You can do your part to save our Texas lakes by taking these steps.
The state of Texas is fighting back against invasive freshwater species.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department now requires all boaters to thoroughly wash their boats, trailers, and equipment after use in Texas waters, whether it's a lake, river, stream, or even the gulf. If you think your boat is clean, there's still a chance you have an ecological hijacker aboard.
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It's every Texan's mission to keep our waterways free of invasive pests. Just remember these three steps:
- Clean: Remove all plant and animal matter from your boat and thoroughly wash every nook and cranny. Power washing with hot water is best.
- Drain: Be sure to eliminate ALL water from your boat, even engine cooling water. No matter how little, any water from a lake could contain invasive plant or animal matter.
- Dry: The best way to ensure your boat is absolutely safe is to allow it to dry completely before introducing it to a new body of water.
It may seem like a lot of work, but it's important to protect Texas waters, particularly from these three culprits:
Zebra mussels are a quick breeding mollusk that have ravaged Texas lakes and streams, particularly Lake Texoma. By over-absorbing the precious phytoplankton that sustains many local aquatic species and over-breeding like wildfire, the zebra mussel swiftly impacts the population of native fish, birds, and other aquatic species.
Worse, still, they are responsible for over-filtration. What was a life-saving adaptation in their original Baltic waters leads to too much sunlight filtering into the water in Texas, thus raising temperatures. The zebra mussel also has a tendency to grow right inside underwater pipelines, clogging them up in the process. They are sharp, difficult to remove, and have few natural predators, given that they filter the waters around them and thus become 'trash' mussels.
RELATED: Conservation of Texas Urban Lakes
Because they release microscopic larva, zebra mussels are almost impossible to detect until it's too late. All the more reason to completely clean and dry your boat!
Odds are you've already encountered this particular weed. It looks like a bristle brush, and was introduced to North America through the aquarium trade. Like so many invasive species, careless dumping into native waters has created a nightmare. Hydrilla can grow as much as an inch per day and grow up to 30 feet, or however deep the water is. It's known to raise the temperature in local waters and reproduces swiftly through fragmentation.
Hydrilla is an aquatic perennial herb that was first introduced into North America in the 1950s by the aquarium trade, especially through shipments of mail-order water lilies. Hydrilla comes in the form of dense underwater strands that can grown up to an inch per day. Strands can reach a length of up to thirty feet, or until they reach the water's surface.
The ecological impact is clear. Hydrilla clog up underwater pipelines, raise pH levels, create a canopy at the water's surface, preventing sunlight from filtering down. They inhibit power generation by clogging dams, and are even known to diminish the quality of the water upon decomposition. This invasive weed has already spread to lakes, rivers, and reservoirs across the state.
Giant Salvinia, or salvinia molesta, is an infamous, rootless fern that grows in dense mats on the water's surface. Because it reproduces by fragmentation, it can double in size in only two weeks, reaching up to a quarter acre in only six weeks.
Salvinia prevents sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants that desperately need it and, upon death, drastically reduces the dissolved oxygen levels in a lake, pond, stream, or rice field. This, in turn, harms the local fish and other aquatic animals, as well as hindering the ability of other animals like cranes to search for food. Worse, still, it is obstructive to underwater pipelines, such as those used for irrigation, and can hinder a boat's ability to pass through comfortably.
Caddo Lake has already been completely overrun by Giant Salvinia. After extensive research and extermination efforts, it is believed that Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service may have finally found the key to battle this dangerous invasive plant. By releasing tens of thousands of weevils into the lakes, researchers hope to introduce a natural predator for Giant Salvinia. Thus far, their efforts have had a positive impact. If the weevils survive the winter well, they may have found a solution to this particular species. However, to prevent Giant Salvinia from invading other bodies of water, it is vital that it not be allowed to spread.