Let’s Work Together And Keep The Water Chesnut At Bay

Much of the focus on Chautauqua Lake tends to focus on invasive weeds and harmful algal blooms.

That’s a testament to the work that has been done in the past several years since the water chestnut was first reported in the Chautauqua Lake watershed. The recent discovery of water chestnuts in the Chautauqua Lake outlet, though should spark concern. Invasive weeds are a problem, but allowing the water chestnut to take over Chautauqua Lake would choke off access to the lake in ways eurasian milfoil and curly leaf pondweed could never imagine.

The water chestnut — which is different than the water chestnut used in Chinese food — is native to Europe, Asia and Africa, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In its native habitat, the plant is kept in check by native insect parasites, but those insects are not present in North America and the plant, once released into the wild, is free to reproduce rapidly. It colonizes areas of freshwater lakes and ponds and slow-moving streams and rivers where it forms dense mats of floating vegetation, causing problems for boaters and swimmers and negatively impacting aquatic ecosystem functioning.

The Audubon Community Nature Center has been working for several years to eradicate the water chestnut from its Big Pond. Such an effort on Chautauqua Lake could literally take decades.

Lake and watershed users should remain vigilant for water chestnut and report its location to to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute at 665-2473 or WNY PRISM at 878-4708. Boaters should do all they can to make sure their boat is clean before entering the Chautauqua Lake watershed.

We’ve thus far held the water chestnut at bay. With a collective effort, we can keep it that way.