OSU Wexner Medical Center’s Green Team Monthly Webinar Series presents:
Clean up Your Household’s ‘Carbon Trash’ and Become Carbon Neutral – with Daniel Poynter.
Tuesday, Jul 20, 2021 12:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
About the speaker:
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You can be a FLOW citizen scientist with just your smart phone and an iNaturalist account!
iNaturalist observations allow anyone to identify and share their observations of living things – animals, plants, fungi, and more.
We have added the Lower Olentangy Watershed as a “place” in iNaturalist, so any of your observations with coordinates within the watershed will automatically appear under that listing, helping us better determine the diversity of species in the watershed. It doesn’t have to be an unusual or rare species to be of interest.
You can search for Lower Olentangy Watershed or even Olentangy and see what wonders your watershed holds!
Upload your nature photo(s) to your iNaturalist account (it’s free!) and the site will offer suggestions to help you identify what you are looking at, and other users actively reach out and help confirm many of your identifications. The more detailed the photo the better, and you can add multiple photos of the same plant or animal.
What is monofilament?
This is the most common type of fishing line. As opposed to fishing line that is braided or made from multiple fibers, monofilament is made from a single strand. You have probably seen monofilament if you have ever gone fishing or been around fishermen. Unfortunately, if you like to walk by lakes or rivers, you have likely also seen discarded monofilament left along the banks.
What are the negative environmental impacts of monofilament?
It is not difficult to imagine how helpless wildlife can be against long durable plastic strings. When monofilament is left out in nature, fish, birds, and mammals can easily get entangled in it. It is thin and often clear, so it is difficult to see. Once an animal comes in contact with monofilament, survival can become difficult.
When monofilament wraps around a limb, it can impede walking or flying, or cause amputation. If the monofilament affects the animal’s ability to catch food or eat, the animal will likely die of starvation. Drowning, strangulation, and other serious injuries are also possible. Sometimes monofilament is accidentally ingested. Depending on the amount, the animals might not be able to pass through their digestive systems.
What is the proper way to recycle monofilament?
The only safe way to discard monofilament is to drop it in dedicated recycling boxes in parks or at participating tackle shops. The lines in these boxes are taken to special plants that have the capacity to recycle monofilament. Note that you should not put any braided or multi-string line in these boxes.
Monofilament cannot be recycled along with other household plastics. Due to its high-density, it requires a special recycling process.
Disposing of monofilament in a regular garbage bin does not solve the problem either. Wind can blow monofilament out of trash cans. In landfills, birds and scavengers looking for nest materials can pick it up. Monofilament is non-biodegradable and can last thousands of years, so it is important to make sure that it does not get into landfills to begin with.
What else can you do to help?
Here are some things you can do to keep monofilament away from wildlife.
If you like to go fishing, make sure to do the following:
1) Cast your line away from trees and other areas where it may get caught.
2) Check your line often to avoid unexpected breaks.
3) Never leave your line unattended.
4) Discard old monofilament line in proper boxes.
5) Remove hooks from the monofilament line before recycling.
When you come across discarded monofilament in the parks – please pick it up and recycle it properly later. If you are eager to help even more – join a volunteer group to pick up monofilament along rivers and lakes.
Thank you for keeping our watershed safe for all!
Written by Sonya Afanasyeva
The City of Columbus Recreation and Parks Department has picked Alignment 2 for the Olentangy Trail “Gap” between Clinton Como Park and Northmoor Park. Per our Capstone Team’s assessment, this was the least environmentally impactful alignment. We will be losing trees and have more impervious surface in our 100 year floodplain (approximately 1.5 acres). No Stormwater Mitigation will be done on site unfortunately.
For details on the project (including public comments, all alternatives presented, and more) visit the Columbus Recreation & Parks site here.
A capstone team analyzed the 5 alternative plans for environmental and safety impacts and choose Alternative 2 as the most favorable of the 5. Their draft report can be read here: First Draft of Olentangy Trail Gap Assessment Report
Neonicotiniods, also referred to as neonics, were developed in the 1980s and soon became the most used insecticide in the world. Their popularity spread in part because manufacturers advertised them as “safer” insecticides. By some definitions, this is true. Neonics have a relatively low toxicity to mammals and humans. They can also be applied in a targeted manner, decreasing the amount of run-off product. Yet only a few decades later, neonics have been largely banned in the European Union and have come under scrutiny in the United States. So, what is the problem?
Study after study have linked declining bee and bird populations to the use of neonics. Manufacturers claim that in the real world, wildlife only encounters quantities that are sublethal. The problem is that a sublethal amount of the toxin is enough to cause enormous damage to both an individual and, in the case of pollinators, its colony.
Neonics have several modes of application. These are: seed coating, drenching the soil around the base of a plant, trunk injection, dissolved in irrigation water, or sprayed on leaves. Neonics are a synthetic modification of nicotine, and they work in a similar manner. They are systemic insecticides, which means that regardless of the mode of application, the toxin binds to cells and becomes incorporated and distributed throughout the whole plant. If a bee encounters the pollen of a plant that grew from a treated seed – that bee becomes exposed to the toxin. Is such exposure enough to be dangerous to the bee? Unfortunately, studies show that it is.
In the mid-2000s scientists noticed a decline in the number of beehives and started to inspect the effects of neonics on bees. Throughout the 2010s, studies determined with growing certainty that neonics were in fact contributing to the decline of bee populations. According to a 2019 study, neonics have made the American agricultural landscape 48 times more toxic to honeybees than it was 25 years before. The Bombus Affinis, a North American bumblebee, has decreased in 90% of its natural habitats. Much of this decrease has been attributed to neonics. Studies have also discovered that the toxin can be found in soil and pollen up to two years after treated seeds were planted.
Worker bees have complex routines. They learn to understand smells and patterns and memorize the best routes to and from food sources. Neonics affect bees’ nervous systems. They hinder their ability to fly, learn, and memorize. While an encounter with a sublethal dose of neonics will not kill a bee, it affects its health and ability to work. An exposed bee is likely to spread the toxin and bring it back to its hive. As more bees are affected, the threat of colony collapse increases. Neonics can also harm the queens’ ability to reproduce, leading to a decline in worker bee production. Affected larvae take longer to develop and exposed adults have shorter life spans. The toxin can also disrupt bees’ immune systems, making them vulnerable to viral infections.
Declines in bird populations have also been linked to neonics. Insect eating birds have been harmed both by a decline in their food source and by consuming affected insects. More notable is the dramatic decline in North American songbirds. Much like nicotine, neonics act as an appetite suppressant to seed eating birds. Birds migrate during spring when farmers are planting crops. During migration, gaining weight at stopover sites is crucial for birds. If a bird consumes part of a treated seed, it stops eating and loses weight. One study tracked birds that consumed a tenth of a treated seed. The birds were lethargic and did not have an appetite. They lost 6% of their body mass within six hours, and many stayed behind to recover for an extra three days. Even if a bird recovers, the delay can still damage its chances of surviving and reproducing.
There is good news, though. The Environmental Protection Agency is very concerned with the continued use of neonics in the United States. The agency is working on legislation that would ban or restrict their use. Early in 2019, over 140 garden retailers, including Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, Kroger, and Whole Foods, committed to cut products that contain neonics. Most stores have not yet announced whether they have accomplished this. Home Depot claims to be 98% free of such products. They also label the plants that contain neonics, making it easier for shoppers to avoid them.
You can also help to decrease the spread of neonics. When shopping for plants, ask your nursery staff if they know which products have been treated with neonics. Avoid insecticides with these ingredients: imidacloprid, acetamiprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam, thiacloprid, nitenpyram. Finally, plant flowers that are safe and attractive to pollinators in your yard. Even small urban gardens are valuable to pollinators, who are in turn vital to the health of our ecosystems.
Article by Sonya Afanasyeva
Featured photo: A pollinator friendly garden. Photo by Sonya Afanasyeva.
What is it?
You probably know garlic mustard even if you don’t know you know it. Odds are, it has invaded forest areas near you as it has much of the midwest. Garlic mustard, Jack-In-the-Bush, or Alliaria petiolata is a non-native understory invasive plant in North America. Garlic mustard was brought to the Americas nearly two hundred years ago from Europe as a medicinal and culinary herb. Today, it can be found in nearly every county of Ohio.
Crushed garlic mustard leaves have a distinct garlic-y smell, giving the plant one of its names. Its scent is one way to identify the plant. Otherwise, garlic mustard is a biennial (it has a two-year life cycle) and looks different based on its life stage. First-year garlic mustard grows in rosettes close to the ground. Young leaves are round or have kidney shapes and often have purple stems. In its second year, garlic mustard is easier to identify and grows up to three or four feet. It has triangular, heart-shaped leaves with toothed edges. Garlic mustard’s flower is white and four-petaled. To learn more, check out this online resource from the Ohio Invasive Plants Council.
Why is it a problem?
Non-natives follow the “Tens Rule,” meaning that one in ten non-native species will become established in their new environment, but only one in ten of those established species will become invasive. Those few invasive species pack a big punch. Like all non-native invasives, garlic mustard wreaks havoc by out-competing native plants in foreign locations with no natural controls. For instance, our growing deer population does not eat garlic mustard because deer did not evolve and adapt to eat it. This means native understory plants are eaten by deer when garlic mustard continues to spread. Native food-webs and ecosystems are thrown out of balance by invasives like garlic mustard.
One garlic mustard plant can release thousands of seeds that will remain viable in the environment for up to seven years. This makes it easier for garlic mustard to spread and overwhelm an area, decreasing its biodiversity and health. Most commonly, the plant thrives in forest and edge habitats. Garlic mustard sprouts earlier in the spring than most native species. When native species eventually emerge, garlic mustard blocks sunlight making it more difficult for natives like our beautiful wildflowers to grow. Garlic mustard is particularly damaging because it secretes a compound called sinigrin into the soil that destroys fungal networks that support native species. This makes it even more difficult for resident native plants to thwart the invasive and lessens native plant’s biotic resistance.
Garlic mustard has transformed our natural ecosystems. It can out-compete tree seedlings which halts the recovery of forests. Garlic mustard alters the habitat of mollusks and salamanders, threatening their survival. The West Virginia White Butterfly is particularly endangered by garlic mustard. The butterfly lays its eggs on the plant because it secretes chemicals similar to the butterfly’s host plants. In reality, this is just a disguise as garlic mustard is toxic to the butterfly.
What to do about it?
Removing garlic mustard requires time and vigilance. Because garlic mustard seeds last in the environment, it can take nearly seven years to exhaust the seed bank. Nonetheless, we can all try to fight back against this invasive plant. Garlic mustard can be mechanically removed via pulling and cutting in your yard and local areas. Some chemical solutions exist and even biological controls are being explored. Here, we will focus on mechanical controls. To pull garlic mustard, pull from the base of the stem to remove the entire root system. Try to pull the weed before it seeds. In large infestations, it may be more manageable to cut garlic mustard close to the ground. Either way, be sure to bag and throw out your pulled or cut plants rather than composting them or leaving them at the site, as this will only continue to spread the seeds.
Or, rather than sending the weeds to a landfill, you can eat them as the Europeans intended! Garlic mustard is a tasty and nutritious plant that is an excellent source of vitamin C. Garlic mustard can be added to salads, made into pesto, and much more. You can find a collection of various recipes here. Garlic mustard should be harvested when young because older plants are more bitter and contain cyanide so therefore must be cooked thoroughly. Garlic mustard shoots are similar to garlic scapes and snap peas while the plant’s roots taste like horseradish. To quote the USDA, let’s eat it to beat it!
This spring, an Americorps team joining FLOW will be removing garlic mustard from the Sawmill Wetlands, the Stratford Ecological Preserve, and the Methodist Theological School of Ohio to combat the spread of the invasive non-native species in the Olentangy watershed. To learn about other invasive species in Ohio and what is being done to control them, check out FLOW’s website or the Ohio Invasive Plants Council’s website.
Cover photo: FLOW volunteer pulling garlic mustard at Sawmill Wetlands (pre-COVID).