The Wonders of Wetlands

Last week, the PWA crew had our first adventure in wetlands along the Chadakoin river. When I first entered the mucky area, I thought it was nothing special. When looking at it from the outside, they just look like overgrown, muddy forests. However, wetlands are truly a hidden wonder in our community.

Wetlands contain many plants and animals, some of which are only or mostly found in wetlands. You can find skunk cabbage, silver maple trees, arrow leaf plants, and many types of ferns. All of these plants contribute to the stability of wetlands. You can also see many kinds woodpeckers and birds making nests in the trees. These wetlands provide important homes to wildlife as well as food for other species.

Another important fact about wetlands is the soil. This special saturated soil, known as hydric soil, has many minerals and benefits. As the plants in the wetlands die, they fall into the soil and decompose very slowly, causing the soil to take on a dark, rich color. The soil is very thick, and provides a great environment for growth. Because of the special quality of the soil, wetlands also provide flood and drought control. The soil acts as a sponge that traps and releases water. This helps to prevent erosion and helps to control water heights.

Wetlands are truly special places in our community, with important properties to help our river and environment. While they may seem like muddy, gross areas, the species in and around wetlands provide significant benefits to our environment.

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The Unknown in Our Community

Throughout the weeks of Project Wild America, the crew members are introduced to many new and exciting things in the community. Many of these plants and animals have always been here, but not many people know their official names and purposes. Here are a few of these species!

Sarah Quadt: PWA has broadened my horizons and sparked my awareness of so many species around me that I would have never known about otherwise. Two species that have stuck out to me the most are the invasive Purple Loosestrife, and its native lookalike, the Blue Vervain. Previously, I simply thought of these plants as “pretty flowers”. I had no idea that the Purple Loosestrife was actually harming our local environment, and did not attempt to distinguish at all between the two plants. Both are aesthetically pleasing to look at, but that does not mean they are good! That was an important realization for me. I also enjoyed learning how to distinguish between invasive and native lookalikes, and continue to keep an eye out for differences that set the species apart. I love being conscious of the difference between invasive and native. I now know how important it is to distinguish between the two when examining species in our environment.

Abbi WarnerThroughout this program, I’ve noticed so many different things. It surprises me on how much I’ve taken in already. But most of all I didn’t notice how many dragonflies were around in the Jamestown Western NY area. My favorite dragonfly are pawn tawks. The vibrant blue-green color is just so beautiful you would think they’re from the tropics. While we were catching them we took videos of how fast their wings flutter and it amazed by that in slow-mo the wing speed was still really fast.

Jasmine Buffone: Through the PWA youth ambassadors program I have learned many new things. Mainly I’ve been noticing the invasive species that are in Jamestown. Such as honeysuckle which I see at many public parks and other places. I feel that it is important to recognize these invasive plants that disrupt our environment; furthermore, contributing to finding solutions to these problems could help our community grow and flourish.

Anna Burt: Over the course of this last week I have encountered many invasive species that I have never noticed before. One of the invasives that stuck out the most was Phragmites. This plant is named using its scientific name, that’s why it sounds a little silly. Never before had I noticed these tall grasses growing along the side of the road. I always just saw them as tall weeds, nothing special. After a week of being taught about invasives I could point Phragmites out in a heartbeat.

Makenna Graham: Along the  Chadakoin Riverwalk, you can usually see many types of wildlife. My favorite to spot is the Spiny Softshell Turtle. I never knew they were in this area before, but since this program, I always notice them. We have a small population of these turtles in our area, and PWA is trying to keep an eye on them. These turtles are peculiar little creatures that you can usually see laying on rocks on sunny days. They have flat, oval shaped shells and pointed faces. Ever since I learned about them, I always make it a point to search along the riverbank for them when I am near the river.

Leanna Stratton: One thing that I have learned through this program that I didn’t know before was about the sycamore tree. The sycamore tree has camouflage for the trunk and that makes it very easy to identify. You can see them all around Jamestown like down by the Chinese restaurant across from Friendly’s. Sycamores branch out all over and make a kind of arch in some places. They can grow 75 to 90 feet and arch out 50 to 70 feet sometimes. They are a very unique tree and I love to look around when I’m driving and try to spot them.

 

 

What Are Invasives?

Before Invasive Week:

Jasmine Buffone: Invasive species, they often interrupt the biodiversity of an ecosystem. Although, they are apart of populations that surround almost every community. Certain invasives can be deceiving and hard to identify, some of them even have look-alike species. Many in Jamestown originate from places that are very far from New York. To name a few, Japanese knotweed, mugwort, and honeysuckle. These species will continue to flourish and thrive by taking over space and nutrients that other non-invasives need to survive.

Abbi Warner: Invasive species can be animals, plants, fungi, and insects that aren’t p1native to an environment. They usually try to push out the native species; having the natives die off. We usually look at them as pests, or terrible. But they do give a bigger and more competition to the native species, which can be a good thing but also a bad. One of the most known invasive species in Western New York is the Japanese Beetle. In my opinion, there’s nothing good about these insects. More invasives are Curly Pondweed, Zebra Mussels, and Honeysuckle.

Makenna Graham: Invasives are a species that is non-native to the area. These species take over the area they are in, driving out the native species. Because of this, the stability of a habitat can be impacted as some animals can lose their main food source, or can be driven out due to competition. The overall equilibrium of the environment is greatly impacted by invasives. Some main invasives in our area are Japanese Knotweed, Honeysuckle, Norwegian Maple, European Starling, and Multiflora Rose.

Sarah Quadt: Invasive species are any type of living being that is not native to a particular area. They can disrupt entire ecosystems, as these ecosystems may not have factors within it to control the invasive population. Due to having no limiting factors, the invasives can easily take over and drive other species out or trigger die-offs within multiple populations. they can also do the opposite, causing growth in populations. Biodiversity is typically always threatened when these foreign invaders are introduced 1402879245_9c832c7132_z[1]to the area, and this is a huge problem. It is common to introduce another species to control the invasive population or attempt to decrease it through other means. The Zebra Mussel is an invasive species flourishing in Chautauqua Lake, and it causes many problems within our lake ecosystem. It is important to keep an eye out for invasive species in our area!

Anna Burt: Invasive species are any animal or plant that is not native to a certain area. The invasive species try to push out the native species and “take control” of a certain area. Some examples of invasive species are Giant Hogweed, Zebra Muscles, and Honeysuckle.

Leanna Stratton: Invasives are the term when a plant or animal is in a non-native place. They normally make competition for the native harder and some completely overrule the area. Some examples of invasives are Honeysuckle, Muck wood, and Zebra Muscles. Sometimes invasives can help the population thrive and other times and can be very harmful to the area. Altogether invasives should be watched and monitored closely.

After Invasive Week:

Jasmine Buffone: Now, in conclusion, I have learned that there are many invasive species in Jamestown. Also, there are active programs going on to keep these plants under control. For example the hand-pulling of water chestnuts at the Audubon. These solutions help to manage the invasive species all around us.

Abbi WarnerAfter having a week dedicated to invasive species, I’ve learned that they really aren’t good for the environment at all. Once invasives are planted in the area its super hard to get rid of them. From this, we create programs to either get rid of or control the species.

Makenna Graham: This week focusing on invasive species was very interesting. I learned that there are many invasives in our community that greatly impact native species. You can find these invasive species all throughout our community, which is not a good sign. By mapping and documenting these species, we help to prevent the spread and introduction of these species to other communities.

Sarah Quadt: Invasive week was truly eye opening for me. Previously, I knew the basics about invasives; the textbook definition, what they do to our environment, and could name a few examples. Now, I find that wherever I go, I am looking to see if I can spot any. I have gained so much insight pertaining to our environment, and am noticing new species in places like my own backyard!

Leanna Stratton: This week we learned about invasives and why they are harmful to the environment  if they are not native here.  The invasive that we focused on a lot this week was water chestnut. Water chestnuts are a invasive species that can take over and dominate ponds and rivers and cause harm like boats not being able to through harbors. Learning about invasive plants in water and out can be very helpful because people can learn and help the environment with us!!

Anna Burt: This past week I have learned all about invasive species. There are so many in our area that I have never heard of or recognized as invasive. Some of the species we have found in this area are Canary Reed Grass, Honey Suckle (lots of it!), Multiflora Rose, Phragmites, Japanese Knot Weed, and Purple Loose Strife. These invasive species sometimes grow in large areas that interfere with the native plants growing in that area. These species are marked and closely monitored to insure that they don’t spread.

 

We’re Hell-Bent on Saving the Hellbenders!

The Roger Tory Peterson Institute recently got two new habitants- two eastern hellbenders. These salamanders are kept in a large tank at the museum, with flat rocks to hide under. Their names are Oneka and Tweeg, and they are the coolest looking creatures I have seen. They are slimy and cute, with short little legs, and dark little eyes. They go by many different names, such as snot otters, Allegheny alligators, or mud dog. They are such interesting creatures, but many people know very little about them.

Salamanders are quite diverse in appearance, Hellbender-DSC_1216-500x331coming in many different shapes and sizes. However, the biggest salamander of all is the Hellbender. These amphibians are the largest aquatic salamander in the United States, and the third largest aquatic salamander in the world. They can grow over two feet long and look very odd with a flat head, long wrinkly body, and brown spotted skin. They typically live under large rocks or boulders in streams and rivers, and are mostly nocturnal. They eat crayfish, small fish, and tadpoles. The species of hellbenders found in New York are Eastern hellbenders, while another species, called Ozark hellbenders, are found in Missouri and Arkansas. The Ozark hellbenders are endangered, while the Eastern hellbenders is a species of concern. Hellbenders do have lungs, however, they rarely spend much time out of the water. Most of the oxygen hellbenders need is absorbed through its skin, which is part of the reason why hellbenders are becoming endangered.

A disease has been spreading that affects the ability of certain amphibians that breathe through their skin. This disease is called chytrid, a pathogenic fungus. This can hurt the hellbenders by inhibiting the amount of oxygen that can be absorbed through the skin. Another cause of the declining populations is water pollution. Hellbenders are very sensitive to polluted water, and need clean, cold, oxygen-rich freshwater to survive. The pollution can cause other diseases that damage the skin, or make them more susceptible to chytrid disease. Populations in New York have been steadily declining, with the Allegheny populations declining 40% since the 1980s. Conservation efforts are being made, with hellbenders being breed in captivity and later released. Hopefully with some help and monitoring, these slimy little creatures will make a come-back and have a large population in the coming years.