Invasive species are organisms that are not native to the area and have a negative impact of some kind, whether ecological, economic, social, and/or a public health threat. The reason I am writing about invasive species is because the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) has new rules which went into effect Jan. 7, 2018, prohibiting the sale and distribution of 38 invasive plants. Invasive species are not only found in the plant world, both aquatic and terrestrial, there are also invasive animals, aquatic wildlife, insects, fungi, and bacteria and I am sad to say, the list is too long to fit within this column space.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, about 5,000 species of plants, animals, and microbes are recognized in the United States as invasive. You are probably familiar with some of these dreaded invaders: purple loosestrife, wild garlic mustard, hemlock wooly adelgid, Asian longhorned beetle, brown marmorated stink bug, emerald ash borer, wild hogs, and those are just a few that are found in Ohio.
Invasive species often have some or all of these characteristics:
• Fast growth rates
• High production/reproduction
• Rapid spread
• Lack of natural predators, parasites, and/or diseases
Why do we care? Invasives displace or crowd out native species, reduce biological diversity, and getting rid of them is a Herculean task involving lots of money, time, and serious elbow grease!
How do invasives get here in the first place? There are multiple ways. Sometimes a species is intentionally released with good intentions. For example, the European starling was released by Shakespeare lovers in the 1800s, and we all know how that turned out. Starlings compete with native birds and destroy crops. Sometimes a species is released with nefarious intentions — Florida is under siege by a variety of snakes and lizards that were once household pets and released into the Evergaldes because they were no longer wanted. Invasives species can also become established after escaping from controlled environments such as aquariums and hunting preserves. Feral pigs are a good example of this. Many invasive species are accidentally introduced as hitchhikers on agricultural or commercial products, ship hulls, and ship ballast water. Sometimes an invasive species spreads on its own through natural range extension, unassisted by humans.
It is important to recognize that the term invasive is not interchangeable with nonnative. There are many instances where nonnatives have enhanced our world – think daffodils and oranges. To learn more, check out the following websites:
• Ohio Invasive Plants Council at www.oipc.info. You can find the new ODA list of 38 plant species prohibited for sale as well as the agenda for the 2018 annual meeting at Dawes Arboretum on Feb. 23, 2018.
• US Department of Agriculture at www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov
• Ohio Department of Natural Resources at ohiodnr.gov/invasivespecies
• Ohio State University Extension at ohioline.osu.edu/search/node/invasive%20species
How can you help? Learn all you can about invasive species and share your knowledge with others. Control invasives on your property and plant noninvasive species as replacements. Be careful not to transport invasives such as on firewood or boat hulls. Do not release unwanted pets into the wild. Volunteer to help remove invasive species on public lands such as parks, preserves, and forests.
We also encourage you to visit our website at www.delawareswcd.org which was recently updated with conservation events and workshops for early 2018.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.delawareswcd.org.