OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Chinese scientists visit Oregon to confer about invasive species

10/08/2009

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Representatives from China's Fujian Academy of Science are visiting Oregon this week to confer with American research and outreach experts on methods of fighting the spread of an invasive grass species.

The grass, Spartina alterniflora (also known as cordgrass), is native to the east coast of North America.

Introduced into a Fujian estuary in 1982, Spartina has spread rapidly, threatening the survival of native mangrove forests and Spartina invasions have also occurred on the west coast of the United States.

In 2007, Oregon State University’s Sam Chan, an Extension agent with Oregon Sea Grant, led  a team of researchers, educators and resource managers from Oregon, Washington and Florida to Fujian, a province about half the size of Oregon, on the southeastern coast of China. The team studied the impact of Spartina on coastal ecosystems, and signed a memorandum of understanding to work with the Fujian Academy on the problem.

The visit by Fujian officials to OSU and Oregon began this week with a reception attended by OSU faculty and students and representatives from Oregon Public Broadcasting, which documented the 2007 China visit as part of its award-winning Oregon Field Guide feature, "The Silent Invasion."

Most Fujian residents live on the coast and depend on clean waterways for commercially important shellfish and other species. Mangrove forests in healthy estuaries serve as buffers from coastal storms and typhoons. When Spartina creeps in, it can form dense, floating mats of vegetation that crowd out the mangroves, increasing the region's vulnerability to coastal storm surges and threatening the livelihood of Fujian residents.

Since the 2007 visit, the Chinese have initiated a number of coastal wetlands restoration projects, said Fanglin Tan of the Fujian Academy, who reported on cooperative methods the Chinese are using to combat Spartina and reduce its effects on native ecosystems.

“First we control Spartina, then we eradicate it and then we plant mangroves,” said Tan. 

Among those along for the trip is Luo Meijuan, senior engineer of the Fujian Academy, who has received funding for a one-year research-abroad program and is considering studying at OSU in what could be the first of many such exchanges.

“Students can easily be supported and we can develop collaborations and research opportunities with the Fujian Academy,” said Joe Hendricks, associate provost of International Programs at OSU.

During a tour Monday of OSU’s Wave Research Laboratory, the group was briefed on wave energy, tsunami preparedness and estuarine restoration projects using bulrush plantings. Tan has built a similar wave facility in China to study the impacts of inundation on Spartina and estuarine species.

“We face similar issues on the opposite sides of the Pacific,” said Chan, who organized the China exchange. He added that Oregon's coastal estuaries showcase global problems of habitat alteration and resulting invasion by non-native species such as Spartina.

The Fujian team is spending the rest of the week visiting the Oregon coast to tour Spartina control and restoration sites, a number of commercial shellfish operations, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Whiskey Creek hatchery near Tillamook, and Tillamook estuary “bayscapes” (restored landscapes being put to multiple uses, including recreation and bird habitats).