Photo via PopSci
It grows at a furious rate. It kills fish and threatens rivers and streams everywhere. It sprouts tendrils and looks like the sludge from your worst sanitation nightmare. It's disgusting. It's rock snot. And it's invading New York. Okay, so I was angling for the whole B-movie trailer voice over effect there--but it's all true. Rock snot, or what's officially known as Didymosphenia geminata (Didymo for short), is a single celled algae that's spreading across rivers and streams across the world. And it's spreading fast.
Rock snot was first confirmed in New York two years ago, according to the NY Times, but it's already made its way to some crucial streams and waterways. It seems to have a knack for stowing away in sport fisherman's gear and boots--that's how it's widely believed that rock snot suddenly appeared in New Zealand in 2004, with no previous record of its existence there, ever. And over the last five years, the snot has wasted no time doing serious damage to the Kiwi ecosystems:
Since being found there, it has spread to more than 120 rivers and streams on South Island. Blooms there have severely reduced fish populations and turned wild streams into sludge pits. Scientists believe that a fisherman from North America who packed his damp waders in a bag might have flown to a remote stream in New Zealand with the tenacious Didymo piggybacking on his boots. Once back in water, it made itself at home.
And that pretty much sums up the danger of the rock snot--it's easily transportable, multiplies rapidly, and it kills off fish by overtaking all of their bottom dwelling food supply in its sludge-crazed snot-a-thon.
And now its a mere 180 miles from New York City. If it remains unchecked, it could go further than decimating fish populations--it can grow so dense that it can clog water intakes and pipes, and could potentially meddle with plumbing and water transportation.
The stuff is such a menace that if you knowingly transport the stuff in New Zealand, you could face up to 5 years in prison--no joke. And it's a durable bastard of an invasive species, too: the stuff can survive up to 90 days in a damp environ like the trunk of a car.
So what's to be done? Well, the EPA has labeled rock snot an invasive species, which is a start. But if true action is to be taken, felt-soled waders--the most popular kind of waders used by sport fisherman, and the most hospitable to rock snot--will have to be phased out. Rubber soled waders are already catching on as a snot-free alternative. Time will tell if more decisive action will be needed to halt the menace that is rock snot.