Invasive species are plants, animals and microbes that are introduced into a non-native ecosystem and cause, or are likely to cause, harm to the economy, environment or human health. An invasive species that colonizes a new area may gain an ecological edge since the insects, diseases, and foraging animals that naturally keep its growth in check in its native range are not present in its new habitat, according to Audubon International.
Audubon International offers these suggestions to help prevent the spread of invasive species:
- Find out what the most troublesome invasive species are in your local area.
- If you don’t know it, don’t grow it! Avoid buying or growing plants that are known to be invasive such as purple loosestrife, English ivy, and Oriental bittersweet. Be especially careful when buying plants and seeds on the internet or by mail order—you may unknowingly contribute to the spread of an invasive species from one part of the country to another.
- Replace invasive plants in your garden with non-invasive alternatives. Use exotic ornamentals only if you cannot find a native alternative, and you are sure the ornamental is non-invasive. Ask your local nursery staff for help in identifying invasive plants.
- When boating, clean your boat thoroughly before transporting it to a different body of water.
- Clean your boots before you hike in a new area and when you leave. The seeds of invasive plants can easily get transported in mud and dirt.
- Be careful what you take with you when traveling. Fruits and vegetables, plants, insects and animals can carry pests or become invasive themselves. Don’t move firewood (it can harbor forest pests), and throw out food before you travel from place to place.
- Don’t release aquarium fish and plants, live bait or other exotic animals into the wild. If you plan to own an exotic pet, do your research and plan ahead to make sure you can commit to caring for it.
- Volunteer at your local park, refuge or other wildlife area to help remove invasive species. Become more educated and help spread the word about invasive species. Learn more about your local natural areas and the species in your yard. This will help you identify things that are not native and that might be invasive.
- Clean construction machines before moving to a new job site. The mud and soil stuck to the machines can harbor seeds from invasive plants.
- Try to avoid disturbing natural areas whenever possible. Disturbing natural areas can increase their susceptibility to invasion by exotic species.