USGS Develops New DNA Tool to Identify Invasive Plants

Researchers at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have developed a new DNA protocol to distinguish between native and invasive aquatic plant species that have almost identical appearances.  The tool was created using voucher plant specimens.

“When invasive plants appear in a body of water, local people naturally are alarmed” said Nancy Rybicki, a USGS biologist who worked on the team that developed the new testing technique.  “Enormous amounts of money are spent on control.  Some species may look very nearly identical, but they have unique reproductive and growth characteristics.  Identification, the first step for control or eradication, needs to be precise.”

The tool will be used to combat invasive hydrilla in the Potomac River near Washington, DC.