The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
April is Invasive Pest and Disease Awareness Month, and a task force of the United States Department of Agriculture seeks to raise awareness of the threat of invasive species to ecosystems, the economy, and to our own well-being. Their website has excellent photographs of two main villains in our area: the Asian long-horned beetle (ALB) and the Emerald ash borer. It says, “The ALB has the potential to cause more damage than Dutch elm disease, chestnut blight and gypsy moths combined, destroying millions of acres of America’s treasured hardwoods, including national forests and backyard trees.”
Citizen help is needed to stem the spread of known populations and to prevent new ones. Hikers and landowners have reported several new occurrences, and if caught early enough, some cases can be eradicated. In New York, the state has imposed a quarantine on moving firewood and certain other wood products from one location to another, and with good reason. The map on the right shows the known distribution of the Emerald ash borer in New York.
We have been hearing about invasive species quite a lot in our local news in Pound Ridge. Earthworms from Europe aredepleting our soils and forest health, Mute swans (also from Europe) alter water quality and displace native wildlife, and our sources of food for birds and insects are in decline due to competition from non-native species. We seem to have an ecosystem in peril, with the good, the bad, and the ugly in conflict. What can we do? One thing we cannot do is expect Mother Nature to fix the problem. Adaptation and ecosystem balancing occur on such a long time scale that to wait is to risk massive extinctions and the loss of ecosystem services like clean water.
We can, however, draw upon the power or nature to right itself. A healthy ecosystem naturally resists biotic invasion from pests, whether they be animal or plant, because all of the niches in the system are filled. It is difficult for an invader to gain a foothold among the fierce competition of a thriving, co-adapted community. The plants and animals that do become invasive were often brought here intentionally and sold for their pest-resistant properties (because our wildlife cannot eat them).
Recommendations: We must all do our part to support diversity in native ecosystems by protecting certain areas as wildlife preserves and ensuring that those areas are connected by corridors. This is a major concern of the PRLC. We can also greatly expand the boundaries of protected land by choosing to landscape public and private properties with native plants to whatever extent possible, and in place of lawn.
To learn more about the relationship between native plants and wildlife species, attend one or more of the events sponsored by PRLC and other community organizations in our four-part series, beginning April 22, Birds & Bees: Wildlife Needs. Please also see what our neighbors are up to as we work together to certify the town as a National Wildlife Community Habitat.