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Conferences highlight Alaska invasive species issues

Submitted by Debbie Carter
Phone: 907-474-5406


Concerns about plant and animal invaders in Alaska will bring scientists, experts and citizens' groups together in Anchorage Oct. 21-23 for back-to-back invasive species conferences.

A variety of state and national speakers will discuss research and prevention efforts at the ninth annual Alaska Noxious and Invasive Plants Management Workshop Oct. 21-22, followed by the third annual Alaska Invasive Species Conference Oct. 23. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will host both conferences at the Millennium Alaska Hotel.

Conference organizers hope to raise public awareness of the invasive species problem and to organize responses that will protect property value, agriculture, wildlife and wildlands. Michele Hebert, agriculture and horticulture agent with Cooperative Extension's Tanana District, said Alaska still has the opportunity to prevent the significant invasive organism problems that plague other states. Invasive plants, however, are already beginning to change Alaska's landscape. Canada thistle continues to spread rapidly in Southcentral and spotted knapweed has been found along the Seward Highway. Bird vetch, an attractive purple flower known by some as "Alaska's kudzu," has greatly reduced the fireweed seen along roadways and elsewhere, she said. Hebert said coastal residents worry about marine invasives, including invertebrates that arrive in ballast water from cruise ships and freighters and Atlantic salmon that escape from Canadian aquaculture farms. The potential effects of these species on native species are not fully known, but non-native fish can carry diseases that could devastate Alaska's native fish populations.

"Atlantic salmon are popping up in Southeast," she said. "Our fishermen are right to be concerned about that."

This year's special guest is Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service in Maryland. He is a senior author on more than 50 publications documenting the effect of rising carbon dioxide and global climate change on weed biology. Ziska also will lecture at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 21 at the University of Alaska Anchorage Fine Arts Building, Room 117. This public lecture is titled, "CO2, Climate Change and Invasive Plants."

Other conference topics will include the new state weed coordinator, ballast water regulations and various invasives control efforts. Panels will focus on Canadian thistle control and on gravel--how it is sold, transported and used in Alaska and whether it may contribute to the spread of unwanted plants.

Conference sponsors include Invasive Plant Control, Inc., National Park Service, Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council, the Wyoming Weed and Pest Council, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service and Agricultural Research Service.

Register online and see an agenda at www.regonline.com/CNIPM2008 .

CONTACT: Michele Hebert at 907-474-2423 or ffmah@uaf.edu. Tricia Wurtz, U.S. Forest Service ecologist, at 907-451-2799 or twurtz@fs.fed.us.

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