NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Volunteers worked all morning to clean up an invasive plant species from Bayou St. John. It grows rapidly, and can pose a threat to the bayou’s ecosystem.
Those who have passed by Bayou St. John recently, have probably seen parts of it covered in green.
"This is called Giant Salvinia. It's highly invasive, it's one of the probably top five invasive species in the south," Loyola Biological Sciences Professor Don Hauber said.
That's why some residents in the area spent their Saturday morning in kayaks, scooping the weeds out.
"If we don't do something about it now while it's dormant, we're at risk of it covering the whole bayou, and having the bayou unusable, and probably having a pretty nasty fish kill," Organizer Clark Thompson said.
"It's a lot of fun to do this. I mean, I think I get more out of it than probably the environment cause you feel good about helping out," Robert McCabe said.
Hauber said it may not be toxic, but it can be deadly to other organisms in the water.
“It’s a very noxious weed because it grows very fast. It covers the water, blocks the sunlight from other photosynthetic organisms, and it disrupts the ecosystem in that fashion. Once it dies, it eats up all the oxygen out of the water,” Hauber said.
There also aren’t any natural predators to control its quick spread.
Volunteers said they started noticing the Giant Salvinia a few weeks ago, shortly after the floodgates opened last month.
"We started seeing it a few days afterwards, and we started pulling some out, but it got kind of overwhelming, and that's when we asked the help of City Park and Wildlife and Fisheries," Sonny Averett said.
Although volunteers made good progress, organizers say they won’t be able to completely eradicate it.
"It takes one plant hiding up in the reeds can go and blossom a whole new patch of this stuff, and that patch gets scattered by the wind, it goes up and down the bayou, and then you've got basically the infection just spreads all over again," Thompson said.
Thompson said the alternative solution would be for the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to spray chemicals on the weeds, but they're trying to get as much out as possible.
Those who want to help can find more information here.