What is an invasive species?
An invasive species is a plant, animal or other organism that is introduced by human activity into a new area where it is not native. Without natural predators, parasites or diseases, invasives spread and harm the environment, economy or human health. Some of the ways that invasives are introduced are through boating and angling, ornamental plantings and the transport of firewood.
(Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program)
Are all non-native plants and animals harmful?
No. Most non-native plants and animals are not problematic, and some, such as agricultural crops, are beneficial. Many non-native species cannot survive outside of human cultivation. Only a small percentage of species introduced to the U.S. are invasive, causing tremendous damage to water quality, fisheries, forestry, food supply, native plants and wildlife and even human health.
Which invasive species are most problematic in the Adirondacks?
Invasive species come in all shapes and sizes; some live on land and others live in water. Japanese knotweed is one of the most troublesome terrestrial invasive plants. It spreads rampantly along rivers and streams and causes erosion, which degrades fish spawning habitat. Eurasian watermilfoil is in more than 50 lakes. It forms dense mats and easily spreads when fragments attach to watercraft and trailers. Invasive animals such as feral Eurasian boar tear up crops and native plants and feed on small wildlife. Asian clams affect water quality, and spiny waterfleas impact the fishery food web. Insect pests, such as emerald ash borer, kill trees. While some invasive species are already here, many others have yet to arrive, which is why it is extremely important to stop their spread.
How can I help protect woods, water and wildlife from invasive species?
Simple steps can stop the spread of invasive species. Choose non-invasive plants to use in the garden. Avoid picking roadside wildflowers, which may transport seeds. Brush off boots, clothes and gear at the trailhead after hiking. Check for and remove all clinging plants and visible material and clean watercraft, fishing gear and other equipment after each use. Never release leftover bait into the wild. Rinse the tread of bikes and all-terrain vehicles between uses. Use firewood local to the area you are visiting.
Are there opportunities to volunteer?
Yes! Citizens are critical to help watch for and report new infestations. If you like to be on the water, help search for aquatic invasive species. If you like to hike, keep eyes open for terrestrial invasive species. If you are a landowner, learn to detect signs and symptoms of forest pests. Workshops in identification and survey techniques are offered throughout the summer. Details are online at www.adkinvasives.com/volunteeropportunities.html.
What do I do if I see an invasive species?
Call the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program at 518-576-2082. Another resource is iMapInvasives, an online tool for reporting and mapping invasive species in New York, www.nyimapinvasives.org.
What is the best way to control invasive plants on my own land?
Control efforts can sometimes do more harm than good. It is important to identify the species correctly, know the setting and extent of the infestation and learn best management practices for appropriate timing and type of controls as well as proper disposal techniques. For a how-to guide on managing common invasive plants, check out www.adkinvasives.com/documents/LandownerGuidetoManagingInvasivePlants.pdf.
What has the state of New York done legally to help prevent the spread of invasive species?
In July 2012, Gov. Cuomo signed the Invasive Species Prevention Act. The law provides the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Agriculture and Markets the authority to regulate the sale, purchase, possession, introduction, importation and transport of invasive species. The agencies are evaluating species and drafting regulations which will be available for public comment later this year.
Where can I find more information?
For the latest invasive species news, contact the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program at 518-576-2082 or log onto www.adkinvasives.com. APIPP is a partnership program working to protect the Adirondack region from invasive species. If you live outside of the Adirondacks, contact the coordinator of your Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) at www.nyis.info or call your County Cornell Cooperative Extension Office.
Eye on Invasives is a biweekly column that spotlights a top invader when it is easiest to identify. Hilary Smith, of Saranac Lake, directs the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, a partnership program housed at the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in Keene Valley. Learn more about this award-winning program online at www.adkinvasives.com.