On going projects
The Lakes and Ponds Program hires seasonal staff to monitor for non-native invasive plants on boats as they enter and leave water bodies. Ramp monitors also survey boaters to determine their overall awareness of aquatic invasive species (AIS) and to educate them about AIS and how they impact MA waters. Boaters are also given AIS brochures, guides and key rings. Each year, from late May to early September, 5-6 monitors rotate through 7-10 public lakes and ponds with high-use boat ramps. Some of the water bodies are not infested with AIS, and the goal at these ramps is to prevent an introduction of an invasive species. Other water bodies are heavily infested with several different invasive species and the goals at these ramps are to prevent an introduction of additional AIS, and to prevent the spread of existing AIS out of the water body. Monitors obtain permission to inspect the boats to ensure that there are no invasive aquatic plants leaving or entering the water body, and to teach the boat owners how to conduct an inspection themselves. Since 2004, boat ramp monitors have conducted 5103 surveys and inspected 4700 boats. Of the 4700 boats inspected, 562 were carrying plant fragments and of these fragments, 306 fragments were non-native. These 306 removals are considered “saves” since a non-native invasive plant was prevented from entering an un-infested water body, or from spreading from an infested water body. (The rest were either native or to dry to identify). For more detailed information, click on the links below for the annual reports.
The keys to protecting a water body from non-native species are education, prevention, early detection and rapid response. Under the Weed Watcher Program, OWR scientists train local lake groups to monitor their ponds for the presence of AIS and to develop a removal plan if an infestation is found. If a pioneer infestation of invasive exotic species is identified early, there is a greater chance that the plant can be eradicated before it becomes established in the lake or pond. Once invasive species are established they are almost impossible to remove and are very expensive to control. The 2 hour class introduces participants to the concerns about non-native species, how non-native species are introduced into our waterways, methods of dispersal, basic terminology, and guidance on performing bi-weekly monitoring and completing plant surveys. A variety of living non-native and native plant species are provided, and the volunteers engage in hands-on identification. Although the emphasis is on exotic species, the goal is to teach volunteers to identify the majority of common aquatic plants in their lake or pond (native or otherwise). Now entering its fifth year, over 60 lake associations (~600) volunteers have participated.
DCR provides free guides, brochures, boat ramp signs, non-native species fact sheets and key rings to the public. To view and request these materials, follow the link below.
Aquatic non-native species are introduced to our region primarily through the aquarium and water garden trade, and occasionally through ship ballast water. Once here, certain species that can survive our climate and spread by fragmentation, continue to spread by hitching rides on boat motors, trailers, anchors, fishing gear, live wells, bait buckets and other equipment. In an effort to educate boaters about non-native species and steps they can take to prevent further spread, the DCR lakes and Ponds Program partnered with the state Environmental Police to distribute a brochure with the annual boater registration renewal mailing. DCR also partnered with Office of Coastal Zone Management in an effort to include several marine invasive species in the brochure. Over the next two years, this tri-fold brochure will be distributed to the ~80,000 registered boaters in the Commonwealth.
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) projects
The intentional and accidental introduction of non-indigenous species into the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is thought to be the second largest cause of loss of biodiversity. While Massachusetts has been fortunate thus far to have averted the big name aquatic invaders, numerous other non-native aquatic plants and animals have already become established and continue to spread, rapidly clogging waterways and out-competing native species. The Massachusetts Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan (The AIS Plan) is the first comprehensive effort to assess the impacts and threats of aquatic invasive species in Massachusetts. In response to the identified impacts and threats, the AIS Plan lays out a series of management strategies intended to curb the spread of invasive species. The AIS Plan follows guidance provided by the federal Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, which is co-chaired, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The AIS Plan was developed by the Massachusetts Aquatic Invasive Species Working Group, which includes 18 representatives of 14 state and federal agencies, as well as private and public entities. This Plan provides a blueprint for Massachusetts to make headway in protecting our natural systems and economy from the potentially devastating effects of aquatic invasive species.
Parrot Feather Removal Project (2006)
Water chestnut (Trapa natans), an invasive aquatic plant, has been spreading in the Berkshire region during the recent years. In 2005, new infestations were discovered in Onota Lake, Pontoosuc Lake and Pequot Pond. L&P staff worked with a contractor and citizen volunteers at each lake to identify and GPS the sites where known populations occurred. The plants were then hand pulled and composted.
Great Brook Farm
The small pond at Great Brook Farm is ringed with purple loosestrife, a non-native, invasive species. The nearby natural wetland areas are also full of purple loosestrife. In an effort to knock back the loosestrife to allow native plants to come in, DCR partnered with the MA Wetland Restoration Program to introduce the Galerucella beetles which feed exclusively on the loosestrife. In August 2006, beetles were stocked around the pond and in several adjacent wetland areas. Scientists from DCR and the MA Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Wetland Restoration Program established study plots and will revisit the plots several times annually to evaluate impacts to the loosestrife.
Stonybrook/Bristol Blake Park
In an effort to control the Purple Loosestrife that is threatening this wetland complex, Galerucella beetles were released during June of 2006. Both control sites and release plots were marked and evaluated prior to the beetle release. Throughout the summer, staff from CZM, DCR and Mass Audubon return to the plots to document the impact of the Galeruclla beetles.
Starting in 2002, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has been working to eradicate or control an infestation of non-native invasive plants in Lake Cochituate, located in the towns of Natick, Framingham and Wayland Massachusetts. Eurasian Milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), Variable Milfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) and Curly-leaved Pondweed (Potamogeton crispus) have been spreading throughout the three basins of the lake from a suspected initial infestation in the Pegan Cove area of South Pond. The most recent macrophyte survey was conducted in summer of 2006 and documented approximately 150 acres of invasive plants throughout the three basins, along with an infestation of a forth invasive- water chestnut (Trapa natans) in Fiske Pond, adjacent to South Pond. A Long Term Vegetation Management Plan was completed in 2004, and Notices of Intent (NOIs) were submitted to the Conservation Commissions in Natick, Framingham and Wayland to implement the plan’s recommendations. Work in the NOIs was approved by the Conservation Commissions in 200X but some of the actions were appealed by a group of citizens. All work on the lake was subsequently halted until the appeal was resolved. In the spring of 2006, a new round of NOIs was filed with each of the three communities. DCR currently is implementing aquatic invasive plant management activities that were included in these NOIs and approved by the Conservation Commissions, including physical plant removal, introduction of solar-powered water circulators, and placement of benthic matting over the invasive plants. The Department also is investigating the use of biological controls but this effort is dependent on securing additional funding. To find out more about these projects click on the links below.
Two solar powered pond circulators were loaned by SolarBee Inc. to DCR for a one year period. These machines originally were developed to aerate settling ponds and wastewater treatment lagoons, but it was subsequently observed that they also had the effect of reducing the populations of Eurasian Milfoil. The circulator's manufacturer (Solarbeeä, http://www.solarbee.com) suggests that these machines affect milfoil by altering the nitrogen components of the lake bottom sediments, reducing the plants' ability to obtain this key nutrient; however, there are no peer-reviewed published data to support this theory. Therefore, DCR hired Tufts University to develop and conduct a scientifically valid trial to: (1) document the level of effectiveness of the Solar Bee on controlling the three invasive species in Lake Cochituate, and (2) to the extent possible, determine the mechanism(s) of their action in effecting control. DCR would like to know both if the machines are helping to control the invasive aquatic plants and also how they are controlling the plants. The Tufts study began in July 2006 and will be completed by December 2007. The SolarBee machines were installed on October 17th and 18th 2006.
In June and August of 2006, complete submersed aquatic vegetation surveys were completed for South, Middle and North Ponds of Lake Cochituate, along with Fiske Pond. Click on the link below to see final reports and maps.
DCR Projects in state parks
Watson Pond, a 10 acre satellite park of Massasoit State Park, operates a beach area, a seasonal picnic facility, a small pavilion and bathrooms. However, the beach has been closed to swimming since 1990 due to repeated occurrences of elevated bacteria counts in the late 1980s. In 2004, the DCR Lakes & Ponds Program hired GeoSyntec to analyze the beach and watershed for bacteria sources. The results of the study showed that the large volume of fecal matter deposited by the Canada geese have caused several problems. Primarily, the beach area was not aesthetically pleasing for day use because of the large quantities of goose waste and, on several occasions, bacterial levels at the beach exceeded the limit allowed by the State for swimming. The Lakes & Ponds Program has replaced the old beach sand with new sand and constructed a fencing system that would prevent geese from accessing the grassy area directly behind the beach. Portions of the beach area have been regarded to control erosion and DCR has planted native vegetation to stabilize the slope and re-graded the lawn to dissipate the drainage velocity and volume during heavy rain events.
Ruggles Pond has suffered eutrophication problems due to excessive plant growth (native water lilies) and increased sediment accumulation (primarily from decaying plant biomass). This has drastically reduced the open water habitat in the pond from its historic size and has caused safety issues for visitors at the swim beach. During the last 2 years a portion of the pond was hydroraked near the swimming beach to remove some of the excess biomass and provide more open water that had historically characterized the pond.
The DCR Division of Urban Parks and Recreation manages an interpretive center with a small man-made pond in the Blue Hills Reservation in Canton, MA. The watershed of the pond has many recreational uses, including a ski slope, hiking trails, small native animal exhibits and the interpretive center. The pond receives the run-off from all of these recreational uses, and this has caused the pond to become filled in and nutrient rich. This project will develop a management plan for the watershed that would prevent further degradation of the pond and the downstream habitat, while also providing an educational component. The goal is to restore the pond, prevent further erosion above and below the pond and educate the public about these issues.
Phase 1 (the research phase) is done and the report is listed below. During 2007 staff will be implementing many of the recommendations provided in the report.
During 2000, DCR contracted ENSR to perform a diagnostic and feasibility study on Otis Reservoir. This in depth study analyzed water quality, fisheries, nutrient loading and numerous other factors. Recommendations on ways to protect and improve the overall health of the water body for generations to come were discussed. Recommendations included (but not limited to) reducing the annual drawdown to less that four feet, removing Otis Reservoir from the DEP 303d List of Impaired Waters and enforcing speed limits to discourage use of Dismal Cove. For a complete list of recommendations and study findings, view the final report.
During 2004, ESS Group Inc. was contracted by DCR to conduct an investigation of Big Pond and its watershed. This study was initiated during later spring 2004 and concluded during late Fall 2004. The goal was to gain an understanding of the potential threats to the pond as well as to provide data to assist with reclassifying Big Pond on the state’s Integrated List of Waters. Big Pond is currently listed as impaired due to low oxygen levels. This report will provide a source of baseline data, and a comprehensive pond and watershed management plan that will serve as a guide for future pond protection and restoration efforts.
In recent years, Mausert’s Pond has experienced elevated bacteria counts which have closed the swimming beach on several occasions. Lakes and Ponds staff contracted Geosyntec to perform a water quality-based study to determine the source of high bacteria levels and to make recommendations for corrective measures. The study concluded that the large population of geese on the pond was a major cause of the repeated failures. In an effort to discourage geese from lingering near the swimming area, natural buffers and bench-seat buffers were installed along the shore line. To see photos, read the report or watch a PowerPoint presentation, follow the links below.