Southern Basin Habitat Enhancement Projects

Thanks to a Duke Energy Habitat Enhancement Program grant, Catawba Riverkeeper is enhancing habitats for local wildlife at out Outdoor Classroom property in the Southern Basin. Activities include: building a pollinator garden, bat nurseries, bird boxes, wood duck boxes and more.

Southern Basin Director Haley Tedder with Demi Clark from She Built This City, one of our partners for habitat enhancement and many other projects.

Invasive Species Mitigation

In May 2021, Catawba Riverkeeper began a pilot program to combat Alligatorweed – an invasive species – by introducing alligatorweed thrips (insects) on the South Fork arm of Lake Wylie.

Alligatorweed on the South Fork arm of Lake Wylie

About Alligatorweed

Alligatorweed has been established in the Catawba-Wateree River system since the early 1980s and has spread throughout the system, with overall population estimates of around 100 acres, primarily in Crowders Creek, Catawba Creek and the South Fork arm of Lake Wylie. High water events often dislodge large mats of alligator weed during the summer, sending the mats downstream, creating nuisance issues for dock owners, marinas and public access areas. Until recently, there have been little to no options for controlling the expansion of alligatorweed, which can displace native plant species beneficial to fish and wildlife.

About Alligatorweed Thrips (insects)

Alligatorweed thrip

Recent research has shown that alligatorweed thrips (insects), which feed and complete their lifecycle solely on alligatorweed, show promise in combatting alligatorweed. In North Carolina, programs undertaken by the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service have been successful in establishing thrips in waterbodies throughout the eastern part of the state.

Once established, the desire is that the thrips will be able to spread and reduce the impacts from alligatorweed on Lake Wylie and throughout the rest of the Catawba-Wateree basin. Establishment of thrips in the Catawba-Wateree system could prove a viable solution to fight the expansion of alligatorweed.

What’s next?

Duke Energy and Catawba Riverkeeper volunteers will monitor and approximate the number of thrips on a monthly basis, including potentially relocating alligatorweed thrips to other locations.

Partners

This is a coordinated effort between Catawba Riverkeeper and Duke Energy, with support from the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Lake Wylie Marine Commission and N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. Funding is provided through the Catawba-Wateree Habitat Enhancement Program.

Media Coverage

Gaston Gazette – May 13, 2021: Tiny insect battles big enemy in alligator weed which threatens area lakes and rivers