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What are Invasive Species and its Effects

If you have read my plant journals, you would've notice some information in the Fun Facts section of the blog about invasive species. In my plant collection, I think, at the moment I only have two species of plants that can be invasive. It is my pothos, which I have 2 varieties namely, golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and N' Joy pothos (Epipremnum aureum 'N' Joy'). This plant have already invaded a forest in Sri Lanka and is also considered a threat to the coasts of South Africa according to the South African Journal of Botany. As of now, no records have been found to prove that it will be invasive or is invasive in temperate countries like Ireland.

What does 'Invasive Species' mean

According to John F. Rafferty's article, Invasive species are 'foreign' species introduced into new habitats usually by human activities such as commerce and trade that affects the local ecosystem. New species of plants and animals introduced to new environment usually would die or will not be able to successfully establish sustainable population to cause disruption but some species are highly adaptable and can compete with the local inhabitants and cause extinction of some local species due to competition. Also, because these freshly introduced species have no local predators, they multiply rapidly and cause imbalance.

Throughout the years, various species of plants and animals have been migrated around the world and caused ecological and also economical problems. Some of these invasive species were brought in during colonization. For example, the introduction of pigs, rats and dogs contributed to the extinction of some animals like the dodo in Mauritius.

In some instances, humans deliberately introduce new species to help them commercially. In Australia, cane toads were introduced to control the insects in sugar cane plantations.

Photo by Dianne Meyer

Some plants such as the kudzu and the Japanese knotweed had been introduced in various countries in the 1800's for aesthetic purposes and caused significant threats to biodiversity and even affect the price of a property in the UK if a Japanese knotweed is found in the area. You can check this article for more information.

These plants have strong growth rate and are resistant to most herbicide which is not usually the best solution due to its effects to wildlife. Other solution to control them was to let goats and cattle graze on the weeds to help control them but due to strong root system, they still thrive and spread.

So, how do we control it

Environmental agencies around the world have been monitoring and educating its people about these invasive species. Here in Ireland, we have the Invasive Species Ireland to monitor, control and educate everyone on how to prevent and what to do if a n invasive species has been identified. Ecologists argued that educating the public and getting them involved is the most effective way in controlling its spread. Also, governmental agencies put strict laws to control movements of foreign species, both plants and animals, from entering their lands.

What a responsible plant parent should do

Since the pandemic started, there had been an increase in plant movement due to import and exports of houseplants. Although houseplants are usually lesser of a threat due to its contained nature, this could still give way to introduction of invasive species if treated recklessly. Plant collectors should be aware if the plant they are importing is capable of becoming an invasive species and if it does they should notify the authorities and heed their advices before throwing it or killing it with strong herbicides. It is also wise to isolate it and hand it over to the authorities for further studies. Also, getting a plant importation permit would help the authorities track and intercept an outbreak before it gets introduced into system. Always remember to purchase from registered nurseries or growers specially when purchasing plants abroad.

Keeping the balance in nature is everyone's responsibility.

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