When improving aquatic management, it is no secret that humans are highly dependent on the earth’s aquatic ecosystems. Protecting aquatic ecosystems is vital to our survival and we must do everything to protect this resource through aquatic management.
Four facts about aquatic ecosystems
- An aquatic ecosystem is an ecosystem in a body of water.
- Communities of organisms that are dependent on each other and on their environment live in aquatic ecosystems.
- There are two types of aquatic ecosystems: marine and freshwater.
- Marine ecosystems:
- Comprise 71% of the earth’s surface and contain 97% of the planet’s water.
- Include mudflats, seagrass meadows, mangroves, salt marshes, intertidal systems, coral reefs, oceans, and seas.
- Are distinguished by waters that have a high salt content.
- Freshwater ecosystems:
- Comprise 0.8% of the earth’s surface and contain 0.009% of the plant’s water.
- Include bogs, lakes, ponds, springs, streams, and wetlands; and the are a vital source of water for human livelihoods.
- Aquatic systems are continually under threat. Some of the major threats are:
- Human exploitation and development – a growing human population exerts pressure on both marine and freshwater ecosystems.
- Pollution – from chemicals, waste (industrial, agricultural, and residential).
- Invasive species – adversely affect the invaded habitat causing ecological, environmental, and economic damage.
- Climate change – affects ecosystem species, their diversity, and how they interact with each other and the environment.
Now that we know some of the issues related to aquatic ecosystems, let’s look at some best practices for improving aquatic management using one of the major threats, invasive plant species in freshwater ecosystems, as an example.
Invasive plant species and how they impact freshwater ecosystems.
Invasive plant species are a unique class of plants that can enter a habitat, quickly become established, and change the nature of the habitat. It’s as if the invasive plants sneak in and try and act like they belong in or become ‘owners’ of their new habitat.
As they are getting established, invasive plants are doing everything they can to get rid of native plant species in the habitat. If nothing is done to get rid of them, the invasive plants may become the dominant species within the habitat with an ability to spread into new areas.
While improving aquatic management, stopping the spread of invasive species is a land management priority for many property managers, it isn’t easy to identify which species is invasive and has the potential to spread and cause serious damage to the environment, our health, our economy, etc.
Our freshwater habitats become threatened whenever invasive species are not managed effectively and become established. When they become established in a habitat, invasive plant species can negatively impact freshwater ecosystems in several ways. Two examples are:
- Invasive plant species in the riparian area, and
- Invasive plant species in water bodies.
Invasive plant species in riparian areas
Riparian areas are stretches of vegetation bordering freshwater bodies and consisting primarily of native grasses, sedges, trees, and shrubs.
In addition to providing a habitat for wildlife, riparian areas provide vital ecosystem services for freshwater bodies including filtering surface runoff and enhancing water quality.
Riparian areas are particularly vulnerable to invasion due to frequent habitat disturbance and the efficiency of water bodies in dispersing propagules. If invasive plants become established in riparian areas, they can cause changes to ecosystem services that negatively impact freshwater ecosystems.
Invasive plant species in freshwater bodies
When improving aquatic management, Invasive plant species in freshwater bodies are characterized by multiple reproductive methods, wide and rapid dispersal and survival, broad environmental tolerance, rapid growth to reproductive maturity, ability to degrade entire ecosystems, and are difficult to control.
If allowed to establish themselves in a habitat, invasive plant species in freshwater bodies will affect ecosystem services, for example:
- Loss of recreational opportunities, and
- Extreme oxygen depletion and pH changes lead to stunted fish populations and/or fish kills.
Additional impact of invasive plant species in freshwater bodies include:
- Restrictions to water-flow leading to flooding,
- Restrictions to navigation,
- Habitat destruction,
- Reduction in species diversity and richness, and
- Reduction in property values.
Ultimately, in order to improve aquatic management, the establishment of invasive plants in riparian areas and freshwater bodies must be prevented at all costs.
Best practices to improve aquatic management of riparian areas and freshwater bodies.
- Eradication: Establish your management goals geared toward eradicating invasive plant species.
- Containment: If unable to eradicate the invasive species, prioritize the acceptable level of invasive species infestation to prevent it from becoming a dominant species within the habitat.
- Species Knowledge: Understanding the biology and ecology of the invasive plant species enables the development of a site management plan for containing or eradicating the invasive species.
- Management action: Implement management actions to contain and/or eradicate the invasive plant species.
- Evaluation: Monitor and assess impacts of management by visiting the site regularly to determine whether the invasive plant species has been contained/eradicated.
Some specific examples of controlling invasive plant species.
Controlling invasive woody plant species in riparian areas using herbicide
Step 1: Determine the herbicide delivery method, e.g., low volume basal application using a handheld or back pack sprayer.
Step 2: Select the proper herbicide that is approved for the site where you are working. Be sure to read the herbicide label carefully and completely. For best results, select an oil-soluble herbicide with instructions for basal applications.
Step 3: Select the best adjuvant or surfactant to maximize herbicide efficacy and invasive plant species control. For best results with low volume basal applications and an oil-soluble herbicide, use Brewer International’s Improved JLB Oil Plus. This formulation is a low-volume basal oil, made with all-natural vegetable oils.
Improved JLB Oil Plus is used as a carrier (diluent), and no water is involved.
- For details see: Use Improved JLB Oil Plus in Basal Sprays to Combat Problematic Woody Plant Species
Utilizing Aquatic Management For Controlling invasive aquatic plant species in freshwater bodies using herbicide
Step 1: Select the best technique to use based on the type of invasive aquatic plant species (i.e. totally submerged, partially submerged, or not submerged) to ensure you get the best delivery of the herbicide and maximum herbicidal activity and control.
Step 2: Select the proper herbicide that is approved for use in aquatic systems and for control of the invasive aquatic plant species you are targeting. Be sure to read the herbicide label carefully and completely.
Step 3: Select the best surfactant and/or adjuvant to maximize herbicide efficacy and invasive plant species control. For improved control, use a nonionic surfactant, e.g., Brewer International’s Cide Kick nonionic surfactant.
- For details see: Use Cide Kick Nonionic Surfactant in Control of Invasive Aquatic Plant Species Blogpost.
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