As all garden-tenders know, the most laborious and pesky aspects of keeping your plot of land up to snuff are weeds. These irksome visitors thrive as a result of soil tilling and irrigation, which are necessary to maintaining a garden. While some weeds can help fertilize and moisturize soil and even repel pests, not all weeds are created equal, and the most harmful of them are often the most beautiful. These spreading species monopolize light, water, and nutrients in their environment, often outcompeting the native plants in the area, along with the many animals that depend on those plants for survival. These bullies have contributed to a 42% decline in threatened and endangered species, and are directly responsible for 18% of falling populations. After direct habitat destruction, non-native plant invasions are the second largest threat to native species.
While they can be ornamental, invasive plant species are killing New England’s ecosystems like garden weeds kill your flowers; except faster, year-round, and without help. Invasive plant species were brought to our shores hundreds of years ago for their landscaping, medicinal, and agricultural values; others hitched a ride as seeds hidden in fur coats and livestock manure. To this day, new invasive species are establishing themselves through similar means. As they grow, they cause crowding to occur, which contributes to soil degradation, erosion and can affect water quality. Invasive plants can also increase wildfire frequency by providing consistent and easily ignitable fuel and the post-blaze soil allows them to further infest their environment as the growth of native plants is suppressed.
Presently, about one third of New England’s plant life is made up of non-native species, 10% of which are classified as invasive, making it critical to take action. While fully eradicating invasive plant species is seemingly impossible – at least for now – Wollaston Development offers some simple steps you can take to help stamp out these interlopers.
Here are some of Wollaston Development’s tips to shut down non-native invasions before they get a chance to establish themselves:
1. Make sure you’re not carrying plant materials when traveling and after outdoor activities. Invasive plant species spread rapidly in part because they produce substantial amounts of seeds which can easily hitchhike on your person. Leave behind any unwanted travelers:
Clean the bottom of boats before moving to a new body of water. Invasive plants can come in the form of aquatic weeds and algae too.
After outdoor activities like hiking or fishing, clean off your shoes and any equipment, such as fishing poles, hooks, and lines.
Check and clean your pet’s paws, which can trap and carry seeds.
2. Naturally biodiverse areas are more resistant to non-native invasions; they can’t crowd out natives with no space to displace! Here are some simple ways to maintain and establish biodiverse areas before invasive plants get the chance to take root:
Advocate to protect naturally biodiverse areas within your community such as parks and forests.
Create your own biodiverse area by only planting New England native plants. Since invasive species thrive in newly disturbed areas, if you’ve recently done any construction, renovations, or other disturbing activities, immediately plant native species in the area.
In addition to preventing new infestations, we must also extinguish existing populations. Controlling invasive species is a gigantic and continuous group effort:
1. Education is key! Before you can actively and effectively combat invasive species, you first need to know what you’re looking for, and where you should be looking for it.
Read up on which invasive species are common in your area so you can identify and report new threats of invasion.
Check if there are any local areas that are high priority for removal of invasive or non-native plants, like areas that are home to endangered species.
2. Now that you’re able to keep an eye out for species and areas of concern in your community, you can take further action.
Check in on any local reported sightings and prioritized areas frequently. The sooner a new or returned invasion is identified, the sooner action can be taken.
If you come by an invasive species, be sure to report it immediately to the appropriate local authority. The longer a sighting goes unreported, the faster the invasion can spread. If you’re unsure who to report a sighting to, the National Invasive Species Information Center’s website can guide you to the right contact.
Volunteer in local removal efforts. With the sheer volume of invasive plants in New England and their remarkable reproduction speed, eliminating an area overcrowded with these pests takes a team.