Now that the leaves are off the trees and we've seen a few snowflakes dance in the air, lakefront property owners are probably thinking more about the upcoming holidays than they are their place on the lake. But the offseason is a great time for reflection and planning, and getting educated about the natural world around us is a responsibility we all share.
If you have even a passing interest in Maine lakes and ponds, by now you have probably heard about invasive aqauatic plants that are not native to Maine. Maine has over 6000 lakes and ponds and keeping an eye on them is a big job. There is an organized volunteer lakes monitoring program that does a great job keeping tabs on these bodies of water and one of the primary things they are on the lookout for is invasive aquatic plant species.
Maine has aquatic plants that are native to the state and pose no threat to either the eco-system or the enjoyment of lakes and ponds by the public and property owners. But these invasive non-native plants are another thing altogether. These invasive species can drive out the native ones, make shore areas unswimmable and foul boat propellers, rob oxygen from the water thereby impacting the fishery, and upset the natural eco-system that has been in balance for years and years.
Lake monitoring volunteers are making a huge effort to identify areas of invasion and work with professionals to inhibit non-native growth and work toward eradication. Everyone who lives on a lake or vacations on a lake can be a volunteer and help in this cause. But first you must educate yourself to know what you're looking for. And once you know what you're looking for you need to know what to do when you identify "an invasive".
The Maine Center For Invasive Aquatic Plants and the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program have published a most informative book that details not only Maine's eleven most unwanted invasive aquatic plants, but also gives information about the native species that are okay, but may look like the bad guys. There's also a section about non-native animal species like rusty crayfish and mitten crabs. You can be on the lookout for these badboys, too. They not only tell you how to identify these plants and animals, but also tell you how to collect them and who to call.
You can order this book for $20 through the MVLM website or you can download for free here. Take a look and see if you might want to be a volunteer lake monitor the next time summer rolls around and help in the effort to rid our good Maine waters of these undesirables.