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COLUMN: Invasive species and what we need to know

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Invasive species are organisms (plants, animals and pathogens) that are not native to our ecosystem and whose introduction causes economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health.

Because of the potential damage that all invasive species can cause to communities and ecosystems, all New Yorkers have a stake in the problem. Monday, February 28 through Friday, March 4 has been designated National Invasive Species Awareness Week, the largest invasive species awareness effort in North America.

Winter is the perfect time to do your research on gardening or to learn something new. Anyone who enjoys gardening or the outdoors should be familiar with invasive species. Potential pathways for the spread of invasive species by individuals include the aquarium trade, boating, hiking, fishing, and swimming. Seeds, plant parts, or larvae attached to boots, waders, clothing, automobiles, recreational and commercial boats, paddles, life jackets, and bilge water are examples of potential vectors likely to spread invasive species.

Many invasive species are already in New York State and some are in bordering states. It is important to be able to identify these species and understand their impacts in order to respond quickly to new invaders.

Why should we care?

Invasive species are problematic for many reasons. Invasive species can have a huge negative impact on biodiversity. Invasive species can outcompete native species for resources, preying on native species and acting as disease vectors. Invasive species also have an economic impact; they can decrease agricultural crop yields, clog waterways and diminish the value of waterfront properties.

Many invasive species can also impact human health, such as giant hogweed, wild parsnip and West Nile virus. Giant hogweed and wild parsnip are invasive plants whose sap causes a painful rash and can burn the skin. West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that causes flu-like symptoms in humans.

What can we do to reduce the problems caused by invasive species?

Early detection and rapid response to invasive species can prevent significant impacts. Therefore, it is so important to raise awareness and exert control efforts. New York State is proactive in identifying and controlling invasive species and has established Regional Invasive Species Management or PRISM partnerships across the state. Oneida County is part of the St. Lawrence East of Lake Ontario (SLELO) PRISM region. Visit their website, www.sleloinvasives.org.

Familiarize yourself with invasive species of concern in our region; you will find interesting webinars and discussions on how to identify invasive pests. Consider becoming a citizen volunteer for SLELO PRISM; visit their website for more information. Visit the New York Invasive Species Information website at nyis.info/species-information. Here you will find individual species profiles, fact sheets and photographs of invasive insects, aquatic animals, aquatic plants, pathogens and parasites, terrestrial animals and terrestrial plants.

Invasive to fear

The spotted lantern fly (SLF) and Asian jumping worms are two of the more recent threats. SLF is of concern as it could have a major impact on agricultural crops such as grapes and hops. Asian jumping worms consume organic matter in the top 3 inches of soil so efficiently and quickly that they can impact plant growth and survival.

The emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle and hemlock woolly aphid continue to harm our trees. Oak wilt is an invasive pathogen that attacks oak trees. Garlic mustard and Japanese knotweed are just two examples of invasive plants.

The websites provided will give you information on how you can report any invasive pests. Spend the winter learning how you can make a difference.

If you missed your registration for the current volunteer master gardener training, we can put you on our list for the next training to come. For more information call us or visit http://cceoneida.com/ and click on the Facebook and YouTube icons at the bottom of the page for great research and garden information. Or call 315-736-3394 ext. 100.