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Title: Benefits of controlling nuisance aquatic plants and algae in the United States

item GETSINGER, KURT - Environmental Laboratory, Us Army Engineer Research And Development Center, Waterways Experiment St
item DIBBLE, ERIC - Mississippi State University
item RODGERS, JOHN - Clemson University
item Spencer, David

Submitted to: Council for Agricultural Science and Technology Issue Paper
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/10/2014
Publication Date: 7/16/2014
Citation: Getsinger, K., Dibble, E., Rodgers, J.H., Spencer, D.F. 2014. Benefits of controlling nuisance aquatic plants and algae in the United States. Council for Agricultural Science and Technology Commentary. QTA2014-1. CAST, Ames, Iowa.

Interpretive Summary: How important is water? Life depends on it. Freshwater is arguably mankind’s most precious commodity. The increasing scarcity of clean freshwater—through population growth and development, droughts, contamination, and other factors—places demands on the very foundation of society. Unfortunately, invasive aquatic plants and algae are progressively disrupting the ecological balance required for maintaining adequate freshwater resources—for flora, fauna, and humans. Once established and thriving, these plant infestations are threatening the long-term fitness and biodiversity of rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Their growth and spread do not respect “political” boundaries, because watersheds can traverse many states, counties, and municipalities within broad regions of the United States. These plant populations generate negative impacts and stress on many of the prerequisites of modern society, including agriculture, potable water supplies, human health and sanitation, energy production, recreation and property values, and fish and wildlife. In addition, after human expansion and development, invasive species pose the greatest threat species listed as endangered or threatened. This threat is primarily due to rapid and major transformation of critical habitats required by the listed species. On an annual basis, hundreds of millions of dollars in damages are caused by invasive aquatic vegetation, and many millions more are expended each year to mitigate the impacts and to implement control and management activities. With limited fiscal budgets (both public and private sector) and insufficient understanding of the crisis by policymakers and the general public, the spread of invasive aquatic plant infestations is outpacing the ability to contain and decrease the problem populations. Likewise, the crucial ability to develop new and scientifically sound control methods is steadily being eroded through lack of sufficient long-term funding commitments. If these operational and research/development trends are not reversed, a life-sustaining heritage—the nation’s priceless water resources—will be severely and perhaps irreparably degraded or lost. Clearly, a sustainable civilization is contingent on clean and abundant freshwater resources. People must make the protection and conservation of these resources a top priority for the future. Managing nuisance aquatic vegetation will be an increasingly important part of that priority.

Technical Abstract: N/A