Though it may not be especially apparent at first glance, the city of New Orleans is under attack by a small, persistent pest. If left uncontested, it could seriously damage the homes and lives of the city’s residents. They were actually originally stow-aways from Japan, and with the surrender of WWII, and the need to package everything up and ship it back to the United States, lots of local asian wood was used, and along with this wood came the termites. They flourished as invaders because the climate of New Orleans is very similar to that of Japan, along with the fact they can reproduce quickly, and often go unnoticed until it is simply too late. Not to mention the fact New Orleans is basically all made of wood.
One of the ways that scientists are trying to take care of this problem is by setting up traps with tasty paper that attract termites, attached to a circuit. So when the termites eat the paper, the circuit is broken, and when they run over the spot with a metal detector, researchers will easily be able to tell if there have been termites there. Then, the tasty paper can be replaced with poisonous paper, and that particular nest can be killed. Though this will not by any means get rid of the termites as a whole, at least it is taking a step in the right direction.
It seems to me that this problem has gotten too out of control, and that New Orleans will have to take some incredibly drastic measures to keep these pests in check. Though what the researchers in film was interesting, it seems completely impractical on a large scale. All new homes will have to be built of non-wood materials, traps and monitoring systems put in place, and other prevention methods will have to be developed. I honestly had never heard of this issue though before this video, and though the city of New Orleans probably wouldn’t want everyone to know about their termite problem for tourism issues, it seems like they might be able to attract more activists and people who want to fix the problem if they made it more public perhaps? This might be a good idea, since sadly, the alternative is letting the city pretty much literally collapse before their eyes.
Photo from here.
A sweeping landslide is something that no one wants to see barreling down the hill at his or her own house. The Miconia has increasingly become a large problem within the island of Maui. This non-indigenous species is threatening to remodel its landscape. This plant traveled to Hawaii on a boat from Europe in the 1800’s and became popular as a decoration and soon spread quickly. The problem with this plant is that it grows quickly and takes the light and food sources of other plants quickly becoming the more dominant species and further more causing other species of plants to die. It has rapidly spread over 10,000 acres on Hawaii’s big island and continues to grow in shear force. The way that the Miconia is so effective is that is replaces the roots of the native plants with its own shallow root system. This is the reason why the Miconia is committing such a crime because what this does is creates steep slopes making the ground more permeable to landslides.
The most avid solution to this beautiful killer is being handled with the greatest of caution. There is even an “operation Miconia” This website has compiled data on the miconia and where it has been spotted. Also a strategic plan has been mapped out in the removal of miconia across Hawaii. Scientists have been using state of the art detecting equipment to find the miconia and up root it region by region. Even though this technique of removal is indeed tedious and time consuming I think that it is the only eco friendly way to oust this invader. Other methods like poison control and shrub burning might cause harm to the other species around. But what if the idea of bio control was put to use? The water hyacinth invaded lake Victoria, a prominent lake in Africa and was a major problem until scientists used weevils that had a keen appetite for the plant to dispose of it. This in turn prevailed so maybe another kind of insect could be found for the Miconia. Scientists like David Duffy a professor of botany have made conscious efforts to combat the Miconia. With time and resources this alien can be stopped.
Claudia Riegel, a termite terminator? If only she wielded the same destructive powers as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Maybe then New Orleans would be able to rid itself of the termite swarms that threaten to destroy the city. Claudia Riegal is one of the many experts on Formosan subterranean termites fighting to save the city from the voracious critters.
The Formosan subterranean termite invaders originate from Asia, inhabiting the trees in China and Japan. It is believed that during the Japanese surrender that ended World War II, wood crates made from trees containing these termites were used to store supplies onto the American warships. The first recorded sight of these termites in the United States was in Charleston, South Carolina in 1957. Since then, the termites have spread all throughout the southern United States. It is believed that the crates from the warships were thrown out into some landfills in the south in places like Louisiana. There, the termites found the perfect conditions for them to thrive. The climate was hot and sticky, similar to their native homeland in Asia.
New Orleans was the perfect location for them to build massive colonies, not only because of the perfect climate conditions, but also due to the fact that there is a seemingly unlimited amount of food for the invaders. Most of New Orleans is built from wood, meaning that the termites are living in essentially what is an all-they-can-eat buffet.
What makes these termites truly dangerous, however, is the rate in which they devour food and multiply in numbers. These termites form huge colonies in the wooden infrastructure of New Orleans, some can be as long as 300 feet.
While it is currently impossible to completely exterminate the termite population, people like Claudia Riegel continue to contain and suppress the termite population through various creative methods, developed from the knowledge obtained by studying these insects. Her suppression plan involves putting poison in bait stations. Since her research has shown that termites are very social, by poisoning these bait stations she set up and then allowing the termites to bring the poison back to the nest, she can kill off a large amount of termites, controlling the termite population. Approaches like this based on the extensive research of the invading species are the most effective ways to try and fight off such devastating invasion. Through learning more, people can begin to figure out how to solve the devastation that is caused by these invasive insects.
The Big Island of Hawaii is considered to be a paradise. With the palm trees swaying in the wind, the fresh pineapple, and the delicious macadamia nuts. However, none of these things are actually Hawaiian. Even the forest is beginning to become mostly made of foreign plants including the Miconia. The Miconia is a beautiful plant with large leaves that have purple undersides. It is this beautiful plant that threatens to create devastating landslides that could potentially kill the coral reefs. This plant started its invasion in the mid 1800′s when a European man saw the tree and found it breathtaking. He shipped the plant back to his home in Europe. In 1961, Hawaii accepted a specimen of this tree for a greenhouse. Before long, the beauty of the Miconia captured an audience and was eventually sold in nurseries. From there, it didn’t take long for the tree to spread all over the island. It had the help of the Japanese White Eye bird, who ate the small fruit and spread the hundreds of seeds over a vast area of land. Today, the Miconia inhabits 10,000 acres of land and is casting shadows over the native plants. The native plants are dying and leaving only the short sparse roots of the Miconia to hold the soil together. With heavy rains, there is a very strong possibility that there will be lanslides in areas where the Miconia is dominant.
There are many groups of people who want to be rid of the Miconia on the Big Island. They want to see the native plants of Hawaii to flourish once again and to save the land from disappearing into the sea. To get rid of the invader, the Hawaii conservationists are using GPS signal to pinpoint where the growth of Miconia is plentiful. They also use technology that allows them to see how light reflects off of the Miconia leaves. The people then take pictures of the forest canopy from helicopters with special cameras that detects the amount of light being reflected back. To figure out where the Miconia is, they find where there are patches of a specific light reflectivity that are consistent with samples of leaves from the intruder. After they obtain this information, the people go out to get rid as many Miconia as possible. They all do this in hopes that one day, Miconia will disappear from Hawaii, leaving the native plants to create their own natural paradise.
New Orleans is being overrun. It has been for about 60 years, since the first Formosan subterranean termites are said to have come to the United States. Scientists believe the little invaders came over in World War II crates, hidden to the people transporting them. Troops coming home from Japan and China were unaware of the danger hidden inside the wooden crates they were packing to come home. In under 20 years, the termites had taken over the city, and by now they are everywhere. The majority of buildings in New Orleans now have at least some termite damage, and the city is forced to spend ridiculous amounts of money each year on termite control. It is estimated that the United States spends roughly one and a half billion dollars every year on termite control, and most of the damage is done by the subterranean termites.
Scientist Claudia Riegal spends her time finding these termites and keeping the city together despite their best efforts to stop her. She uses bait strategically placed to cut off supply lines to the main nests and does her best to keep the termite population as low as possible. Scientists like Miss Riegal know it would be all but impossible to completely get rid of the termite infestation, but many methods like hers are used to kill portions of the population and keep termites from destroying buildings all over the place. Often, a preemptive strike is the most effective way to keep the invaders away. Chemical soil barriers are put around the building to keep the termites out, but once they get in, bait stations like Claudia Riegal’s are often used. Once the colony is believed to be destroyed, modifications to the building can be made such as removing the wood in contact with soil and improving sub-floor ventilation.
To me, it seems as if an infestation like that present in New Orleans seems almost impossible to battle. The only way to keep termites from going place to place is to basically scan the wood to see what is inside, and let’s be honest that is just not going to happen. It is very difficult to tell if there are termites in a home or building until it becomes painfully obvious and once it is that obvious, there is nothing left to do. The methods used by scientists and exterminators are good and effective on a small scale, but it is a constant uphill battle that costs quite a bit of money and man-power.
In the late 1940’s, following World War II, weary Americans set about crating their supplies to ship from Tokyo Bay back to the United States. Inadvertently, they also shipped an invader home with them, the termite. After the crates were disposed of in the south, these silent killers began reproducing and expanding in numbers. Several years later, by the 1960’s, they swarmed homes in New Orleans. Unfortunately, they also had an added advantage over native termite populations. Whereas pesticides and other insecticides can control native populations underground, the Coptotermes formosanus has the ability to live aboveground in trees. In addition, the hot and sticky climate of the south was similar to their native China. Soon, all of New Orleans was infested. Now, up to ten different populations can live in a single city block.
Due to the extreme circumstances, population control is a delicate situation. First, researchers must locate the termites. Claudia Riegel, a researcher trying to eradicate the termite problem in New Orleans, is looking to control their populations by leaving bait stations. Basically, these bait stations are areas where she sticks wood into a tube and routinely checks to see if termites have begun eating this wood. If she finds termites, she removes the wood bait and covers the termites in a chemical they will bring back to the nest; a chemical that has the potential to kill entire communities within three months.
Despite the potential of Riegel’s work, even she admits she is dealing with a problem that is difficult to solve. Although it may take three to five years for a colony to reach the millions of termites that distinguish it from the several hundred thousand found in most native colonies, termites reproduce quickly enough that most preventive measures are useless. In fact, this species of termite has never been completely eradicated from an area. Although it seems that she is doing too little (too late) to make a severe impact on the populations, the fact that she is not introducing other alien species makes her work more appealing. As long as she continues to create bait stations and attract termite populations, her chemical warfare method might be effective in at least limiting the spread of this dangerous alien. At the moment, it seems like the best solution to a problem that has become an endemic for the already struggling New Orleans population. As houses and boats are getting eaten increasingly rapidly, I think this method of population control may be the last chance to save the city from total devastation.
Even if you have no idea what invasive species are or what they cause, watching Strange Days on Planet Earth will practically turn your non-existent opinion into one that sounds educated and informed. This short film is dedicated to showcasing an issue that may not seem like an issue at all to some people, and the seriousness of the topic among scientists and ecologists.
The film premiers the origins and effects of a variety of invasive species, as well as counters to them and public/professional opinions. The video remains under an hour, but covers a host of topics and species, so content is minimal in quantity but maximum in quality. Which is excellent because people aren’t very inclined to watch extensively long videos regarding things they’ve never heard about. The pacing is such that a newcomer to the topic will not have any trouble following along, yet a veteran of the issue will still learn a thing of two. As a result, the length and pacing of the video are optimal for allowing the viewer to learn while still remain entertained. Also, the switching between CGI effects, interviews, and actual video ensures no one part of the movie gets too monotonous and slow.
However, not everything about this movie is perfect. The above mentioned CGI effects are…not even passable, to put it bluntly. This would not be the case if I wouldn’t have recently learned that Finding Nemo was released two years before this film in 2003 with incredible CGI. And with the funding of National Geographic, one would expect the effects in this movie to be better. There are some issues with the content of the film too, regarding the interviews and tone of the movie. The interviews are informative and interesting to hear (especially about the termite problem in New Orleans) but they are too repetitive. They seem to be the same 2-3 people or experts doing all the talking; a little more variety in the people interviewed would have been nice. The tone of the movie was my biggest criticism though. It was appropriate in some cases, but over the top in others. At times the narrator made it sound as if this is going to be the apocalypse or some other world destroyer, all while sounding preachy. The film did convince me that invasive species are an issue, but it did not sway me to believe that this is the equivalent of a nuclear war. However, others may find the tone to not be an issue.
All together, the film does provide an array of knowledge for all members of the audience to gain, all while keeping them entertained and interested. If one can overlook the terrible CGI, the repetitiveness of the interviews and the sense of doom and gloom surrounding certain parts, this film is an excellent short documentary regarding an issue many don’t know about.
Invasive species truly are impacting a variety of places all over the world. Although many are silently dwelling underwater or burrowing through wood, others are right out in the open, outcompeting native species and tampering with natural ecosystems. This is the case in Hawaii with the Miconia tree. The tree was originally transported to the island due to the physical attractiveness and unique leaves with purple undersides. However, what began as a few harmless plants quickly erupted into a much bigger issue, with the Miconia rapidly spreading to take over large areas of the island. The most visible problem this alien species creates is erosion. By growing taller than surrounding vegetation and blocking the sunlight, plants around the trees die out. Since the roots of the Miconia do not reach deep into the soil, the cliffs of the island become extremely vulnerable to landslides and excessive erosion.
To counteract the spread of the tree, a powerful mix of physical manpower and advanced technology has been used. By photographing the landscape of Hawaii with many different cameras with advanced light sensors, an ecologist named Greg Asner has been able to accurately map out where large populations of Miconia exist. Then, it is up to organized groups to seek out and destroy the unwanted species.
I was impressed with the technology being used to attempt to solve the issue of Miconia in Hawaii. Although biocontrol has proven effective in removing some alien species such as the water hyacinth, I think the only way we stand a chance to restore ecosystems back to their natural states is by using these creative and advanced techniques. It is unfortunate that Asner has deducted such an effective way to map out exactly where the trees are living without a fast and effective way to destroy them. However, I’m sure if the Miconia continue to grow in population this quickly, more people will become aware of the issue and more will be done.
Through the film, “Strange Days on Planet Earth” (2005), director Edward Norton has achieved his goal of promoting awareness of invasive species. Narrating from a neighborhood cul-de-sac, Norton’s explains the local impacts of these micro- and macroscopic organisms. In a series of well-edited sequences, the viewer is transported to a New Orleans invested by termites, a Lake Victoria covered in water hyacinth, and a Hawaii overgrown with miconia. Each location had vivid explanations of what precipitated the infestation, what the result was, and what is currently being done.
A striking observation from each location is how such small human actions could trigger huge ecological ramifications, as shown through flashbacks sequences in the film. A simple foreign plant given as a gift could take over an entire forest. Organisms invisible to the human eye can easily be transported long distances on clothing, shipping cargo, and any mode of transportation they can find. One of the scientists in the film even noted that he was wearing specialized boots to prevent even himself from spreading the species he was studying to foreign areas.
Globalization, as explained by the film, is one of the primary causes of such spreads. Never before had animals had the mobility to cross such vast distances and establish holds in foreign habitats. The skyrocketing rate of world trade expansion has overridden animal migration, natural selection, and adaptation. Foreign species are being haphazardly inserted into ecosystems that can not cope with them. Variety of species is on the decline, and as emphasized in the movie, animals found nowhere else in the world are being out-competed by new invaders.
However, there is still hope. The film outlined several measures used to fight these invaders. Precisely allocated poison was used to kill off swarms of New Orleans termites right in their networks of tunnels. Water Hyacinth in Lake Victoria are being kept off the banks through careful use of risky bio-control. Miconia is being cleared from the forest of Hawaii by organized groups of volunteers and solo environmentalists. With cinematography that is pleasing to the eye, “Strange Days on Planet Earth” (2005) raises an important issue to all species in this new, globalized world.