Kathy Smith says not every bush, beetle, fish or fungus that lives in Ohio belongs there. And she wants you to know it. And pitch in. And give them the boot.
As forestry program director for Ohio State University Extension, the statewide outreach arm of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), she joined a statewide coalition recognizing National Invasive Species Awareness Week from March 3 to 8. The group's activities were reported by
"Invasive species should be on our minds all the time, not just for one week," says Smith, who heads OSU Extension's Ohio Woodland Stewards Program. The program conducts outreach programs on forestry and wildlife, including spotting and controlling invasive species.
"We're trying to open people's eyes to what's going on in the environment around them so hopefully they'll take action, whether by removing invasive species on their own land, reporting a sighting, joining a volunteer group or just helping us spread the word," says Smith.
Invasive species are those that aren't native to a place but arrive through people's actions, either by accident or on purpose. They escape, usually spread fast, and can reduce or eliminate native species by eating, shading, crowding, damaging, infecting or outcompeting them, Smith says.
In the process, invasive species damage their new home's environment and cost people, communities and businesses money, she says.
The exotic emerald ash borer, for instance, has killed tens of millions of Ohio's native ash trees. If it continues unchecked, it could wipe out all of the state's -- and North America's -- native ashes. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says the cost of the pest's invasion to Ohio citizens could top $3 billion.
The National Invasive Species Council, says invasive species cause a multibillion-dollar annual drain on the nation's economy. And the Convention on Biological Diversity calls invasive species the second biggest threat to the world's biodiversity after habitat loss.
"We live in a global society. Invasive species should be on everyone's radar," says Amy Stone, who's an educator in OSU Extension's Lucas County office and a member of Extension's Nursery, Landscape and Turf Team (ENLTT). The team conducts programs that improve Ohio's multibillion-dollar lawn-, garden-and ornamental plant-related industries.
"(Invasive species) potentially can impact the food we grow, our landscapes, our communities and ultimately our pocket books," she said. "The sooner we can identify them, the less the damage and the lower the cost to manage them."
And sometimes, too, invasive species come by sea. Or in Ohio's case, by lake and river.
To date, some 184 invasive species have been documented in the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie, says Eugene Braig, OSU Extension's aquatic ecosystems program director.
Four species of Asian carps, meanwhile, are knocking at the lakes' door. To the south, the silver carp, which is one of those species, is already in the Ohio River. The carps devour plankton that young native fish need to survive, breed quickly, grow large and come to dominate the waters they live in. In some parts of the Missouri River, Asian carps make up 90 percent of the fish now.
"Once an aquatic invasive species becomes established, eradication ranges from difficult and costly to impossible," Braig says. "Prevention is key."