Over the last couple of weeks I have visited 5 separate lakes in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the purpose of these visits was to conduct surveys for Elodea canadensis. Elodea is a commonly used aquarium plant and is used in many school science lab settings as its leaves are very thin and cells within the plant are easy to view with a microscope. It is thought elodea was originally introduced to lakes in Alaska through dumping of aquariums into lakes. Elodea is capable of asexually reproducing from small cuttings, and due to its brittle nature, even very small parts that break off from the mother plant are able to establish themselves. Float planes transporting the plant on rudders from infested lakes to clean lakes is a growing concern.
Elodea can quickly overtake lakes, blanketing the sun from reaching over native aquatic plants. The entire ecosystem of infested lakes can be greatly impacted in a relatively short period of time. Large changes in aquatic habitat can then create problems for fish species that are relied upon by many people, such as Alaskan salmon.
To ensure Elodea does not enter waterways within the park, we have begun to conduct surveys of lake commonly visited by float planes. This year we went to Grizzly Lake, Copper Lake, Tolsona Lake, Long Lake, and Twin Lakes. Luckily no Elodea specimens were found.