Having already successfully invaded New Zealand and large regions of the American West and South, the "rock snot" — an algae that resembles a "clump of soiled sheep's wool" — is now setting its sights on completing its invasion of New England's waterways. Just over the last decade, Didymosphenia geminata has appeared in river bottoms and on rocks throughout California, Washington, Alaska, Wyoming and several other states and has so far shown no signs of weakening.
Similarly to most invasive algae, "rock snot" has the potential to bloom in thick masses and fully blanket the bottoms of streams — threatening the ability of other aquatic species to survive by smothering all possible food sources. According to biologists who've studied it, there are no easy ways to eliminate it: the only solution is hindering its spread — a tall task when one considers that a single cell is enough to facilitate its transfer to other waters. Local and national authorities are most concerned about the potential effects the algae could exert on New England's fish populations. "Once you remove (insects), young fish don't have anything to eat. Growth is slowed at best, and at worst they could starve to death," said David Deen, a Vermont lawmaker. Of great concern to scientists is also the fact that "rock snot," once a rare species, has seen its numbers grow exponentially over the last few decades. Traditionally a resident of high-altitude, low-nutrient rivers, the algae has now become ubiquitous in rivers in Missouri and Arkansas, leading many to wonder what factors have helped spark its spread. Some suspect drought, dammed rivers and changes in sunlight may play a significant role.
Though the algae is only in its early stages in New England, environmental groups and government agencies are taking no chances, urging fishers and other river users to keep their equipment and boats spotless. They plan on implementing further measures as they continue tracking its spread. "I think all of the Northeast is tuned in to see what the effects will be, so they can start taking preventive measures," said Mary Russ, the executive director of the White River Partnership.
Via ::LiveScience: 'Rock Snot' Clogging U.S. Waterways (news website)
See also: ::Sucking Invasive Algae Off of Reefs, ::Burn it Where You Buy it to Stop Invasive Species
Image courtesy of Toby Talbot