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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

National Invasive Species Awareness Week 2013

by Laurie Sheldon

History and Definition
President Bill Clinton
On Feb 3, 1999, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13112 - a critical piece of legislature on the environmental front. It established a multi-agency task force (the National Invasive Species Council) to deal with the management of "invasive species," which it defined as a species:
  1. that is both non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and
  2. whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.
These "invaders" present themselves in many forms, and include (but are not limited to) plants, animals, and pathogens.  

I found an air potato as big as my hand at a
Roundup during NISAW 2012: air potato has
been listed as one of Florida’s most invasive
plant species since 1993.
Causing Harm
Invasives may feed on fish and wildlife and/or cause widespread illness. Invasive pathogens can kill forest trees. Invasive plants compete with natives for resources like light, food and space, often interfering with their growth, reproduction, and development, and increasing their risk of extinction. Invasives can cause humans harm as well - consider the hives that result from a brush with stinging nettle (an invasive plant), the painful blisters caused by invasive insect stings (imported red fire ants are an example of this), and pathogen infections (like West Nile Virus) that can be vectored by insects and animals.


Spreading the Word
This year, the National Invasive Species Council has designated March 3-8 as National Invasive Species Awareness Week. Across the United States, particularly in Washington D.C., there will be briefings and workshops focused on creating solutions to address invasive species prevention, detection, monitoring, control, and management issues at micro (local) and macro (international) scales.

Last year, I posted an article citing Ten Ways to Observe N.I.S.A.W. in Florida.  While the suggestions are terrific, and absolutely worth checking out, I wish I had not used the word "Observe" in the title. Call it knit-picky, but, quite frankly, when it comes to aggressive, invasive species, observation is not going to cut it if our goal is to be a catalyst for change. We must be active, motivated, and participatory, and our efforts cannot be limited to a single week of the year.

Screen shot of the interactive NISAW activity map
Do Something
This year, I decided to put together an interactive map with activities throughout the state that you can participate in over the next few weeks. I hope that, by taking part in one or several of these events, you will
  1. recognize the value of both knowing about and removing invasives from our native communities,
  2. feel good about what you've done and tell your friends and families about it, and
  3. continue to be involved long after N.I.S.A.W. is over.

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