Nature needs individual help to stay viable

August 21, 2010|By CELESTE MAIORANA / Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Not all green is good: Mile-a-minute weed, an annual fast-growing vine, invades edges and forest openings and can easily cover the ground, shrubs and small trees.
By Celeste Maiorana,

Human populations are well established every where that is livable on earth. As we have moved ourselves and our products around the world, many species - some by our choice, some by accident or indifference - have moved with us.

Human development and expansion has been somewhat like putting the natural plant and animal communities of the world in a big blender and pulsing the on button.

New and unwelcome species seem to turn up almost daily including stink bugs, mile-a-minute weed, Japanese stilt grass and many more. They are nuisances at best and sometimes serious threats to the health and well-being of our crops and natural plant and animal communities.

Introduced diseases have been responsible for almost eliminating two of our finest trees from our forests and streets - the American chestnut and the American elm. Now, the gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle and thousand cankers disease are among the worrisome threats to our trees.


If we do nothing, eventually some new equilibrium might be established. Nature adapts. However, this new order might not be to our advantage or liking. Natural processes do not take into consideration the well-being of any one individual or species.

If we wish to keep some semblance of the natural environments we know and that are best suited to our needs, we will have to put a lot of effort into combating the unwelcome effects of these plant, animal and disease invaders.

While our government agencies and academic research communities will play a big role in the control and elimination of these pests, our individual behaviors can also make a big difference.

We can:

Learn about, plant and promote plant species that play beneficial roles in our communities, and identify and avoid commonly-sold species that are invasive and tend to degrade natural plant and animal communities.

Never release unwanted pets into the wild.

Avoid collecting and bringing home plants or plant products when we travel, or taking them from our homes to other places.

Make sure that the firewood we purchase is from our local community. It will be less likely to introduce forest pests that are not already present.

Become aware of and try to eliminate or control the unwanted invaders that establish themselves in our yards, gardens, and property edges.

Volunteer to mechanically and/or manually remove unwanted plant species from our public lands.

Stay informed about the most dangerous invaders that are increasing their geographical spread, look out for them and report them to an appropriate public agency if we think we see them.

Be aware that human effects upon the natural world are pervasive and unavoidable, but that there are choices as well. As individuals and as communities, we can deny and ignore the damage or we can choose to moderate and repair it.

By acknowledging that healthy human lives are lived within healthy, thriving natural communities, we take the most important step toward that reality.

After that, it's just work.

Celeste Maiorana is a member of the Washington County Forest Conservancy District Board, which promotes forest conservation in Washington County. For more information, please visit the Board's website at http://www.wcfb.sail


Photographic list of invasive plant species:

Invasive and exotic species of North America:

Maryland Dept. of Agriculture - Plants/pests:

Washington County University of Maryland Extension: /

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