Why are invasive plants a problem in natural areas?
Like an invading army, invasive plants take over and degrade natural ecosystems, wreaking havoc on the intricate and complex web of life involving native plants, animals and other organisms. Invasive species are extremely harmful as they: 1) out compete natives for limited natural resources including soil, water, light, nutrients and space 2) replace native plantswhich serve as food for wildlife with an inedible, toxic, or otherwise useless resource 3) draw pollinators away from native plants 4)hybridize with native species and 5)push rare species closer to extinction causing an overall reduction in native biodiversity. Some invasive species spread rapidly and can change the character of forests, meadows, wetlands and other natural plant communities into landscapes dominated by a single species termed “monocultures which have little ecological value.
Invasive plants impede recreational activities such as boating, fishing, swimming, hiking and biking as they can overgrow trails and riparian areas or form impenetrable tangles in shallow water areas. Once established, invasives require enormous amounts of time, labor and money to manage and most are difficult to eliminate. One estimate of the economic impact of invasive species is $142 billion annually.