There's a battle being waged along many shorelines of two dozen or more lakes and ponds in southern Maine. The foe is a persistent, virulent aquatic plant known by most as milfoil.
Milfoil is a plant that grows under water, in shallower areas where it can get sufficient sunlight to grow and prosper. It clogs shoreline areas with its leafy growth, making those areas unusable for swimming and boating. It also robs the lake's ecosystem of necessary oxygen which affects all the other living things in the water. Milfoil is bad news.
The 9th annual Milfoil Summit was just concluded in Lewiston and news from that summit offers hope for all of us seeking relief from this nasty enemy.
Volunteers pulling plants by hand and using blanket barriers have stemmed the tide of milfoil growth in many areas, but eradication still seems unattainable. Reports from the summit recognized the value of the coordinated volunteer efforts, but were painfully aware of their limitations.
Two new thrusts seem to be coming into play, however, that may make a sizeable difference in this battle. One is in the area of biological controls and the other is an increase in funding for further research.
The possible introduction of certain types of nematodes into milfoil-infested waters is one method of eradication being looked into. For the uninitiated, a nematode is a microscopic worm that has an appetite for all kinds of things. The idea is to find the proper nematode whose one desire in life is to eat as much milfoil as it possibly can. Throw a bunch of these into an infested area and - presto - no more milfoil. While my rendition is not very scientific, I think you get my drift. If the right nematode can be found it could have a huge impact on eradication efforts.
As far as funding is concerned, there seems to be some significant monies available to fund research that may lead to a solution to the milfoil epedemic. Maybe the research can find the proper nematode. Who knows?
The point is, this scourge of local waters that can devalue waterfront real estate, spoil recreational activities, steal oxygen from all the good things in lakes, and create conditions for continuing lake degradation, could be put in recession and then eradication if some of this biological research can come to the fore.