By Ryan Colliton, Chief of Natural Resources & Regulatory Compliance
Summer is finally here and for the Natural Resources Department that means endless days of controlling invasive species. But what is an invasive species? And why is the Metroparks so concerned about them?
Invasive species are species that can cause harm to the environment, the economy, or to human health. Invasive species are considered the second leading threat, behind land conversion, to threatened and endangered species.
There are several traits that often provide an advantage to invasive species such as prolific seed production, early growing seasons, and ability to successfully compete for soil nutrients. All of these can change the interactions of organisms in a habitat and have impacts on the habitats ability to support native plants and animals.
Studies have shown that in terms of the environment invasive species can have several negative impacts. Diverse habitats that suffer from invasion can become monocultures of invasive plants. This greatly reduces the diversity of resources and will often correlate with lower diversity at higher trophic levels. Typically, when invasive species become the dominant organism in a habitat we lose the unique relationships between organism that evolved together and the ecosystem becomes dominated by generalist species with much broader survival requirements and biological diversity is lost. Resource availability can change as well making the system prone to further invasion. These are just a couple of the negative environmental ways that invasive species can impact ecosystems.
At the Metroparks, our mission is to provide recreation, education, and stewardship of our natural resources. For the Natural Resources Department one of the most important tasks we have is controlling invasive species. We do this so that the citizens of southeast Michigan can enjoy the natural history of our area. We are proud to say that this work is integral to protecting the over 70 legally protected species on metroparks property and the rare ecosystems they rely on.