National invasive species week, Feb. 25 - March 3, 2019
Study now to recognize and work to eliminate invasive species on your land this summer
Many Michigan residents are aware of the term “invasive species” because of the emerald ash borer or because of plants and mollusks that live in lakes and streams. Marketing campaigns like the nationally sponsored “Don’t move firewood” and Michigan State University Extension’s “Clean Boats, Clean Waters” have brought these issues to our immediate attention. Did you know that Michigan has more than just invasive forest pests and mollusks/aquatic plants? According to the Michigan DNR’s Invasive Species webpage, we also have invasive terrestrial plants, mammals, birds, fish, diseases and crustaceans that are currently affecting our native ecosystems. In addition, the DNR has published a “watch list” of species that are found in neighboring states or territories and have the potential to enter Michigan.
What are invasive species?
Invasive species are living things that populate areas in which they are not naturally found, or in areas where they are not native. By definition, invasive species also cause harm. Harm may occur to the environment, economy or human health. Invasive species cause harm because they did not progress in concert with the environment in which they are placed. In contrast to native species, invasive species simply show up and continue their life cycle, free of natural checks and balances like predators or native pathogens that help control native populations.
Why are they bad?
The harm usually happens once the invasive species is established in the area, which can happen in a relatively short amount of time absent the checks and balances. As populations of invasive species grow, they tend to be better competitors our native species for space, food or shelter due to the unchecked nature of their population. In addition, the growing season for invasive species, like plants, is generally longer than native populations giving them a distinct advantage.
As previously mentioned the definition of invasive species is that they cause harm to the environment, economy and human health. Examples of harm to the environment include (but are not limited to) death to trees, plants, mammals or birds, changes in vegetation that are not suitable for native wildlife consumption and increased vegetation in our lakes and streams. These changes can hurt the economy by affecting populations of (game) fish and mammals. In addition, economic impact includes the cost of removal of the species itself, or the removal of affected organisms. For example, the cost of removing ash trees that died as a result of the emerald ask borer is estimated to be over one billion dollars and was almost entirely the responsibility of local municipalities. Finally, the costs to human health include increased exposure to pesticides used to eradicate invasive plants and insects, increased presence of zoonotic diseases like west nile virus and stress caused by the drastic changes to the local environment.
What can I do?
The most important thing you can do is to make yourself more aware of invasive species in Michigan. National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) is a week-long celebration of awareness and eradication work surrounding invasive species. Organized in partnership by representatives from several national organizations and federal agencies, NISAW is also the time to raise awareness and identify solutions to invasive species issues. From invasive species in your yard to invasive species on a national scale, this week is the time to make a plan of attack for your summer invasive species awareness and eradication work.
To get started, visit the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN), which is a comprehensive online resource for invasive species established and with the potential to establish in Michigan. MISIN provides training videos and information to help with the recognition of most if not all of the invasive species found in Michigan.
In addition, you can help by spreading the word! Once you understand invasive species in your area, help your neighbors understand, too! Doing so can reduce the local occurrence of invasive species and can even lead to policy change or grant funded help with eradication.
The native ecosystems in Michigan can use your help in the fight against invasive species. Are you up to the challenge?