Climate Change Slideshow: Invasive plants encroach on native species

A number of troublesome weeds threaten to worsen in Vermont as the climate changes. Warmer temperatures and heightened carbon dioxide concentrations favor non-native weeds over native plants. The most troublesome plants are invasive species.

An invasive species is a non-native species that causes major environmental, economic, or public health problems. Many non-native species never reach invasive status and some native species can act like invasives. In Vermont, especially harmful invasive species are classified on a noxious plant list.

Many invasive species have been in the U.S. for decades, even centuries, and have only recently become problematic. Often, repeatedly importing a plant over a long period of time can provide a population with enough genetic diversity to succeed. Sometimes, there wasn’t an opportunity to invade new habitats until years later — for example, the increase in the number of roads has given invasive plants increased opportunities to hitch rides on tires to new habitats.

Efforts to control the spread of invasive species have met with mixed success. Some plants, like kudzu in the South, grow so quickly that removal is challenging and expensive. Cutting or applying herbicide to small populations on the frontier of an invasive plant’s advance appears to work best. Because many invasive plants are highly adaptable, they are poised to adapt to climate change more quickly than most native plants.

See a slideshow below.

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Audrey Clark

About Audrey

Audrey Clark writes articles on climate change and the environment for VTDigger, including the monthly column Landscape Confidential. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in conservation biology from Prescott College in Arizona, she worked as a field ecology research assistant and college teaching assistant for five years. Among her adventures during that period, Audrey identified tiny flowers while kneeling on the burning ground in the Mojave Desert in the summer, interviewed sea turtle poachers in Africa, and tracked wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. Audrey began studying the nature of Vermont in 2010 and received her master’s of science from the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist Program in 2012. She has worked as a freelance environmental journalist since then. She also works at UVM’s Pringle Herbarium, where she handles 100-year-old plant specimens. Audrey is learning fiddle and scientific illustration and lives in Burlington with her partner, cat, several dozen guppies, a few shrimp, and too many snails.

Email: [email protected]

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  • Matt Fisken

    I’ve been noticing lots of pinus cellularis:

  • don avery

    Let’s put this in perspective. By far, the worst invasive species is Homo sapien. Period.

  • Neil Gerdes

    What about Wild Chervil?

  • J. Paul Sokal

    I second Mr. Avery’s comment and add…
    Claiming that deer ticks will populate japanese barberry to our detriment is completely specious. How does that compare to the presence of a native plant were it growing in the same space. Also, increased root growth because of climate change may well be a favorable impact for some native plants as well. Cercis canadensis, Redbud, may thrive further north in Vermont, likely to our delight.

  • Date: Oct. 22, 2013
    From: Center for Plant Conservation
    To: VT Digger
    Subject: Letter of Commendation for coverage of invasive species

    I’m writing to commend Audrey Clark and VT Digger for your article “Invasive plants encroach on native species,” published Sept. 3, 2013, highlighting the threat of invasive species.

    Your coverage educating and informing people of the dangers of exotic invasive species is welcome in the battle to control and eradicate these non-native threats. Not all non-native plants become invasive, but the rapid proliferation of invasive non-native plants in our wildlands can have a devastating effect. Even though some invasives may look beautiful to the eye, if unchecked they present a real threat to wild species diversity and degrade many natural areas. Invasive species are the No. 2 cause of plant endangerment in the U.S., forcing native species to the edge of extinction, and they also cost millions of dollars in damage to agriculture and infrastructure.

    The Center for Plant Conservation has developed information about invasive species, including resources, contacts, and proactive measures that will help prevent the introduction of new invasive plants. We invite your readers to visit our website for additional helpful information.

    Best regards,

    Kathryn Kennedy, Ph.D.
    President and Executive Director
    Center for Plant Conservation