NEBRASKAland July 2016

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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Page 27 of 79

F rom June through September, you may see explosions of purple flowers along some Nebraska waterways. As beautiful as they are, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is a noxious weed, an ornamental plant from Europe first introduced to the northeastern United States for landscaping in the 1800s. Since then, this invasive species has invaded much of Nebraska's wetland habitats, quickly taking over slow moving, shallow areas along rivers, creeks and ditches, and drastically lowering the areas' biodiversity, productivity and economic value. Hungry Beetles In Niobrara, Nebraska, purple loosestrife is a problem, but it also serves as a learning opportunity in wetland conservation for Sharla Hanzlik's 10 th grade biology class at Niobrara High School. What started as a one-day community service event in 2005 has turned into a year-long, comprehensive conservation program passed from one 10 th grade class to the next. With collaboration and support from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lower Niobrara Natural Resource District, Missouri National Recreational River and several County Invasive Species boards, the students are helping to combat purple loosestrife by biological means: Galerucella beetles. These Purple Plague By Jenny Nguyen Tenth grade students at Niobrara High School fight purple loosestrife in their backyard. Their award- winning project has been recognized by the EPA. Galerucella beetles (Galerucella calmariensis) feed on purple loosestrife plants. 28 NEBRASKAland • JULY 2016 PHOTO BY MIKE FORSBERG

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