Down here in the states this week, February 26 – March 3, 2012 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week. Invading plants and animals cause serious damage to Ocean habitats as well as terrestrial ones. Here are 10 ways to observe Invasive Species Awareness Week no matter where you are in the world.
1. Do Some Research: You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home. Get on the Internet and learn what’s invasive in your area, province, state or region. Identify which species might be growing in your backyard neighbourhood or along your beaches. Learn to recognize common invaders and keep an eye out for signs of new ones. Check trees, gardens, vacant lots, roadsides, stream banks, wetlands, ponds, wading and snorkel spots. Early detection is crucial to stopping the spread of invasive species! For readers in the States- visit www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/unitedstates for guides to get started.
2. Join in an Eradication Effort: Many parks and nature reserves manually remove invasive plants (and sometimes animals) with the help of local volunteers. Hawaii readers join the Aquatic Invasive Species Team for an invasive algae community clean-up this month. These outings are a great way to get some exercise, enjoy time outdoors, meet other conservation-minded friends and gain the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping to protect your natural heritage.
3. Become a Citizen Scientist: Working out in the field can be a very rewarding way to combat invasive species. Whether you are collecting data to be used by local, state or national organization or helping to actually get rid of invasive plants and animals, you will be able to see up close and personal the impacts of invasive species and the results of your efforts. Visit Citizen Science Central to learn more, or search for a similar organization in your local region. Or keep your eyes out for marine critters like the Mitten crab.
4. Visit a Garden, Park, Protected Beach or Nature Center: Spend an afternoon at a garden or well-protected local Ocean habitat and familiarize yourself with the native flora and fauna from your home area. See if guided tours are offered. In addition to learning something new, you can get in touch with the beauty and complexity of an invasive species free habitat
5. Read a Book: Not an outdoor type? Stormy weather outside? Not to worry, even bookworms can participate in National Invasive Species Awareness week. Authors have written field guides about invasive species for states and regions. Find a great read, kick your feet back and get educated about the threats posed by invasive species. I recommend checking out Snakehead: A Fish Out of Water by Eric Jay Dolin or the Encyclopedia of Invasive Species: From Africanized Honey Bees to Zebra Mussels by Susan L. Woodward and Joyce A. Quinn
6. Donate:If you can’t give time, you might be able to give money. Even small amounts can help local invasive species organizations with eradications and education programs.
7. Start a Garden: Replace your invasive landscape plants with native alternatives. Native plants are more disease and drought resistant, better preserve soil and provide habitat for local birds, butterflies and other wildlife meaning less work for you and less damage to the earth and ocean. The great variety of native plants gives gardeners lots of options that will work well in any garden design.
8. Legislate: Write a letter to your local, state or provincial representative or get involved with an activist group. Let your lawmakers know your opinion about the impact of invasive species on yoru natural heritage. Important invasive species issues could be important in transportation, aquaculture, agricultural or waste water bills.
9. Take the Invasive Species Challenge: One of the most effective ways to manage invasive species is for recreationalists such as boaters, fishermen, pet owners and gardeners to not be unknowing vehicles of dispersion. Here are some easy everyday things you can do to meet the Invasive Species Awareness Challenge:
**Boaters and Fisherman: Clean, drain, and dry your boat trailer and gear every time you leave a body of water. Check fishing lines and bilges for scraps of algae. Regularly scrub your hull if you transport your vessel to new locations.
**Pet Owners: If you have acquired an undesirable pet or fish species for your aquarium, consult local agencies for disposal procedures. Never flush a pest species or release them into the environment! In many places there are free, no questions asked disposal services to properly handle pest pets. Learn more at Habitattitude (hyperlink http://www.habitattitude.net/)
** Travelers, Hikers, Bikers, Birders and Campers: If you engage in terrestrial recreation activities take care not to be transporting seeds or plants. Thoroughly clean outerwear and equipment to keep species in their proper place
** Gardeners: Not all non-native species are bad. But some plants that look great in a garden could be harmful invaders if they make their way into natural areas. For tips on managing your garden check out the PlantWise website (http://www.beplantwise.org/)
10. Spread Awareness: Take your National Invasive Species Awareness Week commitment beyond this week. Tell your friends, family, neighbors and others about invasive species. It’s a big, highly connected world and we need your help to get the word out. Encourage others to take the Invasive Species Awareness Challenge or to get involved with Invasive Species Awareness Week in their own way.