Understand the Enemy: Pest Biology and Ecology in Aquatics

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Understand the Enemy: Pest Biology and Ecology in Aquatics

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Weedy and Invasive Aquatic Plants

Biology is the study of all life or living matter while ecology is the branch of biology dealing with the relationships of organisms with their environment and with each other.

Every living organism has a life cycle pattern that is synchronized to genetic and environmental cues.  With this understanding, it is possible to predict life cycle stages of pest organisms and use that knowledge to target management efforts at specific life cycle stages. This approach has helped managers of aquatic systems stay ahead of invasive and problematic weed species such as water hyacinth.

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a floating aquatic plant that is native to South America and is an invasive species which has spread globally. It forms dense, interlocking mats due to its rapid reproductive rate and reproduces vegetatively and by seed. Water hyacinth spreads predominantly via daughter plants that break off from mother plans, whereas its ability to reproduce by seed allows this species to develop a soil seedbank that can persist for several years. Upon emergence, water hyacinth can double its population within a week thereby clogging waterways and impeding transportation.

Water hyacinth daughter plants connected to each other by stolons. Courtesy of Mark Skinner, USDA PLANTS Database.
Water hyacinth daughter plant Courtesy of https://www.askiitians.com
Water hyacinth seeds. Courtesy of Steve Hurst, USDA PLANTS Database.

Armed with the knowledge of water hyacinth life cycle traits, control measures can be implemented to target specific stages and prevent population growth. For example, an aquatic herbicide can be applied prior to the time of rapid growth to impede vegetative reproduction, or prior to flowering to impede seed production.

William Diwedi

Executive Consultant

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