Invasive Species Week: Non-native plants, animals a serious threat to global, local biodiversity

Read this series to learn what to do to help protect Michigan and the Great Lakes.

When water hyacinth plants escape or are released into the natural environment, they often form dense mats of vegetation which block out sunlight. Photo by A. Murray, University of Florida/Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

When water hyacinth plants escape or are released into the natural environment, they often form dense mats of vegetation which block out sunlight. Photo by A. Murray, University of Florida/Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

Michigan has a great variety of native plants and animals—those that have naturally evolved in the state and which have existed here prior to European settlement. You may have heard about invasive species that are wreaking havoc on Michigan’s ecosystems and have had a negative impact of some kind, whether ecological, economic, social, and/or a public health threat.

Invasive species are the second biggest threat, with habitat destruction being the biggest, to Michigan’s native diversity. They have already had major impacts on nearly all of the state’s natural communities. Invasive species are literally found everywhere in Michigan. They are present throughout our waterways, along roadside ditches, in forests and natural areas, as well as rural, urban and suburban environments.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) defines invasive species as non-native, rapidly reproducing species which threaten the integrity of natural areas. Once established in an area, invasives can have devastating effects. They often out-compete native species for limited resources including food and habitat, alter and damage existing habitat, displace native species, and in some cases prey directly upon native species. All told, invasive species have been identified as serious threats to global and local biodiversity. 

According to the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), it has been estimated that the damage caused by invasive plants alone costs the U.S. an estimated $34.7 billion a year. Despite the profound impacts of invasive species, WSSA believes that the key to being able to manage invasives and prevent their spread is awareness.

February 21-27, 2016, is National Invasive Species Awareness Week. The goal is to draw attention to invasive species and what individuals can do to stop the spread of them.  This effort sponsored by WSSA, is supported by a diverse set of partners from across the country. The program website lists events around the country related to invasive species that plan to raise awareness and identify solutions to invasive species at the local, state, tribal, regional and national scale. For more information about National Invasive Species Awareness Week, contact Dr. Lee Van Wychen (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)), or Chris Dionigi (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)).

To help bring attention to this important issue, Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) and Michigan Sea Grant will feature two invasive species each day of Invasive Species Awareness Week (one aquatic and one terrestrial) that have invaded, or have the potential to invade, Michigan’s environment. Each article will include tips on what individuals can do to prevent the spread of the invasive species.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

Read the aquatic series:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Water hyacinth

Part 3: Water chestnut

Part 4: Yellow floating heart

Part 5: Round goby

Part 6: Spiny waterflea

Part 7: Quagga mussel

Read the terrestrial series:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Chinese Yam

Part 3: Kudzu

Part 4: Japanese stilt grass

Part 5: Mile-a-minute weed     

Part 6: Himalayan balsam

Part 7: Asiatic sand sedge 

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