By Dave Sigworth, publicist of The Maritime Aquarium
You would be very concerned – right? – if we were to announce that more than 100 types of alien life forms had invaded our state, with the end result possibly being that Connecticut may end up … well, looking a lot less like Connecticut.
Well, it’s true. And these alien creatures are actively trying to displace the plants and animals that collectively are Connecticut’s natural legacy.
We’re talking, of course, about invasive species. They’re hardly news anymore; certainly not front-page news. They’ve become a mundane daily menace; such a fact of life now that maybe we sometimes have a hard time mustering concern.
Which is why it’s good to note that this week (March 3-8) is National Invasive Species Awareness Week.
As spring and a new growing (and boating) season approaches, it’s the right time for a reminder of what invasive species are: they’re plants and animals that aren’t originally from around here, but are introduced – either intentionally or accidentally – and flourish to the point of taking over the native flora and fauna. Invasives find no natural “check” in their new home, so they reproduce quickly and spread rapidly.
Examples in Connecticut and Long Island Sound include the Chinese mitten crab, Asian shore crabs, sea squirts (or the Asian stalked tunicate), zebra mussels, lionfish, Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard, purple loosestrife, oriental bittersweet, Eurasian milfoil, didymo, the emerald ash borer, Japanese barberry, burning bush (Euonymus) and mute swans.
The organization Defenders of Wildlife estimates the cost to control invasive species – and the damages they inflict upon property and natural resources in the U.S. – at $137 billion annually.
Clearly, it’s much cheaper and easier if we all work to prevent the spread of invasives, rather than to try to get rid of them after they become established.
So what are some things you can do?
• Teach yourself to recognize the common invaders and what to do if you find them. (Just pulling a plant and putting it in your compost pile can be the wrong thing.) Start at www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/unitedstates.
• Join an eradication effort. Local organizations and municipalities often plan such outings.
• Start a garden with native plants. Or if you have a garden that includes, say, loosestrife, replace it with a native example.
• If you are a boater, please clean, drain and dry your boat trailer and gear every time you leave a body of water.