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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Invasive plants: A rapidly growing problem

item Blumenthal, Dana

Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/4/2007
Publication Date: 9/4/2007
Citation: Blumenthal, D.M. 2007. Invasive plants: A rapidly growing problem. Canfei Nehsarim Newsletter. September 2007. Popular Publication.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Approximately 4,300 plant species from other countries now live in the US. Most of these are well behaved members of plant communities, politely coexisting with native species. A scant 11% (485 species), are considered to be problematic for either agricultural or natural ecosystems. And yet these species have led to a litany of problems. In the United States alone, invasive plants are estimated to cost $25 billion annually in control costs and lost agricultural productivity. Globally, they are considered to be the one of the most important threats to biodiversity. What can be done? The key to achieving long-term control of invasive plants will be to understand why they invade. This is the central question of invasion biology. Unfortunately, scientists are far from having a complete answer. Having studied many possible causes, we have found evidence for most of them, but know little about which causes are actually most important. In the meantime, plant invasion will continue to be a problem, and while we don’t yet know how to solve it, we know a fair amount about how to not make it worse. One clear conclusion from invasion biology is that in many ways plant invasion is a human problem. Perhaps most importantly, we bring in the invaders. And while it will not be possible to completely stop plants from moving among continents, regulating which species can be imported could greatly reduce the number of new invaders. It is also clear that when humans disturb natural ecosystems we create habitats for invasive species. By reducing disturbance where possible, and restoring natural ecosystems where necessary, we can reduce the habitat available for invasive species, thereby decreasing both population sizes and rates of spread.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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