Improvements in the use of aquatic herbicides and establishment of future research directions.
Peer-reviewed literature over the past 20 years identifies significant changes and improvements in chemical control strategies used to manage nuisance submersed vegetation. The invasive exotic plants hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) and Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) continue to spread and remain the plant species of greatest concern for aquatic resource managers at the national scale. Emerging exotic weeds of regional concern such as egeria (Egeria densa), curlyleaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus), and hygrophila (Hygrophila polysperma), as well as native plants such as variable watermilfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum), and cabomba (Cabomba caroliniana) are invasive outside their home ranges. In addition, there is always the threat of new plant introductions such as African elodea (Lagarosiphon major) or narrow-leaf anacharis (Egeria najas). The registration of the bleaching herbicide fluridone in the mid 1980s for whole-lake and large-scale management stimulated numerous lines of research involving reduction of use rates, plant selectivity, residue monitoring, and impacts on fisheries. In addition to numerous advances, the specificity of fluridone for a single plant enzyme led to the first documented case of herbicide resistance in aquatic plant management. The resistance of hydrilla to fluridone has stimulated a renewed interest by industry and others in the registration of alternative modes of action for aquatic use. These newer chemistries tend to be enzyme-specific compounds with favorable non-target toxicity profiles. Registration efforts have been facilitated by increased cooperation between key federal government agencies that have aquatic weed control and research responsibilities, and regulators within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). We reviewed past and current research efforts to identify areas in need of further investigation and to establish priorities for future research directions in chemical management of submersed plants. The priorities we identified include: (A) improving methods for evaluating non-target impacts of herbicides with an emphasis on threatened and endangered species, or species of special concern; (B) improving herbicide performance in flowing-water environments, including irrigation canals; (C) screening and developing new herbicides to supplement fluridone for large-scale or whole-lake management approaches; (D) screening and developing new organic algaecides to supplement the use of copper-based compounds; (E) developing risk assessment tools to educate the public on the risks of invasive species and chemical management options; (F) increasing cooperative research with ecologists and fisheries scientists to evaluate the long-term impacts of invasive species introductions and herbicide programs on native plant assemblages, water quality, and fish populations; and (G) improving the integration of chemical control technology with other aquatic plant management disciplines. While circumstances may dictate setting new priorities or dropping current ones, the list we have generated represents our vision of the needs that will require the greatest focus over the next several years.