Rapid response for invasive waterweeds at the arctic invasion front: assessment of collateral impacts from herbicide treatments.
The remoteness of subarctic and arctic ecosystems no longer protects against invasive species introductions. Rather, the mix of urban hubs surrounded by undeveloped expanses creates a ratchet process whereby anthropogenic activity is sufficient to introduce and spread invaders, but for which the costs of monitoring and managing remote ecosystems is prohibitive. Elodea spp. is the first aquatic invasive plant to become established in Alaska and has potential for widespread deleterious ecological and economic impacts. A rapid eradication response with herbicides has been identified as a priority invasion control strategy. We conducted a multi-lake monitoring effort to assess collateral impacts from herbicide treatment for Elodea in high latitude systems. Variability in data was driven by seasonal dynamics and natural lake-to-lake differences typical of high latitude waterbodies, indicating lack of evidence for systematic impacts to water quality or plankton communities associated with herbicide treatment of Elodea. Impacts on native macrophytes were benign with the exception of some evidence for earlier onset of leaf senescence for lily pads (Nuphar spp.) in treated lakes. We observed a substantial increase in detected native flora richness after Elodea was eradicated from the most heavily infested lake, indicating potential for retention of native macrophyte communities if infestations are addressed quickly. While avoiding introductions through prevention may be the most desirable outcome, these applications indicated low risks of non-target impacts associated with herbicide treatment as a rapid response option for Elodea in high latitude systems.