Let's remind ourselves what an invasive species is again. An invasive species is an introduced organism that becomes overpopulated and harms its new environment. Although most introduced species are neutral or beneficial with respect to other species, invasive species adversely affect habitats and bioregions, causing ecological, environmental, and/or economic damage.
Invasive species populate quickly and relocate or spread to several different waterways/lakes via different avenues. Invasive species are primarily spread by human activities, often unintentionally. As we travel from one adventure to another, we carry uninvited species with us - boating, fishing, hiking, camping. Tourism and trade have become a key player in escalating the spread of invasive species.
Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is an organization that brings together communities, companies, and conservationists to improve our lands and waters. They strive for clean streams and rivers flowing through resilient landscapes, cared for by the people who live, work, and play in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. From their research, they have found the Top 10 Ways You Can Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species. Here are a few to review:
- Clean your hiking and fishing gear. Moving from water to land, from fishing to hiking, sounds like a fantastic day but subconsciously you can be collecting invasive species from your boots and waders. Make sure to clean and wipe down your boots and waders before you change activities.
- Don't move firewood. Firewood is often made out of dead or dying trees, which are often host critters. The more you move firewood from one location to another, the more you are dispersing invasive critters to different areas.
- Clean your boat before moving to a new body of water. Aquatic plants can become tangled on boat engines, propellers, trailers, and other equipment and can be taken to new bodies of water if not cleaned properly. Washing your boat thoroughly before moving it to another body of water is crucial in preventing the spread of invasive species.
- Check your pet's paws before traveling with them. We need to think of our pet's paws as we do of our own boots and shoes. Our pet's paws are an excellent carrier for seeds. Make sure to clean them off before traveling to your next adventure.
Controlling the spread of an invasive species once it is established, is an incredibly difficult undertaking. The name of the game is Prevention! Prevention is the most cost-effective approach to stopping these new invasive species before they have a chance to enter and become established in the Great Lakes. Once in the lakes, however, we need to also look for ways to control their spread through scientific research and educating people about how they can prevent the further spread of these species.
The Alliance for the Great Lakes is another remarkable nonpartisan nonprofit working across the region to protect our most precious resource: the fresh, clean, and natural waters of the Great Lakes. This organization connects and empowers people to advocate, give back, and take action to protect the lakes.
Let's try to be mindful and education ourselves about the spread of invasive species and do what we can to ensure our waterways stay clean and healthy for years to come.
(Remember to inspect your boat lines and dock ties and replace as needed. Boat lines and dock ties weather and weaken over time.)