Different types of flora encourage healthy, diverse ecosystems that surround us. They are essential to the well-being of humans and other animals. Plants are smart —- they have evolved in their domains and environments for millions of years and are fantastic at what they do.
However, not all plant species are created equal. Sometimes, either naturally or by human influence, plant species not meant to live in certain areas find their way into new ecosystems. Remember, plants are adaptive and will do anything to continue the survival of their species. Species that begin colonizing in ecosystems they are not meant for are called invasive species. They differ from native species, who have evolved in, and coexist with other species in a certain region or area. The true definition of invasive species is “any nonnative species that significantly modifies or disrupts the ecosystems it colonizes.”
Usually, these species will dominate over native species and can totally disrupt an ecosystem and habitat if not caught and mitigated fast enough. They have the power to replace and even cause extinction to native species. Invasive species can be aquatic or terrestrial, meaning they can cause harm and persist in water and land environments.
Oftentimes, invasive persistence occurs through travel, either by humans and tourism, or direct imports and exports, where organisms and plant matter can find their way into the environment haphazardly. Although many non-native species find their way into new environments and do not reproduce, cause harm, or have the means or conditions to support their species, some prove their adaptability with force and can quickly become a large population.
East Coast Ecosystems and Top Invasives
The East Coast region faces some different and some similar invasive plant species to that of the West Coast. Keep in mind, there are, without question, invasive species that exist now that we do not know of yet.
Some of the most persistent invasive plants facing the region are bamboo species, Eurasian water-milfoil, Japanese stiltgrass, Japanese knotweed, English ivy, mile-a-minute, Canada thistle; a combination of aquatic plants, trees and shrubs, grasses, shrubs, trees, and vines.
Many well-known and well-studied invasive plants of the East Coast area have mitigation and education efforts that can differ based on state. This is mostly due to the budget, qualified staff, and programs each state has for invasive species monitoring.
Effects on Local Communities and Economies
Invasive plants can harm more than just the environments they take over. The overgrowth of invasive plants can alter an entire ecosystem’s food supply to the native animals that occupy it, forcing them to relocate. Total disruptions of the food web and interconnected predator-to-prey relationships struggle to maintain balance. The same can be said for aquatic and terrestrial environments.
Agricultural farming operations can experience huge losses in crop yields and spending more money on herbicides and mitigation efforts during their growing seasons if invasive species encroach on their soils. Aquatic invasives can hinder the growth of fish populations and create dead zones in certain aquatic ecosystems, depending on their type and behaviors.
Just these examples can lead you to understand how animal populations, hunting, farming, fishing, and other activities and careers can be strongly affected by invasive species, especially when they are not easy nor cheap to eradicate once they have taken hold.
Prevention and State to State Interference
While states collaborate and share information as best as possible to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species further, the challenge persists in many ways. This can include the challenges of budget, programs, limitations of knowledge, inability to control tourists’ flow and flow in and out of states, and mostly, the mostly very hidden world of invasives from the public.
The best way to mitigate invasive species is to prevent their spread in the first place. The second is to create efficient monitoring systems and programs that keep data and track progress. The third is to move fast when trying to eliminate certain species from an area.
It takes governmental oversight, state-by-state collaboration, and finally, public knowledge and involvement to effectively tackle the mitigation against invasive species. You can also help by planting native gardens.
Rafferty, J. 2015. Invasive Species, Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/science/invasive-species
The National Wildlife Federation, 2019. Combating Invasive Species, Web. Retrieved from: https://www.nwf.org/Our-Work/Environmental-Threats/Invasive-Species