Fighting Invasive and Threatening Species in Our Back Yards
Introducing chemicals or pollution into the environment can compromise an ecosystem. However, seemingly harmless non-native plants and animals can do an equal share of damage; invasive species can even contributie to the destruction of native ecosystems. Like enemy marauders, non-native species can quickly consume resources and multiply to effectively obliterate native species. Because these organisms have no natural predators in their new surroundings, they can reproduce quickly and take over. Many have the advantage of thriving in a wide variety of conditions. Native species find it hard to compete with such invaders. Some are brought into the environment inadvertently, such as when they hitch a ride on boats or in shipping containers. Sometimes they take a foothold when people knowingly transport them in, unaware of the ramifications. For instance, dozens of emerald ash borer infestations have been found in or near campgrounds. Vermont recently passed a law against moving firewood into the state, which can spread insect pests and tree diseases that can kill trees. State campgrounds have local firewood available to campers. The Asian longhorned beetle, balsam woolly adelgid, emerald ash borer, sirex woodwasp and the winter moth are just a few of the invasive insects currently threatening Vermont’s trees.
Non-native, invasive terrestrial plants are one of the greatest threats to the health of northeastern forests. They negatively impact the environment, are costly to manage and can be harmful to human health. Public and private landowners increasingly struggle to reduce the impact that these invasive plants, shrubs, vines and trees have on forest regeneration, forest structure, ecosystem function, recreation and wildlife habitat.
Many Vermont forests are still relatively invasive free, so they may stand a chance – if we take the issue seriously. Landowners and land managers must do everything in their power to prevent the spread of invasive species, including recognizing and removing new infestations early. These include garlic mustard, asiatic or oriental bittersweet, burning bush or winged euonymous, dame’s rocket, giant hogweed, japanese barberry, purple loosestrife, yellow flag iris and shrub honeysuckles among many others.
Learn more about why invasives are a problem and how you can help by visiting the gallery of invaders and checking out the prevention and management and safe gardening pages at vtinvasives.org.
At least 49 aquatic non-native species are known in Vermont, including Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels and water chestnut. Many of the state’s waters, especially lakes, have a history of impacts related to these invasions. Programs aimed at preventing the spread or introduction of invasive species into Vermont are the best and least costly means of protection available. For more information on aquatic invaders, visit lcbp.org.