Spotted Knapweed seed heads - Land managers work hard to control or prevent invasive plants like this one from taking root. New research may help their efforts. (Photo by Barry Rice/The Nature Conservancy)
New research indicates that some invasive plants spread rapidly because they don’t have natural enemies to keep them in check. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush explains:
New research indicates that some invasive plants spread rapidly because they
don’t have natural enemies to keep them in check. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Mark Brush explains:
The research found that some foreign plants thrive in North America because
they’ve escaped their natural enemies. In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers found some of the enemies the plants escaped were
in the soil. They looked at the invasive plant spotted knapweed. They found the
plants are not only free from microbes that might eat their roots, but they
also found microbes in the areas the plants invaded that actually help them
Ray Callaway is one of the researchers at the University of Montana.
He says regulations are needed to stop these kinds of invasions:
“I think we ought to have much stronger restrictions on the movement of
horticultural plants and so on from across continents. I think we’re
playing with fire.”
The majority of plant invasions come from the horticultural trade. Policymakers are now
working on a protocol to monitor the importation and sale of non-native plants.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark
Since the terrorist attacks on 9/11, things we used to take for granted as being safe are now being questioned. Resources essential to life can be used as vehicles for terrorists’ attacks. Even drinking water is among those things now considered vulnerable. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Since the terrorist attacks on 9/11, things we used to take for granted as
being safe are now being questioned. Resources essential to life can be
used as vehicles for terrorists’ attacks. Even drinking water is among
those things now considered vulnerable. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
In Afghanistan, as U.S. intelligence agencies began sifting through the
material left behind by cells of the Al Qaeda network, the United States
government became more concerned. It looked as though the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon were just the beginning of targets in
When President Bush gave his State of the Union address at the
beginning of this year, he told the public about some of the disturbing
evidence the members of Al Qaeda were holding.
“And the depth of their hatred is equaled by the madness of the
destruction they design. We have found diagrams of American nuclear
power plants and public water facilities.”
While the President revealed that water systems were a possible target,
the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency was
assuring groups that the nation’s water supplies were safe. Christie
Todd Whitman told a group of environmental journalists that with
everybody on heightened alert, it was unlikely a terrorist would be able
to contaminate a water source with chemicals or biological agents.
“It would be extremely difficult for someone to perform
this kind of act, taking a truckload – and that’s what it would be, a
tanker truckload – up to a reservoir and dumping it in, given the
heightened security we have today.”
But an expert on the risk of attacks on water supplies says it wouldn’t
have to take a tanker truck… or anything close to that given the nasty
nature of some of the contaminants available to terrorists.
Jim Snyder was a member of a presidential commission assigned to
look at infrastructure and its vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
“If you put a backpack or a couple of backpacks of that
material in a ten-million gallon reservoir, which would be a medium
sized above ground tank, you would kill half the people who drank one
And Snyder says it wouldn’t even take that much to cause
wide-spread panic… to raise the so-called ‘fear factor.’
“You don’t have to put enough stuff in the water to kill people.
You have to put enough stuff in the water so that people can’t
drink or use the water. If somebody says they put something in your
water, you’re not going to drink the water.”
Still, the government tries to assure the public there’s not much to fear.
Again, EPA Administrator Whitman…
“The vast majority of contaminants about which we’re worried, we know
how to treat. We know what steps to take. And those where we’re not sure
of what we need to do, we’re working with the CDC to develop a protocol to
But the tests conducted daily at a water purification plant don’t look
for the kinds of contaminants that a terrorist would likely use. Jim
Snyder says the first clue that anything was wrong with the water would
likely be sick or dying people.
While the EPA continues to reassure the public, the agency knows of
the shortcomings of security at the thousands of water systems across
the nation. But treating contaminated water would not be the
government’s first choice. It would rather try to prevent an attack.
That’s why it’s offering the water systems grants to figure out the best
way to make their systems less likely to be targeted by terrorists. Again,
“So, right now, you’ve got water systems all over the country
performing or getting ready to perform fairly sophisticated
vulnerability analyses which lead to recommendations on which
components need to be secured and how they should be secured and
what kind of risk reduction one could expect from adding levels of
Some things are easy, such as locking access gates, and patrolling
lakes and reservoirs. Others are more expensive and challenging. They
might include changes in how the water plants operate, using less
volatile chemicals in the purification process. Jim Snyder says
probably it will take years to beef up security… but even then a
determined terrorist could still strike.
Another terrorism prevention expert, Peter Beering with the City of
Indianapolis, says people should not be too alarmed about the
possibility that their water source could be poisoned. He says of all the
things to attack, water is probably low on the list.
“The good news is that these are comparatively uninteresting targets to
an aggressor. And, as we learned, unfortunately, in New York
and in Washington, that certainly there are much higher profile targets
that are of much greater interest to people who are upset with the
But, Beering notes that water systems across the nation still should
take prudent measures to protect the public’s water supplies… just in
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.