Invasive species. The kind of animals and plants that may look oh so harmless and pretty if we don’t know the fact that they’re slowly but surely eradicating native, local species.
These species can establish themselves in local ecosystems usually either by accident (hitchhiking or getting stuck to our stuff) or ignorance (releasing something outdoors or to the environment not considering the implications).
Either way, once they establish themselves, they’ll outcompete and replace the ones that have evolved to live there. Intruding plants, particularly, can kill important trees that will provide carbon storage and habitat for native wildlife.
Simply put, it’s not good to let invasive species roam around, otherwise the issue will become more complicated over time and it’ll be a lot more challenging to get rid of them.
We can do our part, of course, to minimize the spread, prevent, and help root out the problem. Here are 8 actions you can do to be involved.
Plant native species around your house
One of the most helpful actions you can do to help local, native insects and plants thrive is by turning your front/backyard into a little paradise of native shrubs. Sometimes, the native ones don’t need as much water and attention, saving your time and money.
On top of it all, you’ll help provide accommodating habitat for native pollinators.
If you don’t know which plant is great for the local ecosystem, don’t hesitate to visit your local nursery and find out about plants that are native to your area and the ones that are not so great even though they look beautiful.
You can also encourage your local gardening community to do the same, so that more garden will support the well-being of native species. By doing this, your local ecosystem will definitely thank you.
Clean hiking and fishing gear
Accidents happen, and that’s not limited to invasive species. Our casual hikes through the nearest trail or occasional fishing in some stream or river could end up being the cause of invasive species entrenchment.
We don’t know when invasive species get stuck to our boots and fishing gears. So, it’s wise to clean your hiking and fishing gears each time after you’ve finished.
An example of this nuisance is didymosphenia geminata or rock snot. It’s a type of algae that forms dense mats, forming thick mats that are difficult to pull apart or remove from rocks.
It can affect its surrounding environment in many ways that aren’t good, and even in its natural habitat, it has invasive characteristics. But here’s what’s worrying above it all: it can spread in a single drop of water.
Tip: some people have switched their fishing waders from felt-soled, to rubber to avoid invasive species hitchhiking the gears.
And other than cleaning your hiking and fishing gears each time you’re done with them, also do the same if you use boats. Aquatic life like the rock snot and other microscopic species can attach themselves and grow in other areas.
When you wash your boats, fishing, and hiking gears, also be sure to wash them with the approved method. We want to get rid of the invasive creatures only, not along with the native ones.
Use native bait whenever possible
Speaking of fishing, whenever we go to a stream, river, or creek to catch some fish, be mindful about your bait. Bait in a form of smaller fish or worm can be invasive to those new locations, so find out about the areas first and look for native baits when possible.
Once you’ve finished, don’t dump the bait into the water, unless your bait is native to the areas.
Learn more about species and be vigilant
It’s also wise to find out about your local, native species and others that are invasive or have the potential to be invasive if not dealt with carefully. Being aware of invasive lifeforms can help you be prepared about the steps to take should you find one or two around you.
For example, Pennsylvania suffered from an outbreak of spotted lanternfly in 2014. The planthopper is native to China, and it’s a nuisance to both humans and plants.
It damages plants through its excrements, and it swarms during spring and summer, covering decks and play equipment. And when one that lives in this state begins spotting the lanternfly, one can take immediate action.
By knowing which species is native and invasive, you can also report any sightings to your area’s agriculture websites or offices.
When you can, you can also make other people in your community aware of the issue and the species. Some animal or plant lovers may not know that not all plants are the same and might unknowingly spread the invasive ones.
Commit to taking care of exotic species
Having exotic plants and animals is exciting, and it’s understandable when you want to keep some at home. However, it should also come with a commitment: care for it until the animal reaches the end of its life and keep the plants indoors only.
Some invasive species outbreak happened because someone release exotic fish and plants to the local environment. So, it’s best to keep them indoors all the time.
Speaking of pets, if you also have cats and/or dogs and you regularly take walks with them, especially to new areas, don’t forget to clean their paws as well. Dirt that contains invasive seeds can get stuck in their cute little paws, so remember to brush the paws off.
Don’t move firewood around
It’s something unexpected, but apparently firewood can spread invasive species as well.
Now, firewood is often made of dead or dying trees, which are home to critters that can leave a devastating damage to the local environment. Therefore, moving firewood around has the potential of also moving invasive creatures around.
Buy firewood from your local shops and place them somewhere safe like you usually do. Then, leave them there.
Enjoy food from the locals
When you travel someplace else, especially to another country, leave fruits and vegetables behind, because they may be invasive or contain insects or animals that are invasive.
If you’re roadtripping, best to pack dry snacks as opposed to fruits and veggies. When hunger strikes, buy them from the local vendors instead. And, throw out food around the local area as well, don’t bring them back to your environment or others.
Volunteer in efforts against invasive species
Last but not least, volunteering is a great way to do your part to minimize and prevent invasive species.
Find local programs that take actions against intruding plants or animals. For example, you can volunteer at removal efforts of some invasive plants which have been covering your area’s forest floors.
I understand that some of us are more introverted than others, and so volunteer programs may seem daunting.
But, you may want to consider the benefits, like being outdoors (which is beneficial for your wellbeing), chance to make new friends, learning something new together, and having fun—while protecting native biodiversity at the same time.
Nonetheless, you can always remove invasive plants alone, or with your own friends and family in your surroundings.
Hope that the tips above can help you take part in getting rid of invasive species or minimize their spread!