In the wake of the invasion of non-native species of plants, insects and fish, the NYS Legislature has enacted legislation to create a task force to cope with the problem. The economic impact of invasive species to the national economy has been estimated to be as high as $137 billion annually.
Marilyn Jordan, conservation scientist with The Nature Conservancy said, "The best strategy is prevention to stop invasive species from becoming established. Non-native plants that don't originate in the US are brought here from Asia and Europe, and all their enemies are left at home: the bugs, animals and diseases that kept them under control in their place of origin.
"Here in this county they can grow wildly to the point that they crowd out and eliminate the native plants and the wildlife that depend on our native plants. In fact, of the species on the federal endangered species list, about half are on that list because of competition from invasive species. So, the damage caused by invasive species is second only to the damage caused by outright habitat destruction such as development, agriculture or logging."
Currently, a new species has arrived, on Long Island, the mile-a-minute vine. "It is in just a few areas and we hope we can eradicate it. The mile-a-minute vine has triangular light green leaves and thorns and a cup-shaped structure on the stem. It is similar to catbrier, a green vine with thorns that gets confused with it. The cup-shaped structure on the stem of the mile-a-minute vine is a dead give-away. To see what some of the invasive plants look like, people can search on google.com. Just give a plant name and it will pop up," Ms. Jordan said.
People can find out more about invasive species on the Internet. Nature.org is one website she recommended, another is for the Invasive Plant Council New York at www.ipcnys. Their web ite suggests plants people can grow instead of invasive ones. A hint for home gardeners is to look out for purple loosestrife. "They should destroy it," said Ms. Jordan. "It is a big plant with tall spikes of flowers that are invading our wetlands on Long Island and a big problem in the US."
Ms. Jordan said, "Animals are a huge problem as well. The zebra mussel is a good example. It was brought here in ballast water on ships. There are problem fish from China which have been identified in New Jersey and the Asian longhorn beetle, which is being fought by the Town of Oyster Bay." The Nature Conservancy is on the Internet at www.Nature.org. It has interesting articles about invasive species.
Senator Carl L. Marcellino (R- Syosset) announced Aug. 10, that Governor George Pataki has signed into law his legislation that will help protect New York State's natural resources from invasive, non-native species of plants, insects and fish. The law will create a New York State Invasive Species Task Force charged with examining the factors surrounding the introduction of invasive species and the impacts they have on the state. NYS Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli (D-Great Neck) was also involved in the legislation, working to get it passed in the Assembly. The bill passed in the Senate on June 18, and was returned to the Assembly and from there to the governor on Aug. 24.
Senator Marcellino said, "The Invasive Species Special Task Force will bring together the right minds to create a statewide approach to this serious threat to our land and water ecosystems. An overarching direction to address invasive species will allow New York to further protect the state's natural resources."
Louise Harrison, Friends of the Bay executive director, who has a background in field ecology, explained that invasive exotic plants replace habitat for native species that have evolved to depend on native plant species. "It is a habitat problem; wildlife are deprived of what they need to survive. Species have been moving around the planet forever. Worldwide shipping and other forms of rapid transport have accelerated the movements of species and arrivals of their seeds. That speed is not giving local species time to deal with them. I drove down the Interstate and starting in West Virginia and south of there it was depressing seeing what is happening with kudzu. The vine literally carpets the landscape and climbs over trees, laying a shroud over the landscape.
"It is important people know the invasives, one of which is the Norway maple. These quietly pernicious invaders grow almost anywhere on Long Island, and usually are enjoyed by people for their shade and hardiness. Because they are prolific, their seeds are invading native forests; otherwise important breeding, feeding, and resting habitat is being replaced by big, dark, shady trees that support virtually no wildlife. (By contrast, a native tree, such as the eastern red cedar, might host up to 50 species of wildlife.) Norway maples spread not only by their enormous production of seeds, but also by builders, who commonly use them in landscaping new developments because they are so easy to grow. They take off quickly in all but the poorest of soils. People don't realize what damage this big, beautiful tree is doing.
"As a matter of fact, on Fisher's Island, at the furthest-east point of Suffolk County, some people have been wondering about a place they have dubbed 'haunted' because it is so dark, quiet, and forbidding. The forest has no ground cover, no shrub layer, and no bird song. When I drove by on a tour, I explained that this was not a natural phenomenon for our area - it was a thick grove of Norway maples. They cast a tremendous shadow and give off a substance that kills other species. They are shallow rooted and suck up all the rain," explained Ms. Harrison.
The native plants being challenged by invasive species have a great deal to recommend them. "Native plants are beneficial because they need no watering beyond normal rainfall," said Dr. John Potente, director of Native America, an environmental organization devoted to the native plants and animals of Long Island. He is also the editor of the Long Island Botanical Society newsletter and is currently writing a book due out next year on the carnivorous plants of Long Island: insect eating plants.
Dr. Potente said there are several advantages to using native plants. "They don't need additional water, more than they naturally get with rainfall. They don't need fertilizers, and as a matter of fact do better in the absence of fertilizers. When you add fertilizers you are changing the ground and making it better for invasive plants. They like the nitrogen compounds in fertilizers. Fertilizers also cause runoff into the bays and eutrification of ponds, the groundwater and also the land by encouraging the growth of weeds and invasive plants. So you are accomplishing three things by the avoidance of fertilizers.
"It would be nice to devote a portion of your land to using no water or fertilizer and if you are going to choose to establish a 'native' landscape, it would be best to learn about the native plants this area of Long Island supports, because the native plants differ from region to region: not only in the USA, but in different areas of Long Island.
"Long Island has a minimum of two dozen different habitats. Ideally, you would want to learn about what is in your immediate area and encourage the growth of those plants. The soil itself has seed banks where there are native seeds hiding under the soil, just waiting to grow," Dr. Potente said. You can contact him on his website, www.nativeamerica.org. He does consulting on a case by case basis and occasionally lectures, as he did recently for Friends of the Bay.
Governor George Pataki said, "New York State is blessed with a wide array of important natural resources, and we are committed to protecting our ecosystems from the damage that can be caused by invasive species. The creation of this task force will reinforce and strengthen the state's ongoing efforts to prevent invasive, non-native species from harming our environment, our economy and our communities."
New York State already supports a number of aquatic nuisance species projects, including: Research projects on the impacts of zebra mussels (they clogged the Great Lakes waterways) and Eurasian water milfoil on lakes; biological control of purple loosestrife in the lower Hudson River Valley; and educational outreach, such as posting information at State-owned boat launches on the dangers of nuisance aquatic species and helpful tips to prevent the spread of invasive species.
The task force will be charged with assessing the nature, scope and magnitude of the environmental, ecological, agricultural, economic, recreational, and social impacts caused by invasive species in the State. The task force will identify actions that can be taken to: prevent the introduction of invasive species; detect and respond rapidly to populations of invasive species in a cost-effective and environmentally sound manner; monitor invasive species populations accurately and reliably; provide for restoration of native species and habitat conditions in ecosystems that have been invaded; conduct research on invasive species and develop technologies to prevent introduction; and promote public education on invasive species and the means to address invasive species. The task force is required to prepare a report for the governor and legislature with findings and specific recommendations by Nov. 30, 2005. Henry Tepper, director of the New York State Office of The Nature Conservancy said, "Invasive species, introduced into New York from across the globe, are one of the largest threats to New York's ecosystems and native plants and wildlife. Combating this critical threat to the health of New York's environment will require a coordinated approach from state government, landowners and private organizations like The Nature Conservancy. We applaud Governor Pataki and the State Senate and Assembly for enacting this legislation, and we look forward to working closely with the task force to develop effective strategies for controlling nuisance species." Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian L. Houseal said, "With 2,800 lakes and ponds, close to 30,000 miles of rivers, brooks and streams, nearly six million acres of forest and nine million visitors a year, the Adirondack Park is particularly vulnerable to invasion by non-native species that can cause harm to natural ecosystems. We have already seen infestations of Eurasian milfoil, purple loosestrife, zebra mussels and other species that present us with challenges on both land and water. That can lead to the temptation to employ local quick-fixes, such as a reliance on chemical pesticides, that don't address the broader, regional problems. We are grateful that the governor and legislature are cooperating on a comprehensive plan to find control methods that assist the entire state, yet don't do more harm than good."
For more information please call the office of Senator Carl L. Marcellino - 5th Senate District at 250 Townsend Square Oyster Bay, NY 11771. They can reached by phone at 516-922-1811 or fax: 516-922-1154 http://www.senatormarcellino.com.