Michigan aquatic invasive species featured during February 22-28 National Invasive Species Awareness

This week is designed to raise awareness and identify solutions to invasive species.

Michigan has a great variety of native plants, or those that have naturally evolved in Michigan and which have existed in the state prior to European settlement. You may have heard about invasive species that are wreaking havoc on Michigan’s ecosystems and have had a negative impact of some kind, whether ecological, economic, social and/or a public health threat.

Invasive species are the second biggest threat, with habitat destruction being the biggest, to Michigan’s native diversity. They have already had major impacts on nearly all of the state’s natural communities. Invasive species are literally found everywhere in Michigan. They are present throughout our waterways, along roadside ditches, in forests and natural areas, in rural, urban and suburban environments.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) defines invasive species as non-native, rapidly-reproducing species which threaten the integrity of natural areas. Once established in an area, invasives can have devastating effects. They often out-compete native species for limited resources including food and habitat, alter and damage existing habitat, displace native species and in some cases prey directly upon native species. All told, invasive species have been identified as serious threats to global and local biodiversity.

According to the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), it has been estimated that the damage caused by invasive plants alone costs the U.S. an estimated $34.7 billion a year. Despite the profound impacts of invasive species, WSSA believes that the key to being able to manage invasives and prevent their spread is awareness.

February 22-28, 2015 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week. The goal of this designation is to draw attention to invasive species and what individuals can do to stop the spread of them. This effort sponsored by WSSA, is supported by a diverse set of partners from across the country. The program website has a listing of events around the country related to invasive species with the goal of raising awareness of and identifying solutions to invasive species at the local, state, tribal, regional and national scale. A list of nine ways individuals can help is available as well. For more information about National Invasive Species Awareness Week, contact Dr. Lee Van Wychen (Lee.VanWychen@wssa.net), or Chris Dionigi (Chris_Dionigi@ios.doi.gov).

To help celebrate this week, Michigan State University Extension will feature aquatic invasive species that have invaded Michigan’s environment. Each article will include the following information: species name, description, list of species that are similar to the particular species, origin, how it was introduced to the Great Lakes region, how long it has been here, extent of its range, why it is a problem, how it is spread, management strategies, and tips on what individuals can do to prevent the spread of the invasive species.

Featured species will include the northern snakehead fish, parrot feather, bloody red shrimp, sea lamprey, rusty crayfish and European frog-bit.

For more information about aquatic invasive species in Michigan, visit the MSU Extension website.

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