Why should we care about non-native invasive plant species?
Non-native invasive plants pose a major threat on a national scale to our native plants. Across the U.S., invasive plants are estimated to occur on 7 million acres of our national parklands, and at least 1.5 million acres are severely infested. In addition to federal lands, state and private lands are also plagued with invasive/non-native plants and having potentially even higher infestation rates. This problem is an expensive one. The economic cost to remove invasive plants is estimated at more than $34 billion per year, and the costs continue to grow.
When established, the non-native invasive plant species are harmful to our natural ecosystems. For example, non-native invasive plants can greatly impact the health and regeneration of forest lands by spreading into the understory of a forest and suppressing native plants and wildlife dependent on them. These species will destroy or replace native food sources, making the ecosystem less diverse and more susceptible to further disturbances, such as disease and fire.
Why should we restore native plant communities?
Native plants have extensive root systems control erosion, moderate floods, filter water to improve water quality, decrease the amount of water needed for landscape maintenance, and sequester carbon to combat climate change. Native plants are important for biodiversity and provide food and habitat for pollinators and wildlife. In North America, a native plant is defined as an indigenous grass, shrub, vine, tree or herbaceous flora species present in a habitat or ecosystem prior to the arrival of European settlers on the continent.
Why should you get involved?
We believe that engaging our neighbors and challenging them to learn about local native and non-native invasive plants and to repair their own spaces, we hope to create a movement that will have the greatest impact on invasive plant populations. We hope that volunteers and partners will take new knowledge and enthusiasm to their own homes and communities and continue the efforts there.
The Weed Wrangle® sites will be the direct beneficiaries of the project. But, equally important is the indirect and long term benefit. It is clear that a broad-based and ongoing group effort will be key to controlling the spread of invasive plants. State, federal, and private natural resource managers have worked together to reduce populations of non-native invasive plants for years, but often the scale of the cooperative effort is confined by political or land ownership boundaries. Even the diligent, intensive control efforts of land managers won’t be successful in the long run, if non-native invasive plants can find refuge on a neighboring property. Only together can we control the spread of non-native invasive plants.