LAKEWOOD - Chautauqua County Executive Gregory Edwards announced today that a new invasive aquatic plant commonly called water chestnut (Trapa natans L.) has been discovered in Chautauqua Lake.
This past weekend, two specimens were collected by EcoLogic LLC, the consultants contracted to complete the dredging feasibility project for Chautauqua Lake. After careful review, Chautauqua County Watershed Coordinator Jeff Diers confirmed and identified these specimens as water chestnut plants.
The water chestnut is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa and was first introduced to the United States in the 1800s. It is a rooted, annual aquatic plant that has submerged leaves that can reach 12 to 15 feet in length and a rosette of floating leaves, which are green, glossy, and triangular with toothed edges. Each plant can produce up to 15 nuts per a season, and within each nut can be hundreds of seeds.
"The water chestnut could be devastating to our Lake's ecosystem," said County Executive Greg Edwards. "Just one acre of water chestnut plants on Chautauqua Lake could produce seeds that could cover 100 acres of water with these plants the following year. It is crucial that we act now to locate, contain, and eradicate this invasive species so it cannot further spread throughout Chautauqua Lake."
Water chestnut can form dense floating mats, severely limiting light a critical element of aquatic ecosystems. Once established, it can reduce oxygen levels, increasing the potential of killing fish. It competes with native vegetation and can limit boating, fishing, swimming, and other recreational activities. When the plant's leaves break apart, they can also spread through ponds, lakes, and streams by floating through the water or by clinging to boats and trailers. Further, its sharp nuts, if stepped on, can cause painful wounds.
"Efforts are currently under way to control and prevent the plants from spreading," said Edwards. "We will begin coordinating efforts to garner support from local, state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders so we may rapidly respond and identify the locations of the water chestnut on Chautauqua Lake."
For more information, contact Jeff Diers, Chautauqua County Watershed Coordinator, at 661-8915, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.