Invasive species are becoming an increasing environmental problem throughout the United States. On a regular basis, environmental news as well as studies by state and federal agencies report on the presence of these out-of-place plants and animals along with their impacts on native inhabitants and the natural environment.
It was announced recently that Lake Wedington, located in northwest Arkansas's Ozark-St. Francis National Forest and an integral part of the Lake Wedington Recreation Area, will be drained due to the overwhelming effects of yellow floating heart, an aquatic invasive plant, on the lake environment. First discovered on Lake Wedington in 2007, yellow floating heart now covers 60 acres of the recreational lake, more than half of its 102 total acres.
Originating in Asia and now found in 15 U.S. states, yellow floating heart is used as an ornamental pond plant in non-native regions. It grows quickly and forms one large, rope-like mass over the water's surface. This mass will eventually prevent any sunlight from reaching the bottom of the lake. The plant has heart-shaped leaves with each stalk carrying two or three flowers with a total of five petals. The stems of each plant are rooted in the lake's bottom.
Lake Wedington is the only source of yellow floating heart in the northwest region of Arkansas. The invasive plant is competing with native plants for valuable resources but also hinders recreational activities like fishing, boating and swimming. These activities are an important part of the Lake Wedington Recreation Area. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and U.S. Forest Service hope that draining the lake will contain yellow floating heart and prevent its spreading.
Available sources of information did not disclose how the recreational area and Lake Wedington would be managed following the lake's drainage. Will the recreational area be closed? If not, how would an empty lake influence the number of recreational visitors? Will the further eradication with the use of chemicals or other means continue in the spring? If so, would Lake Wedington be filled after further yellow floating heart removal?