Armed with fierce determination and dozens of canoes and kayaks, volunteers continued the massive effort to eradicate the aquatic invasive plant water chestnut from Mill Pond at the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge, New York on Wednesday, July 8th 2009.
Over 4,500 pounds of water chestnut were hand pulled from the pond in just one day, a volume of 14 cubic yards. This event was organized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service with support from The Nature Conservancy and Friends of the Bay.
Native to Europe and Asia, water chestnut forms dense, floating mats on the water’s surface while rooted to the bottom. The dense, floating mats restrict light availability, reduce the oxygen content of the water, and displace native vegetation important to area wildlife. Water chestnut is not only a looming ecological threat to Long Island’s fresh waters, but it can also limit boating, fishing, and swimming and the mature seeds have sharp spines that can injure anyone who steps on them.
The Refuge confirmed the infestation in June 2008 and acted rapidly to remove as much water chestnut as possible that summer season. “If left uncontrolled, it will cover the entire pond within a few years,” remarked Azucena Ponce, refuge biologist for the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Over the last two years, over 50 cubic yards of water chestnut have been pulled from the pond. “A month ago the infestation was a little over a ½ acre in size and now it covers about an acre of this eight acre pond. A ten-fold increase of water chestnut plants in one year has been documented in other places in the United States. It is important to act now to control and eradicate this plant before it spreads to other freshwater environments on Long Island,” stated Mr. Entrup.
“There is no other place I’d rather be today,” stated Yoshana Silver, a volunteer from Bethpage New York. “So wonderful that through team work we were able to make such a difference! Look how much water chestnut is in that dumpster! It is important to protect all of Long Island’s diverse natural resources. I know that eradicating invasive plants is not a one day job – it will likely take a few years to exhaust the seed bank but I am confident that the USFWS with help from volunteers and non-profits can get a handle on this population. I am willing to put in the hard work and others are too.”