BLACKSBURG, VA., Sept. 3, 2002 – In an effort to minimize the damage done by non-native plant species, Jim Parkhurst, associate professor of fisheries and wildlife in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech, has been developing strategies for citizens and government agencies to control the exotic species invading America's ecosystems. According to the Federal Interagency Committee on Noxious and Exotic Weeds, there are approximately 1,400 plants in this country that are not native to this continent, 94 of which are causing significant ecological and economic problems. By some estimates, about 4,600 acres per day nationwide fall victim to the effects of non-native species.
In addition to threatening biodiversity, reducing habitat quality, and impairing ecosystem functioning, these invasives exact a substantial economic price. Federal agencies now estimate that the loss in productivity among our primary agricultural commodities due to competition with exotic plants totals about $7.4 billion dollars annually, and an additional $3.6 to $5.4 billion is spent trying to control these pest species.
In response to the posing threat, the Federal Interagency Committee has developed a national initiative that consists of a three-pronged approach to deal with the exotics -- prevent, control, and restore. With those basic objectives in mind, Parkhurst has identified control strategies that do not rely on chemical treatment for use by the average landowner in order to reduce and prevent the invasion.
"Begin the task of recognizing or distinguishing exotics from native species through identification guides and quality time on your land," says Parkhurst. "The first step in fighting any battle lies in knowing your enemy.
"Another way of ensuring the protection of our biodiversity and ecosystem health is by always trying to use native materials," explains Parkhurst. "Commercial nurseries and wholesale retailers make this step more difficult because native plants are often more expensive than most of the non-native stock; but as the demand for native stock increases, some nurseries will respond to that market and begin providing a greater supply and diversity of materials."
Some of the most noxious problem species are those that inhabit aquatic systems because these species can be transported from one system to another by the simple act of moving a water craft from pond to pond or dumping the remains of a bait bucket overboard. To prevent the collected seed, eggs, or other reproductive parts of an organism from spreading, Parkhurst suggests thoroughly scrubbing down any boat or towing vehicle used to go boating or fishing, as well as flush out the motor, if using one. Finally, Parkhurst recommends taking a class or attending a workshop where integrated pest management will be described and demonstrated.
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