How do you promote native plant communities over invasive plant communities

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Answered by: Adam, An Expert in the Ecology Category
Aside from habitat destruction and other man made changes to the environment, such as anthropogenic climate change, invasive species are the biggest threat facing native plant communities today. There is a long rich history for each individual invasive species and many of them are rooted in our need to subsist off of largely non-native plants and animals. The question of which species should be controlled and which are too important to be excluded must therefore depend on several arbitrary definitions. Although we determine which plants are invasive and which are simply non-native by the assistance they received in their dispersal to a new habitat we tend to remove cultivated plants from this metric.



Aside from cultivated plants there are a number of ornamental plants that have escaped the human environment and invaded natural areas. When invasive plant species invade in sufficient number they may crowd out native plants and in the process disrupt the natural ecosystems at a landscape level. This is further exacerbated by some invasive species tendencies to grow in monocultures. Which species will exhibit characteristics linked to increased vigor can be difficult or even impossible to predict in their native range. This conundrum leads to one of the most important questions in invasion ecology, that being, how can we more accurately predict whether or not a species will become invasive?

One of the general observation made by invasion ecologists pertains to the given chance that a species will become invasive. It is colloquially referred to as “the 10’s rule.” This rule dictates that 10 percent of the species that are transported, usually by accident, will survive. Of this 10 percent only about10 percent of those species will become established. From the species that become established usually only about 10 percent of those will become persistent in the environment. These are the invasive species.



While invasive species are by definition harmful not all species that are transported are invasive. Statistically speaking only a minority of species become harmful. The rest are simply referred to as non-native species. So while all invasive species are non-native not all non-native species are invasive.

Once a species has become established we have a different question than will they become invasive. Instead we switch to asking why they are invasive. Depending on the characteristics that allow them to persist, and often times conquer, native plant communities will dictate the most successful method of their removal.

Take for example the species English ivy (Hedera helix). While most evergreens are more resistant to chemical methods of control than non-evergreen plants English ivy is a special case. It’s capacity to act as a climbing vine and scale native and non-native trees alike introduces another aspect to it’s ability to find suitable habitat and requires a new method of control: mechanical. When removing English ivy it is first necessary to mechanically cut the vine before adding the chemical herbicide. This extra step in turn demands the addition of more “man-hours” quickly amplifying the cost restoring a native habitat. In this method the characteristics of the invasive species rather than the area covered will determine the feasibility of an individual restoration project.

Take for example the species English ivy (Hedera helix). While most evergreens are more resistant to chemical methods of control than non-evergreen plants English ivy is a special case. It’s capacity to act as a climbing vine and scale native and non-native trees alike introduces another aspect to it’s ability to find suitable habitat and requres a new method of control: mechanical. When removing English ivy it is first necessary to mechanically cut the vine before adding the chemical herbicide. This extra step in turn demands the addition of more “man-hours” quickly amplifying the cost restoring a native habitat. In this method the characteristics of the invasive species rather than the area covered will determine the feasibility of an individual restoration project.

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