Day Animal League and individual contributors from outside the state. Many of these people provided statements to Michigan lawmakers.

Tsunami debris ‘island’ isn’t Texas-sized, but it is headed toward the U.S. (Mother Nature Network): About 1.5 million tons of debris from the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 is drifting across the Pacific Ocean toward the United States. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cannot accurately predict when the debris will arrive on U.S. shores. Debris has been washing up along the shores of Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska. The docks that washed ashore in Washington and Oregon contained large amounts of marine life that had to be decontaminated to prevent invasive species from entering the U.S. coast.