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Invasive Species: Join The Fight!

Sue and the team have been working hard all summer to tackle a growing problem in the Great Lakes region. Invasive species have spread across the area for centuries, and the real impact on native plants and animals has reshaped our ecosystem.

To the casual trail user, it can be hard to imagine any plant as harmful. Most of us can barely name more than a few common native species, with known bad boys like poison ivy likely topping the list. For experienced botanists and experts looking and maintaining our delicate ecosystem, however, each plant signifies some indication of the health of the local forest.

Why are invasive species bad?

Invasive species impact the ecosystem in a number of ways. These important plant varieties can reduce biodiversity, compete with native plants for limited resources such as nutrients, water, and light, and can completely reshape habitats. They can even cause the extinction of other plants and animals over a long period of time.

In northern Michigan, we tend to see plants as the most common type of invasive species, but there are certainly animal invaders, too. One of the most known issues is the introduction of zebra mussels to the Great Lakes via shipping, an issue that is ongoing and requires legislation and constant vigilance. The problem is so bad the experts believe the mussels may be playing a role in our lakes’ changing color.

Climate change also contributes to the spread of these plants. As climate patterns change, plants can migrate through their seeds to new places that may have been inhospitable in decades or centuries past. Michigan’s warmer, drier climate has seen these types of plants move from the south and the west, bringing plants that may have fared well on open prairies or agricultural settings.

How can we fight invasive species?

At Glacial Hills, Sue and her group of volunteers have spent every other Tuesday morning in the woods identifying and removing harmful invasive species that threaten native plants. Most often, these invaders crowd out other plants in the battle for the most sunlight, as well as posing other risks, like leaching important nutrients from the soil.

You can join Sue’s team and learn more about invasive species by signing up for her emails here. To learn more about invasive species and how you can do your part to prevent their spread from the National Wildlife Federation.


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