Space invaders are everywhere: What to do about invasive species

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Autumn-olive invasive species
Autumn-olive, one of Ohio's most invasive non-native plants, is a fast-growing shrub or small tree reaching up to 20 feet tall. (ODNR photo)

Ohio has approximately 2,700 different types of plant species and out of those species, roughly 900 of them are known to be non-native. Of these non-native species, less than 100 are documented to be invasive in Ohio’s natural areas.

So what’s the big deal? Well, when a non-native plant establishes itself and spreads into natural areas, causes economic or environmental harm, and/ or harm to human health, it is considered invasive by the Ohio Invasive Plants Council.

Invasive plant species can be found in many different types of woodlands across the state. They can be found in coniferous or broadleaf woodlands. You can find them in areas that are wet and dry, as well as areas high and low in elevation.

These species were introduced to Ohio accidentally, as well as on purpose. Many of these species were introduced for agriculture and landscaping purposes. Some were planted to help with soil stabilization in disturbed areas, while others were planted for wildlife habitat.

‘Living fence.’ Multiflora rose, for example, was encouraged to be planted as a natural living fence to keep livestock in their pasture. It was also planted to help stabilize disturbed soils and as cover and a food source for wildlife.

Species such as Autumn Olive, Glossy Buckthorn and Japanese Honeysuckle were planted as landscaping shrubs, but escaped these plantings and established themselves in natural areas.

Aggressive

These invasive plants tend to grow faster and bigger than our native plants. Many invasive species will bloom earlier in the spring and persist later into the fall, giving them an advantage over our native species. This allows them to leaf out earlier and shade out many of our native plants.

They may also have higher seed production and germination rates, allowing them to quickly spread and establish themselves in new areas. Many of these species lack natural predators or diseases that would help to control their populations.

Smother others

These established populations can quickly reduce the native biological diversity of an area and in some cases turn it into a monoculture. This can displace rare plant communities and cause the wildlife in that area to relocate, due to the loss of native plants they use for food and shelter.

As invasive species establish in new areas, they can also change the soil characteristics and hydrologic conditions of those areas.

What can we do?

Many of these invasive species can be controlled by mechanical or chemical methods. Because invasive species are so aggressive and persistent, using both methods is sometimes the best approach. Some species can be removed by mechanical methods such as repeated cutting, digging, mowing or grazing by animals. If mechanical methods fail or are not enough, then chemical methods can be used. These methods include foliar, basal bark, and cut stump spraying.

Some herbicide sprays work better on certain species, so it’s always best to read the labels carefully and follow the directions closely. Make sure the herbicide is recommended for the invasive you are spraying, look at the application rate, best time of year to spray, and the correct method of application.

The key to successful management of invasive species is prevention and early detection. Make sure when selecting, small plants, shrubs or trees for landscaping, that you select native species.

By walking your woodlands on a regular basis, you can spot invasive species before they become established and difficult to control. If invasive species are established in your woodlands, it may take close monitoring and several repeated control methods to successfully eliminate that invasive species.

Learn more: For more information on invasive species in Ohio, contact the Columbiana SWCD office at 330-332-8732. Information can also be found online at the www.oipc.info/invasive-plants-of-ohio.html and ohiodnr.gov/invasiveplants.

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Jason Reynolds is a wildlife/forestry specialist with the Columbiana Soil and Water Conservation District. He is a Columbiana County native and a 2010 graduate of Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in conservation.

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