Volunteers called upon to save lake | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Volunteers called upon to save lake

Isaac Brambila

A group working to eradicate or at least help control populations of invasive plants is on the move to recruit beach goers in their quest to identify affected areas in Lake Tahoe.

Eyes on the Lake, a program managed by the League to Save Lake Tahoe, is training volunteers to identify two invasive plants that have been on the rise in the area, the Eurasian milfoil and the curlyleaf pondweed.

The plants, Zack Bradford and Chris Carney of the League to Save Lake Tahoe said, impact lake clarity, out-compete native plants for nutrients and alter the natural ecosystem of Lake Tahoe.

Invasive species in general are among the most harmful agents to natural ecosystems around the world, Bradford said.

“They’re up there with habitat destruction and pollution,” he said.

Eyes on the Lake aims to take advantage of the opportunity people who want to get involved and already regularly visit the lake provide.

“We give the volunteers the tools so that when they’re out having fun – you know, scuba diving, walking on the beach, paddle boarding, kayaking, anything on or around the lake – they can keep an eye out for aquatic invasive plants,” Bradford said.

The volunteers then have the ability to contribute to an expanding database used by the league and shared with other organizations battling invasive species around the lake.

The league uses the volunteers to track new sightings of the plants in areas previously believed to be unaffected, and any growth of populations already identified. Experts then visit the reported areas by volunteers and address the infestations. Through the movement, the league hopes to find isolated populations of the invasive plants and eradicating them before they expand. The strategy is expected to reduce mitigating costs by limiting growth.

“These plants – were at a point where we can potentially control the invasion, so to speak, before it gets really worse,” Bradford said.

“One of the biggest goals of this program is to prevent that spread, so if we get ‘eyes out on the lake’ – you know, keep an eye out for these plants – if we notice a new infestation, then we can go and eradicate that.”

The movement also gives the league a reach it would other wise unlikely achieve. It reduces costs by reducing the number of staff who go out and inspect areas and allows them to focus on eradication more, loosening the burden of detection. Carney described the strategy as citizen science, where pretty much anyone can help identify the invasive plants with simple training.

The league asks its volunteers to carry an aquatic plant identification guide when they visit the lake, survey the area and document their findings in a notebook. Later, they can complete a data or log sheet and turn the information into the league. For more information, visit http://www.keeptahoeblue.org.

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