My husband and I recently renewed our support for the Bay Journal, but after reading the most recent issue we question why. We’ve come to expect science-based environmental articles, so we were shocked to see Condon’s opinion column in support of invasive plants.
Invasive species are defined by Presidential Executive Order as “alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health.” Invasive plant species spread aggressively; tolerate varied habitats; like disturbed areas; and lack natural predators or parasites. Invasive species are second only to habitat destruction for decreasing our regional biodiversity.
I’ve lived in the Savage River watershed in Garrett County, MD, since 1981. Over the years, old fields and forests filled with native plant species have become dominated by exotic invasives. State-designated Wildlands with incredible natives such as Appalachian sedge, broad-leaved toothwort, Carolina springbeauty, red & painted trilliums, round-leaved yellow violet, smooth rockcress, yellow clintonia, early azalea, minniebush, and leatherwood are being overwhelmed by invasive species, such as garlic mustard and Japanese spiraea.
Why does this matter? Invasive species reduce regional biodiversity (the number and variety of organisms in an area along with their genetic variation). One such example is their negative impact on the globally rare West Virginia white. This woodland butterfly relies on various species of toothwort and rockcress to lay its eggs. In forests where garlic mustard dominates, the butterfly mistakenly selects this alien herb which is poisonous to their caterpillars.
We’re not familiar with the degraded environments around the Bay, but we do know the the natural areas of mountain Maryland. These intact ecosystems have been invaded by exotic species. To preserve the regional biodiversity of this area, we need to make every effort to remove these invasive plants.
Liz McDowell & Ron Boyer