In specific conditions, commonly harmless plant species may cause adverse effects to the environment. In fact, certain plants species are able to cause significant damage to other plant populations due to forceful growth in locations not considered to be their natural habitat; plants that exhibit such actions are considered as invasive plants (Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources [PDCNR], n. d). Invasive plants are also referred to through other names.
Some examples of such names are non – indigenous, exotic, and noxious plants (Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health [CISEH], 2003). The detrimental effects of invasive plants on other organisms in a given area are actually not limited to the native plant species alone. Given that plants are the common primary producers in terms of food, and some native organisms feed upon specific native plant life, if the plants become extinct then the native organisms requiring it may be threatened as well (Cornell University Department of Natural Resources [CUDNR], 2008).
Currently, the threat of invasive plants has alarmed even the government, further proving its potential in causing harm to the environment. In effect, the government has provided and currently producing laws developed together with different institutions to control, detect, monitor, and prevent further increase of invasive plant species; in addition, official lists of invasive species and pests have also been released (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2009).
As a side note, some experts have claimed that the risk that invasive plants possess towards ecological balance is much worse than climate change (Kohli et al. , 2009). Therefore, in the context of the United States, it is important to fully understand details regarding invasive plant species which can be done through the analysis of the invasion process and how harm is caused. Discussion In the United States there are numerous invasive species identified throughout different locations.
Some of the most notable invasive plant species in the United States include the Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), Cajeput tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria ), tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), kudzu (Pueraria lobata), leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), mile a minute (Polygonum perfoliatum), tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima), and cogon grass (Imperata cylindrica) (The United States National Arboretum [USNA], 2008).
The invasive plant species, as mentioned, have been found throughout different locations. In fact, there are monitored cases of spread in invasive plant species in most of the United States but more variants are found along the Western portions of the country (USNA, 2008). This fact implies that threat possibly caused by the invasive plant species have already become a nationwide problem.
One must keep in mind though that by definition, invasive plants are plant species from another location which was transferred into another through certain methods. For example, the tree of heaven or Ailanthus altissima, is an endemic plant species from China; explorations during early points in history however have allowed it to be placed upon the Americas especially in areas that served as mines (Plant Conservation Alliance’s Alien Plant Working Group [PCAAPWG], 2006).
The other invasive plants mentioned are obviously from other countries based on naming alone. The transfer of plants from one area to another is mainly due to human intervention. In fact, the developments in methods of human travel have had significant effects on the way in which invasive species have been spread as well (Randall and Marinelli, 1997). In this sense, there are two possible general ways for individuals to spread plants from an area to another.
Intentional methods of spreading plant species are occasionally done due to the supposed benefits that a certain plant may provide including raw materials, food source, medicinal applications, and aesthetic applications; the other method, termed as the unintentional method, obviously does not necessarily involve the will of an individual for moving the plants but more so rely on accidental aspects such as inclusion in sacks or packages, or by sticking onto modes of transportation (Randall and Marinelli, 1997).
The transfer of invasive plant species into the regions it has affected is not the only reason as to why it has become prolific in various areas; in fact, the main features of the plants are causative to its success in reproduction. In addition to the lack of predators in the area, invasive plant species are identified to have efficient sexual or asexual methods of reproduction capable of utilizing resources from its current location, increased seed resiliency for dispersal, fast growth and commonly short generation time, and some species even exhibit allelopathy (National Invasive Species Information Center [NISIC], 2006).
In general, all the features of the invasive plants result in a very efficient process of increasing its number and thus in a sense, move towards a larger range or area. In fact, invasive plant species are able to take immediate advantage of cleared areas in the forest as well as minute areas of clearing such as footsteps, allowing for further expansion (Kohli et al, 2009). Native plant species are of course present in the location wherein invasive plants are becoming prolific, but it is evident that native plant life is not capable of competing with the invasive plants in terms of reproduction capabilities.
The features of invasive plant species give it a direct advantage over native species creating an antagonistic effect in which the native species usually succumb to (Canadian Botanical Conservation Network [CBCN], n. d). The harm caused by invasive plant species to the native plant species and the ecosystem as a whole may be manifested by acting as physical barriers or by utilizing important resources. The formation of physical barriers by invasive plant species may be interpreted as physical or direct methods of attack.
A common example of such methods of attacks exhibited by the invasive plant species is the formation of immense amounts of undergrowth which ends up covering not only the forest grounds but also a significant area of the parts of native plant species as well; to expound, the potential of invasive plants to produce undergrowth evidently surpasses than those normally exhibited by moss varieties (Kohli et al. , 2009). In this sense, the effects of the invasive plant species to natural plant species is analogous to an individual being strangled to death.
In essence, the capabilities of the affected native plant species to exhibit regenerative capabilities are extinguished by the invasive plant species (Kohli et al. , 2009). As mentioned, invasive plant species are also capable of indirect methods in affecting native plant species through competition in resources. For example, invasive plants may cover up the areas above native plant species and in a way block an important resource for native plants which is natural sunlight (PCAAPWG, 2006).
Given that sunlight is vital for one of the main metabolic processes in plants, the native plant species which receive less sunlight are in effect given less chances of being able to attain optimal growth. The tendency of invasive plants to grow faster compared to natural species also present problems in proper resource distribution. In fact, it is not difficult to conceive that other resources such as water and important minerals and nutrients from the soil are also exhausted and mainly utilized by invasive plant species.
Invasive plant species, as discussed are highly capable of affecting the ecosystem by placing immense selection pressure upon the native variants. In relation to this, the diversity of a given location may suffer if cases of uncontrolled increase in invasive plant species occur; diversity and ecology are compromised since native plant species may become endangered and may even become extinct, which in turn may also lead to adverse effects to wildlife in the said ecosystem (Kohli et al. , 2009).
The presentation of the situation or problem regarding invasive plant species may have seemed to be rather pessimistic due to the fact that the potential harm caused by such plant species has been the main focus of discussion. However, it is important to note that spread of invasive plant species are considered to be easily controllable if properly monitored and assessed (USNA, 2008). Thus, there are specific ways in which problems regarding invasive plant species may be lessened and eventually hopefully eliminated. In fact, common individuals can play a role in controlling the increase in invasive plant species.
Possible actions which an individual may follow in order to help ease the situation of ecological damage due to invasive plant species include developing proper knowledge regarding invasive plants, improvement in the capability to efficiently identify such plants, eliminate invasive plants whenever possible through environmentally friendly means, and lastly to facilitate further increase in awareness regarding invasive plant species in the locality (USNA, 2008). Conclusion As discussed, invasive plant species are a significant source of risks to the natural balance in the environment.
In fact, even technologically advanced nations, such as the United States, fall victim to the spread of invasive plant species in numerous areas. Given this, it is rather expected that the United States government have already made steps in placing laws and regulations which may prevent further increase in numbers of invasive plant species and in effect lessen the repercussions of the presence of such plant species on native variants as well as other biotic factors in the environment. Even with such actions being done by the government, it is also important that the problem be addressed starting in the individual level.
In fact, the success of prevention methods as well as possible solutions to the problem may heavily rely upon the support of each and every concerned citizen. Therefore, it can be said that the threat of invasive plant species is very realistic and is continuously spreading in the current times, and thus the cooperation of individuals and the government together with other institutions are vital to the success of countermeasures developed to minimize or solve the ecological problem. References Canadian Botanical Conservation Network. (n. d). Invasive Plants of Canada: An Introduction.
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Ecosystems. New York: CRC Press – Taylor and Francis Group. National Invasive Species Information Center. (2006, Dec. 5). Common Invasive Plant Characteristics. Sub module 3 – Invasive Plants. Retrieved May 3, 2009 from http://alic. arid. arizona. edu/invasive/sub3/p2. shtml Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. (n. d). What is an Invasive Plant. Forestry – Wild Plants. Retrieved May 3, 2009 from http://www. dcnr. state. pa. us/forestry/wildplant/invplants. aspx Plant Conservation Alliance’s Alien Plant Working Group. (2006, Jun. 27). Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima).
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