National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW)

What? You missed National Invasive Species Awareness Week? Shame on you!

We bet you missed this… but did you know last week was Part II of National Invasive Species Awareness Week?

If you are interested in ecological restoration like we are, and you missed NISAW, you are not alone. Many of us forget the impact NNI (non-native invasive) can have on the biological uplift attained by ecological restoration projects. But restoration requires a holistic, long term commitment, not simply a narrow focus on biotic or abiotic components of a project, interactions, and processes matter. The oversight is symptomatic of how underemphasized NNI management is in the long-term success of ecological restoration projects. If not managed adequately, invasive species impacts can reduce all of those benefits we worked so hard to re-establish in our ecosystems. All to often the emphasis is on the implementation of a design and the thrill of seeing a completed project. But the project is only starting, isn’t it? A process is started, but if no one manages what happens after the machines are gone and the plant warranty is over, what will happen?

The final design for restoration projects can be several years in the making. Construction can take years to complete as well. Installed plants are carefully selected to establish a diverse, self-sustaining native plant community. The success of this plant community will contribute to increases in nutrient uptake, improve groundwater re-charge, and help reduce erosion. If NNI become established, and can thrive, they can rob a site of all the benefits we worked so hard to gain. As significantly, those losses occur in less time than it took to design and build the project. Yes, it happens that quickly! We have all seen how fast Lesser Celandine can move down a riparian buffer. How far can bamboo travel from a small clump at the edge of a site? Why do they call it mile-a-minute? Monocultures become established, allelopathy sets in, vines impact canopies, light gap is introduced etc. Because we forgot.

So, if you are into restoration ecology, do not forget to manage NNI, and do not forget next year’s NISAW! It will be the same time next year, but hopefully not virtual.