Throughout the world, and most definitely in the southeast piedmont of the United States, invasive exotic species are negatively impacting native ecosystems. Many of these invaders create financial hardships on people trying to navigate invasive-clogged waterways, or grow timber for harvest in invasive-choked woodlands. As I mentioned in an earlier entry here, invasive exotic species may be bacteria, viruses, fungi, fish, insects, animals, and plants.
In the southeast piedmont region of North Carolina where I live and garden, I’ve noticed exponential growth of exotic invasive plant species in my yard and adjacent woods. Here’s a typical example of what Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is doing to our woodlands:
The leaves of the vines outcompete tree leaves for light, and the vines themselves often girdle trunks, especially those of smaller trees (like the ones completely covered in the photo above). The additional weight of the vines makes afflicted trees more susceptible to breakage from ice and wind storms.
And, to top it all off, the vines make it much easier for predators, such as black snakes, to reach nesting birds in the treetops. Climbing a thick mass of sprawling vines is far easier than scaling a tree trunk, so snakes can go higher, and devour more eggs and nestlings.
This year, the North Carolina Exotic Pest Plant Council asked the Governor of North Carolina to declare the week of April 4-10, 2011 as North Carolina Invasive Species Awareness Week. The NC-EPPC is a state-wide group trying to bring attention to the negative impacts of invasive exotic plant species by encouraging conservation organizations, state parks, etc. to hold events that week that highlight this issue.
If you live in North Carolina, check with your local conservation organizations, state parks, aquariums, etc. for activities planned for NC Invasive Species Awareness Week. I know, for example, that the Triangle Land Conservancy is planning to feature some activities related to invasives during that week. For North Carolinians, this week will offer opportunities to learn how to identify and control invasive exotic plants in your backyards. Japanese honeysuckle is just one of many invaders you need to watch for.
I’ll continue to write about this significant threat to our native ecosystems from time to time. This is a battle we should all be fighting. We can’t allow the space invaders to win.