What is an invasive species?
An invasive species is a species that is non-native and whose introduction causes or has the potential to cause harm to the environment, economy or human health. Invasive species spread quickly and aggressively because they are hardy, they reproduce rapidly, and they lack natural predators/biological controls. Invasive species can compete with natives for resources, prey on natives, alter the environment to make it undesirable for natives, interfere with human infrastructure and activities, carry and transmit diseases, and make the landscape more prone to natural disasters such as floods and wildfires.
Invasive species are expensive to manage. For example, in Florida the aquatic invasive plant hydrilla is present in 70% of freshwater basins and costs the state up to $30 million/year to contain. In New York, hydrilla is currently present and being controlled in the southern end of Cayuga Lake, in Tonawanda Creek outside of Buffalo (which is part of the Erie Canal), and three lakes in Suffolk and Orange counties.
Invasive Species Education Program
Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) created its Invasive Species Education Program in 2010 with the mission of providing stakeholders across the state with cutting-edge research-based information and educational programs. The CCE Invasive Species Education Program is a state-wide program similar to other CCE statewide programs, such as the Grape or Vegetable programs. There are three Invasive Species educators based in CCE county offices placed strategically across the state, so that each educator covers a greater region: an educator in Erie County covers western NY, Yates County covers the Finger Lakes region, and Columbia/Greene counties covers eastern NY. There is also a staff member based at Cornell University, and a program director. CCE Invasive Species Education staff work with CCE county offices, Cornell University, citizens, and other partners in order to connect professionals and communities with information and assistance regarding invasive species prevention, detection, and response. Invasive Species Education staff host educational workshops, coordinate and lend assistance to groups such as Emerald Ash Beetle task forces, distribute educational materials, and engage in a variety of other activities related to education and outreach.
The role of the Yates County Invasive Species/Watershed Educator is to:
Why should we care about invasive species?
We should care because invasive species pose a threat to our way of life: the Finger Lakes (clean drinking water, fishing and recreation), forests, agriculture, wildlife, etc. Hydrilla has the potential to disrupt aquatic ecosystems and significantly limit access for boating. Invasive fish, such as the round goby, compete with native fish for resources and prey on native fish. Zebra and quagga mussels have the potential to cause harmful algal blooms and block water intake valves. Emerald ash borer and hemlock wooly adelgid are wiping out stands of ash and hemlock, and the Asian longhorn beetle, which is currently limited to NYC and Long Island, attacks multiple types of trees. The sap from Giant Hogweed and wild parsnip causes severe skin burns. Invasive plants such as spotted knapweed and swallowwort are a problem in hayfields and pastures. Agricultural pests and disease such as spotted wing drosophila and late blight cause economic damage. Diseases such as West Nile Virus come from other countries and are often carried by invasive pests, such as the Asian tigermosquito.
Invasive species become more unmanageable as time goes on: the sooner a landowner begins to fight back, the better. Invasive plant species such as Japanese knotweed are extremely hardy and aggressive, and large populations are very difficult to control. Properties can be overrun by undesirable plant species if these species are not controlled. Citizens should learn how to identify, report and manage invasive species so that they can protect their properties and the landscapes they love. The Invasive Species/Watershed Educator aims to raise awareness and provide citizens with information and resources.
Last updated August 18, 2014