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U.S. Geological Survey - Great Lakes Science Center

Invasive Control

Controlling invasive species is imperative for successful restoration of Great Lakes ecosystems. USGS-GLSC researchers have been working to control two highly detrimental invasive species, sea lamprey and Phragmites australis, both of which entered the Great Lakes Basin years ago. Sea lampreys are primitive fish native to the Atlantic ocean that parasitize other fish. Native lake trout populations were devastated in the early to mid-1900s as a result of sea lamprey invasion across the Great Lakes. Sea lampreys are currently controlled through the use of lampricides, barriers, and traps, which are regularly evaluated for effectiveness. USGS-GLSC researchers are actively pursuing ways to expand sea lamprey control methods through the use of pheromones, repellants, gene manipulation, electrical guidance systems, and novel trapping solutions. Coastal wetlands around the Great Lakes have been under attack since the 1800s, when an invasive strain of common reed, Phragmites australis, was introduced to North America. USGS-GLSC researchers are employing innovative control strategies, including microbial manipulation and gene silencing, to improve management and decrease the spread of this invasive plant.

 

Problem Statement
Lack of regional communication among people working with Phragmites australis (common reed) has resulted in missed opportunities to reduce redundancy in effort, link science and management, and facilitate adaptive management.

Objectives

  1. Facilitate communication on a regional level to link people, information, and action
  2. Develop a web-based hub of information driven by stakeholder input
  3. Educate members on new tools, research, and information related to Phragmites management

Background & Justification
Wetland invasion by non-native Phragmites australis (common reed) is a significant threat recognized by the public, NGO’s, and governmental agencies at all levels. Lack of regional communication among people working to manage invasive Phragmites often contributes to inefficient use of resources, uncoordinated research efforts, and missed opportunities to maximize the collective impact on the problem. For example, unsustainable resource-intensive methods, including herbicides, mechanical removal, water-level manipulation, and burning are being used widely across the landscape to limit the impact of Phragmites on existing ecosystems and promote habitat restoration. In recent years, much of this effort has been supported by grants through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). These efforts are often uncoordinated and conducted without clear identification of desired outcomes or collection of data to characterize the ecosystem response after the management action.

Some restoration efforts (including those funded from GLRI) include a monitoring component intended to characterize system response after treatment yet many have no monitoring component at all (i.e., system response to treatment is not quantified) If data are collected, they often are not coordinated among projects and communicated regionally, resulting in missed opportunities to learn from actions on the landscape and advance management practices. In many ways, the adaptive management loop is broken at the feedback point. Developing information is not being fed back into the decision making process to help guide on-the-ground actions, strategic planning, research efforts, and policy creation/enforcement.

The management approaches implemented in the field can vary greatly because a standardized suite of best management practices for non-native Phragmites has not been institutionalized on a basin-wide scale. Stakeholders may be unaware of the long-term, integrated management approach required to successfully manage this species. There are communication breakdowns on the research front as well. For example, updates on the development of new sustainable management strategies (e.g., biocontrol, endoyphytic fungi, gene silencing, allelopathic processes) do not easily permeate the local and regional decision-making process.

There have been very few regional opportunities to reduce redundancy in effort, link science and management, and facilitate adaptive management. These are the areas that need development and support to maximize the impact of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy. As described above, IPM involves a coordinated application of methods to minimize pest damage using the least hazardous and most efficient means possible. It involves examination of the pest and environmental conditions during the many phases of invasion or establishment (e.g., prevention, monitoring and mapping distribution, biology, best management practices, building partnerships among stakeholders, evaluating results of management strategies). This project focuses on the people side of Phragmites IPM, including building partnerships among stakeholders, evaluating results of control efforts, and feeding information back into the adaptive management process.

The Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative (GLPC; http://greatlakesphragmites.net/) is working to close the adaptive management loop and fill the regional communication gap. As a regional, interactive, web-based communication initiative launched with USGS GLRI funding in 2012, the GLPC works to improve collaboration and lead to more coordinated, efficient and strategic approaches to Phragmites management, restoration and research across the Great Lakes basin. It is led by the USGS- Great Lakes Science Center and the Great Lakes Commission, but the work of the GLPC has been vetted through a 30-member Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from various stakeholder groups. This partnership can help be a conduit for information at local to international scales.

Ultimately, the GLPC aims to design and implement a working environment where spatially dispersed scientists and resource managers can commit to the development and implementation of a common science-based partnership that leads toward a sustainable strategy for managing Phragmites in the Great Lakes basin. The biggest step towards this goal, beginning in FY13/14, is the development of a Common Agenda, created through extensive collaboration between the USGS, GLC, and members of the Advisory Committee. Stakeholder engagement in the development process will be crucial to help ensure regional buy-in and maximize the likelihood that it will be a foundational component of the collective work toward sustainable Phragmites management.

The Common Agenda will establish the vision, goals, and objectives of a diverse stakeholder community to get everyone working together from the same strategy. The Agenda will provide a coordinated approach to accomplishing the established set of goals and objectives. This agenda may include development of a best practices protocol for Phragmites management, web-based management tools, and guidance to ensure monitoring data collection, analysis and reporting that will help facilitate adaptive management and lead to increased efficiencies in Phragmites management and restoration efforts across the basin.

This Agenda will be comprehensive in nature and guide action on many fronts supported by this project, including 1) development of regional scalable monitoring protocols to serve as guides for existing and new GLRI-funded Phragmites-management projects, 2) development of a best-practices guide for Phragmites management, 3) development of a framework for data aggregation (including crowd-sourced data) and analysis to characterize the regional impact of management actions and restoration efforts (e.g., lessons learned), 4) facilitation of monitoring and research data into the decision-making process to encourage adaptive management, and 5) tools available to stakeholders (e.g., guidance for starting and facilitating new collaboratives to increase collective impact).

Principal Investigator: Kurt Kowalski

Problem Statement
Conventional methods (e.g., repeated herbicide, burning, flooding) to control the invasive Phragmites australis on the landscape are resource intensive and unsustainable. Innovative control strategies based on concepts of integrated pest management, genetic expression, and symbiotic relationships are needed to develop more sustainable landscape-level control and habitat restoration solutions.

Objectives

  1. Explore opportunities to develop gene silencing technology that limits the competitive advantage Phragmites has over native species.
  2. Define the role of symbiosis between Phragmites and its endophytic fungi and explore opportunities to disrupt or enhance those symbiotic relationships.
  3. Promote the development and implementation of sustainable Phragmites-control strategies.

Background & Justification
The invasive form of Phragmites (common reed) is a well-established pest in many parts of the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts, including Areas of Concern (AOC). It is currently managed using a suite of resource-intensive methods including manipulating water levels, applying herbicides, mowing/disking, and burning. Although new biological control options (i.e., insects) are being developed, conventional management tools being used now are unsustainable because of their time- and resource-intensive nature (i.e., expensive repeated applications are required). A similar situation exists for many other invasive plants (i.e., pests) across the nation, so new innovative control options that sustainably target the competitive advantage often enjoyed by invasive plants will contribute to a broad Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy. IPM involves a coordinated application of methods to minimize pest damage using the least hazardous and most efficient means possible. It involves examination of the pest and environmental conditions during the many phases of invasion or establishment (e.g., prevention, monitoring and mapping distribution, biology, best management practices, building partnerships among stakeholders, evaluating results of management strategies). This project targets the organisms that may help Phragmites spread and will employ a molecular genetic approach to silence the genes in Phragmites that allow it to reproduce and grow.

Phase 1 of the project (i.e., FY10-12) was focused on developing sustainable invasive species control methods (i.e., targeting symbiosis with endophytic fungi, silencing genes that code for aggressive plant traits) that will promote the restoration and management of critical fish and wildlife habitats within the Great Lakes basin and across the nation. When considered in an IPM context, it focused on understanding the physical and biological factors affecting the number and distribution of Phragmites populations. It also was focused on identifying how Phragmites and other invasive plant species were interacting with their environments to gain a competitive advantage over native plants and exploring what chemical and biological processes may be targets for control. The innovative strategies have shown encouraging progress. Endophytic fungi were isolated in Phragmites, a new scientific discovery that now gives us a target for disrupting symbiotic relationships within the plants. In addition, preliminary field trials suggest that Phragmites appears to have sensitivity to fungicide. Similarly, our gene silencing work resulted in multiple sets of degenerative primers were designed for genes associated with Phragmites photosynthesis, root development and reproduction. Several Phragmites genes and delivery vectors are being tested in the Wayne State laboratory in preparation of field experiments. Most significantly, we have successfully silenced a photosynthesis gene (i.e., created an albino leaf) in maize as we transition the technology to Phragmites.

Into FY13 (i.e., Phase 2), we will use the early results of this project to emphasize how this work, for a relatively small investment, adds several new dimensions to the IPM strategy for Phragmites and other invasive plant species plaguing the nation. In addition to solidifying lab experiments and transitioning into wide-scale field trials, the project will be developing a new set of economically-viable tools and possible best management practices to reduce the risks associated with Phragmites, another core principle of IPM. In order to align the project more closely with the emphasis on AOCs, the project will focus FY13 symbiosis field trials on invasive species populations located in Areas of Concern and Priority Watersheds (e.g., River Raisin, Maumee River, Saginaw River/Bay, Fox River). Similarly, communication with RAPs about study sites and IPM approaches will maximize the benefits to the BUI delisting process. Recognizing that symbiosis-based strategies could benefit from collaborative activities, the USGS will be forming a scientific collaborative (PSC -- Phragmites Symbiosis Collaborative) to advance the science and practice of utilizing fungal relationships in restoration activities. Creating a collaborative of scientists dedicated to a common goal will lead to thoughtful, organized, targeted research by individuals that will ultimately maximize the collective impact of research efforts (i.e., produce an outcome not attainable from individual participants alone). This collaborative structure will lend support for individual research projects targeting a specific purpose yet foster progress towards a broader overall goal.

Principal Investigator: Kurt Kowalski

3-keto petromyzonol sulfate (3kPZS) is a mating pheromone released by spermiating male sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) that is attractive to ovulated female sea lampreys. 3kPZS increases capture of sea lampreys when applied to traps in management-scale tests and registration of 3kPZS with regulatory agencies may soon be warranted. To register 3kPZS as a bio-pesticide with US Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada, the influence of 3kPZS on non-target species must be determined; especially on those species that are closely related. Silver lamprey Ichthyomyzon unicuspis, chestnut lamprey Ichthyomyzon castaneus, northern brook lamprey Ichthyomyzon fossor, and American brook lamprey Lampetra appendix have sympatric populations with land-locked invasive sea lampreys and have been listed as threatened or endangered in parts of Canada and the USA. A critical research need to advance use of 3kPZS in sea lamprey management is to determine if 3kPZS affects the reproductive ecology of native lampreys in the Great Lakes basin. Do native lampreys release 3kPZS and use this compound as a pheromone? If so, native lamprey populations may confound 3kPZS-based sea lamprey control and assessment. Understanding the chemical ecology of native lampreys will also enhance restoration efforts. Given that 3kPZS release by spermiating male sea lampreys is highly specialized and that reproductive isolation often provides significant fitness benefits, we hypothesize that 3kPZS is a species-specific mating pheromone. Based on this hypothesis, we predict 1) that Ichthyomyzon species, as the ancestral linage of the family Petromysontidae, will not have developed physiological mechanisms to produce, release or behaviorally respond to 3kPZS, and 2) Lampetra appendix, being derived from Ichthyomyzon, will not have developed the physiological mechanisms to produce, release or behaviorally respond to 3kPZS. Our specific objectives are to 1) determine if adult native lampreys biosynthesize 3kPZS, 2) determine if adult native lampreys release 3kPZS into the water and if they do, the rate of 3kPZS release and mechanism by which 3kPZS is transported into the water, and 3) determine if adult native lampreys use mating pheromones and if so whether they consist of 3kPZS.

Principal Investigator: Nicholas Johnson

We've discovered a powerful alarm substance produced by the sea lamprey. In the laboratory, exposure to a dilute mixture of this odor (1: 10,000,000 dilution) will result in long-term avoidance of the treated area. We propose to erect a species-specific chemical barrier to migration via the application of the alarm substance in three streams currently or historically infested with sea lamprey. Our purpose is to demonstrate the efficacy of the alarm substance as a repellent, or "chemical dam", in an innovative pest management technique called Push-Pull. If successful, this approach has the capacity to radically improve the efficiency of the sea lamprey pesticide control program without increasing the amount of pesticide applied to tributaries draining into the Great Lakes. By blocking potential spawning streams to lampreys, but not other fishes, we can aggregate the spawning activity into far fewer watersheds, resulting in fewer systems requiring pesticide treatment, and a greater kill per unit pesticide applied. We will test the efficacy of the chemical barrier by applying it to streams that have a consistent, measurable presence of migrating sea lampreys. Our objectives are to 1) demonstrate the efficacy of sea lamprey alarm substance as a chemical barrier to migrating sea lampreys in Great Lakes tributaries and 2) develop a set of transferable protocols for deployment of the repellent by US and Canadian control staff in future large-scale applications.

Principal Investigator: Nicholas Johnson

Spermiated male sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) release a mating pheromone component, 7α-12α-24-trihydroxy-5α-cholan-3-one 24-sulfate (3kPZS), which induces robust upstream movement in ovulated females, but fails to retain them on nests or induce spawning behaviors with the potency of the full male pheromone. The GLFC funded two management-scale tests of synthesized 3kPZS: 1) baiting free-standing traps near spawning riffles and 2) baiting barrier-integrated traps. Results are encouraging and show that 3kPZS-baited traps near spawning riffles consistently capture more lampreys than unbaited traps. It remains unclear, however, if adding the whole natural mating pheromone released by males (spermiating male washings, SMW), containing 3kPZS and all unidentified mating pheromone components, would result in even greater increases trap capture in management contexts. Given that SMW are highly preferred over 3kPZS in small-scale experimental streams, we hypothesize that SMW will induce stronger preference responses in adult sea lampreys than 3kPZS in management contexts. Therefore, we predict that addition of SMW to free-standing traps on spawning grounds and barrier-integrated trapping systems will result in significantly greater increases in trap catch than application of 3kPZS. Our objectives are to 1) determine if application of spermiating male washings to traps set near spawning riffles results in greater increases in adult sea lamprey capture than application of synthesized 3kPZS and 2) determine if application of spermiating male washing to barrier-integrated trapping systems results in greater increases in adult sea lamprey capture than application of synthesized 3kPZS.

Principal Investigator: Nicholas Johnson

Application of pheromones to manipulate adult sea lamprey behavior is among the options considered for new sea lamprey control techniques. A male mating pheromone component has been identified as a novel bile acid, 7α,12α, 24-trihydroxy-3-one-5α-cholan-24-sulfate (3kPZS). A synthesized copy of 3kPZS lures ovulated female sea lampreys upstream to its source and into 3kPZS-baited traps in controlled experimental settings. A critical knowledge gap limiting 3kPZS implementation in the sea lamprey trapping program is whether this single component of the mating pheromone mixture will sufficiently attract adult sea lamprey in management contexts where manipulated odor sources come into competition with the full complement of components emitted by free-living males. Therefore, our objective is to determine whether patterns of 3kPZS-manipulated behavior observed in experimental circumstances can be reproduced in several full-scale management applications to yield an improvement in sea lamprey trapping operations.

Principal Investigator: Nicholas Johnson

Description
The development of non-invasive technologies to divert adult sea lamprey migrations and direct adults into traps where physical barriers are not present is a primary research objective of the sea lamprey control program (McLaughlin et al. 2007). Traps have the potential to aid the control effort by removing pre-spawning phase animals from the population. However, only traps associated with barriers are currently effective, and even then, effectiveness varies widely among tributaries around the Great Lakes hindering utility of trapping as a control tool. Development of less intrusive technologies to guide migratory sea lamprey to traps and remove pre-spawning animals will be critical for advancement of trapping as a control tool and ultimately advancement of an integrated sea lamprey control program. We hypothesize that sea lamprey like other fish will exhibit avoidance behavior to certain combinations of bio-acoustic stimuli and will display acute repulsion to some combinations of acoustic, light, or bubble stimuli. We propose using Ovivo's® Bio-Acoustic Fish Fence (BAFF) to test this hypothesis. Bio-acoustic fences have not been investigated as non-physical dispersion devices for sea lamprey; in fact nothing is known about acoustic sensory abilities for sea lamprey or any Agnathan (A. Popper, personal communication). For that reason, we propose a pilot study to first test whether a response exists. We predict that specific combinations of sound, light and bubbles can be used as non-physical leads to sea lamprey traps or as diversion devices to reduce infestation of spawning streams.

Objectives

  • Determine if a combination of light, bubbles and sound can direct adult sea lampreys toward one arm of an artificial stream and into a trap.
  • Determine if the combination of stimuli or setting levels used influences the effectiveness of a bio-acoustic fence to guide migratory sea lamprey away from an artificial stream channel and into a trap.
Principal Investigator: Scott Miehls

Description
Prior to widespread use of lampricides, thousands of transformed sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) were captured in nets and inclined screen traps during their downstream migration from autumn through spring. Nets and screen traps were effective at capturing transformers, but were vulnerable to debris and ice fowling, which greatly reduced efficiency unless serviced several times daily. With implementation of the lampricide control program, transformer trapping was no longer cost effective because low catch of transformers in treated streams did not justify the high cost of trapping. Today, sea lamprey abundance is still above management targets despite an aggressive lampricide control program. Efficient and low-maintenance trapping of downstream migrating transformed sea lampreys in treated streams would provide an additional control tool to enable sea lamprey control to reach targets. Recent pilot work at HBBS demonstrated that transformers can be deflected toward a trap using a low-voltage DC fish-guidance system. We conceptualize that low maintenance trap operation could be effected using low-voltage DC as a non-fowling trap lead, and we propose to test a low-voltage DC fish-guidance systems to direct transformers into traps under stream conditions typical for a Great Lakes tributary. We hypothesize that water velocity and depth will impact electrode configurations and electric field settings needed to guide sea lamprey into traps and predict that low-voltage DC current can guide downstream migrating transformers during low and high discharge events to function as an effective non-physical lead to guide transformed sea lampreys into traps.

Objectives
For a vertical field of pulsed DC current, we will determine if:

  • transformers can be guided into traps over a range of depths and velocities by varying electrode array and electric field input parameters; and
  • a fixed electrode array can guide transformers into traps over a range of depths and velocities by varying only pulsed-DC input parameters.
Principal Investigator: Scott Miehls

Sea lamprey migratory pheromone is emitted by larval lampreys and attracts adult spawning phase lampreys to streams during spawning season.  A method has been developed to extract and concentrate larval pheromone using a large scale extraction system and rotary evaporation for concentration.  Migratory pheromone emitted by a large collection of approximately 25,000 larval sea lampreys is extracted, concentrated, and stored at Hammond Bay Biological Station for use in various ongoing field studies.

The objective is to collect large volumes of concentrated migratory pheromone for use by researchers studying sea lamprey migratory behavior.  The samples are collected during the months of March through September and frozen for use during the following year. 

Principal Investigator: Karen Slaght

Each year the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) purchases large quantities of concentrated TFM, the lampricide used by U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) and Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada (DFO) for controlling sea lampreys in the Great lakes.  Each lot of TFM purchased must first meet various physical and chemical standards.  Physical and chemical testing is performed at Hammond Bay Biological Station. 

Principal Investigator: Karen Slaght

Trifluoromethyl-nitrophenol (TFM) and Niclosamide are lampricides used to control sea lamprey populations in tributaries of the Great Lakes.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) and Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada (DFO) sea lamprey control agents use TFM and Niclosamide analytical standard solutions during stream treatments. Standard solutions are necessary to determine the concentration of lampricide being applied to streams during a treatment. The efficacy of a treatment is dependent upon accuracy of the analytical standards. Under a memorandum of agreement with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, HBBS prepares TFM and Niclosamide standards and distributes them to USFWS and DFO sea lamprey control agents.

Principal Investigator: Karen Slaght

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