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5 Surprising Ways to Fight the Spread of Invasive Species

Invasive species find their way to new ecosystems with the help of humans and their improved abilities to get from place to place.

In modern society, travel is easier than ever. While this is a fantastic achievement, there are also severe repercussions on the environment. Aside from the greenhouse gas emissions from travel, invasive species find their way to new ecosystems with the help of humans and their improved abilities to get from place to place.

A species is considered invasive if it’s nonnative and will cause harm to native species. It can be anything from a plant to an animal to a microorganism. They’re spread mainly by human intervention — intentional or unintentional — but also through acts of nature like floods and hurricanes. You can help protect your local ecosystems and where you travel by being a good steward with these helpful tips.

1. Research Landscaping Before Buying

Installing new landscaping can boost a home’s curb appeal and market value exponentially. However, it’s essential to understand the plants you choose to decorate with. While that butterfly bush you have your heart set on may look beautiful, its effects could be detrimental in the long run. Invasive plants spread quickly and often overtake an area, crowding out native plants and ruining ecosystems.

Work with knowledgeable nursery staff to select plants native to your area instead. They’ll likely flourish in your yard and won’t overtake your landscape. If you have a particular plant you feel you can’t live without, there’s probably a similar native species you could substitute.

2. Clean Off Outdoor Gear

There’s nothing quite like the feel of spending a few hours alone on the trails away from the hustle and bustle. However, you might bring home more than the fresh air in your lungs and sunshine on your skin. Seeds from all types of plants cling to your clothes, pack and shoes. Some are harmless native species, but others may be invasive plants.

Be sure to clean your gear off after your hike before getting back in your car or walking home. Waiting to dust off organic material allows invasive species to spread and take root in new territory. Make checking yourself for seeds and other plant parts as much a part of your routine as checking for ticks.

3. Only Buy and Use Local Firewood

Gathering around a campfire with friends or heating your home with your wood furnace may seem harmless. Yet, the wood you use might be responsible for spreading tree disease, invasive species and tree-killing pests.

You generally want to get firewood from within 50 miles of where you’ll be using it. Following this unwritten rule will at least contain problems within a certain radius. Otherwise, invasive trees or pests can be quite complex to remove or manage once they enter a new area.

4. Keep Pets Where They Belong

Taking care of a pet is a significant responsibility and you should never take it lightly. When overwhelmed by the time and monetary commitment, some owners choose to release their animals into the wild, thinking they’re doing the right thing. In reality, they could set off a chain of events spelling trouble for local ecosystems.

For example, lionfish are a popular choice for home aquariums. Because of this, experts believe pet releases may be the primary reason for this invasive species overtaking waters in the western north Atlantic. Their habits are destroying coral and harming other native fish populations as well.

Releasing pets into the wild almost always has detrimental effects — the animals become invasive or struggle to survive independently.

5. Identify and Report

In the past, identifying invasive plants and animals was much more challenging. Your only source of information was guide books and, eventually, low-tech internet databases. Everyone still needed the ability to recall details about invasive species and be able to recognize them when out and about.

Now with the integration of new technology like 5G and the IoT, identifying and reporting invasive species has never been easier. Several apps offer the ability to take photos and send them to authorities along with GPS coordinates.

Drone technology is another innovation with the potential for identification. The University of Illinois Extension Forestry Program started using drones in 2020 to combat the growth of amur bush honeysuckle. If you have a drone, you could fly it, take photos and submit them to research centers for analysis.

Join a Volunteer Removal Effort

While all of the above methods can help prevent the spread of invasive species, they won’t wholly irradicate the problem. If you want to help even more, look outside your sphere to see how you could be of use.

You could use a simple internet search to find local organizations with clean-up solutions you can join. Every little bit helps, so use these tips and get outdoors to help fight the spread of invasive species.

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