by Jennifer Noel
Invasive species: what may sound like something seen in a sci-fi movie is actually more earthly than one might think. In fact, invasive species are everywhere, even in our own backyards.
Invasive species are plants, animals, and other organisms that inhabit a particular region but are not native to it. These unwelcome arrivals can harm ecosystems, but residents, hikers, boaters and anglers can take steps to minimize the damage they cause.
Codorus State Park is one of the most popular natural attractions in the Hanover area. Anglers, boaters and kayakers spending time on the park’s Lake Marburg may not even be aware of the presence of invasive plant species. To the casual observer, invasive species might not appear any different from native plants. However, these invaders pose a real threat to the lake’s ecosystem.
“Both Eurasian watermilfoil and hydrilla are present in Lake Marburg and other York County waters,” said Jodi Sulpizio, natural resources educator and master watershed steward coordinator for the Penn State Master Watershed Steward Program.
Eurasian watermilfoil is an underwater plant with feathery leaves. It easily spreads in lakes and streams because it often sticks to boats and waterfowl.
Eurasian watermilfoil creates a dense mat of vegetation across the surface of the water. This mat prevents sunlight from reaching other plants in the lake, impeding their growth. This can also affect other organisms, including fish that feed on the native plants. Water flow can also be impeded by thick areas of Eurasian watermilfoil.
“I think the greatest threat is that invasive species change and disrupt the ecosystems and reduce biodiversity,” said Sulpizio. “They threaten our native wildlife and plants by outcompeting them for resources and habitat.”
Sulpizio also described the impact that invasive species have on the economy, as millions of dollars are spent annually in order to “prevent, control, and eradicate invasive species.”
Another aquatic invasive plant seen at Codorus and other York County waters is hydrilla. These plants are rooted on the lake bottom and grow to the surface with long, branching stems that also form mats on the water’s surface. The plants are often rough to the touch with “teeth” on the leaf edges.
Hydrilla also threatens native plants by blocking sunlight and altering water flow. It can also clog the pipes in hydroelectric facilities and get twisted around the propellers of powerboats.
“Prevention is key. Visitors to natural areas can help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) by checking and cleaning their gear, both boats and fishing,” said Sulpizio. “AIS are very hard to control once they are established; a small plant fragment can be carried to another body of water and may start to grow.”
According to the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Management Plan, published by the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Council, “Hydrilla and E. milfoil are expected to dominate the entire [Lake Marburg] shorelines within a few short years.”
Prevention and Conservation
Local organizations such the Penn State Master Watershed Steward program are focused on helping raise public awareness about invasive species as well as participating in projects to restore and maintain local waterways.
The Watershed Steward Program conducted a volunteer invasive species removal day at Lake Marburg in 2016.
“One of the biggest challenges is getting information out to the public,” said Sulpizio. “Most people don’t seem to be aware of the problem. … If people are spending time in the great outdoors, they usually have a desire to protect our natural resources.”
A focus of the Master Watershed Stewards is encouraging parks and municipalities to post signs or display pamphlets at boat docks or other water access points, reminding visitors to be conscious of invasive species management. The Stewards plan to address the Friends of Codorus State Park at an upcoming meeting.
In order to involve the local community in conservation, the Borough of Hanover recently formed an organization in 2017 called Hanover Environmental Outreach.
The group manned a booth with the Master Watershed Stewards this past summer at Codorus Blast; additionally, in September, they partnered with other local environmental groups for the Codorus Stream Clean Up.
“Our goal is to educate and involve,” said Falyn Morningstar, who works for the borough as the Stormwater Program/MS4 Coordinator. “The purpose of the group was to find some environmental enthusiasts while preparing the borough for MS4 obligations starting in March 2018.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System program — also known as MS4 — is part of the Clean Water Act and requires the creation of management plans for reducing the effects from runoff.
A key element to the program is building community outreach.
“This group will be great in helping satisfy public education and involvement,” said Morningstar.
The group’s next commitment is sharing a booth with Penn Township at the Builder’s Home and Garden Show in March.
For those interested in volunteering with Hanover Environmental Outreach, Falyn Morningstar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for Boaters and Anglers
Inspect and clean off aquatic plants, animals, and mud from boats, motors, and trailers before leaving a water access. Anglers should clean waders, footwear, ropes, anchors, bait traps, downrigger cables, dip nets, fishing lines and field gear. Scrub hull using a stiff brush. Anglers should scrub any visible material from footwear and dispose of unwanted bait, fish parts, and packing material in the trash; not in the water or on land. Rinse watercraft, trailer, and equipment with high-pressure hot water.
Drain water from watercraft, motor, bilge, bladder tanks, live well, and portable bait containers before leaving water access.
Dry everything five days or more (check local or state regulations) when moving between waters to kill small,