Aquatic Invasive Species Surveys & Monitoring
Many aquatic plants exist within Chautauqua Lake. Its nutrient-rich sediments provide a fertile growing bed for vegetation. Some of the lake’s plants are native to our area and provide critical ecological and environmental benefits, while those that are invasive (introduced from distant locales) can negatively impact the ecological function, recreational use, and economic value of the lake. To help combat these invasives and other nuisance plants in Chautauqua Lake, the AIS Early Detection Network was created, which consists of Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy staff, volunteers, and program partners.
Again over the summer of 2023, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, with funding assistance from the Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Management Alliance, held a series of public programs focused on these invasive plants. Through targeted education and outreach efforts, we trained volunteers in the identification of invasive species through online and in-person training sessions. We then took to the water in various locations around the lake to re-survey areas where invasives have been previously reported and also surveyed new sites for them as well. When any were found, they were reported through the online reporting portal iMapInvasives (www.imapinvasives.org), and the offending plants were carefully removed.
Sadly this year, we noticed a significant increase in growth of the macro-algae Starry Stonewort in the two known areas where it had already reached nuisance levels, and we also detected it in a few new locations in the lake. Similarly, another invasive, Brittle Naiad, seemed to have recently greatly increased in density in a few localities in and near the outlet. The good news, though, is that we were once again able to manually remove all the Water Chestnut that has been growing in the outlet for several years now, and we seem to have that species under control so far!
We also took the lead on an experimental pilot removal effort in Ashville Bay using Mobitracs and skimmers to remove volumes of Starry Stonewort from the lake. This effort was supported by the NYSDEC and carried out in collaboration with our partners the Chautauqua Lake Association, the Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Management Alliance, and the towns of North Harmony and Chautauqua. This new method of harvesting Starry Stonewort has never been attempted previously, and we are still carefully monitoring its effectiveness over the longer term. However, our initial assessment of this collaborative effort was very positive!
We have applied for funding to run these AIS trainings and surveys again in the summer of 2024. If you’d like to join in, please check our website calendar and Facebook page in late spring for dates and locations.