DEC hosts Invasive Species Awareness Week to help the future of New York’s ecosystems

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(WSYR-TV) — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is currently hosting its seventh annual Invasive Species Awareness Week, to help stop the spread of species not native to New York’s environment, which could be potentially harmful to the ecosystem.

“Coincidentally very similar aspects with what we’re doing with controlling the spread of coronavirus is really the overarching message for invasive spread prevention,” Justin Perry, DEC’s Bureau of Invasive species and Ecosystem Health Chief said. 

As we try to slow the spread of coronavirus, efforts are also being made to slow the spread of invasive species that can be harmful to our environment. 

So, what exactly are invasive species?

Perry said, “Invasive species are typically anything from plants, animals, insects, diseases that are not indigenous or they’re not natural to this environment.”

Because they are not natural, they often have no predators in their environment to slow their population growth. This can result in an invasive species dominating an ecosystem and in return, hurting the natural plants and animals that normally survive there. 

For instance, if you have an invasive plant that comes into the forest, it displaces the natural plants that were intended for that community, and it becomes sort of a domino effect where the native plants tend to attract the native insects and other animals. When you displace those with an invasive plant, for instance, those animals might not have that resource anymore, so you get that domino effect where the invasive plant can replace and not benefit the surrounding ecosystem.  

Justin Perry, DEC’s Bureau of Invasive species and Ecosystem Health Chief

Below are some of the negative effects invasive species can have on the environment:

  • Habitat degradation and loss
  • The loss of native fish, wildlife and tree species
  • The loss of recreational opportunities and income
  • Crop damage and diseases in humans and livestock
  • Risks to public safety

Invasive species usually don’t appear randomly in places, they normally have to be brought to an area by humans, and most of the time we don’t even realize we are doing it. 

“It’s important for us to recognize our role in the spread of invasive species, and to know what to look for and how to prevent being a carrier of an invasive species,” Perry said. “So, we have programs like ‘Don’t Move Firewood,’ which you may have heard of. That is a common invasive species spread prevention program to educate the public about how their moving of firewood can be advantageous to invasive species like Emerald Ash Borer.”

The Emerald Ash Borer, which feeds off ash trees, are native to Asia, but they have recently been found in New York, and are impacting the State’s ecosystem. 

To prevent the spread of these invasive species, don’t transport firewood from place to place, make sure your boat, kayak or any watercraft is properly disinfected and drained of all its water before going back into the water, and most importantly, just be aware of your surroundings.

“Very importantly, is if you see something unusual, like for instance a tree that suddenly dies, to reach out to all sorts of entities,” Perry said. “There’s all sorts of entities out there, my own program at DEC, there’s also local Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management, or otherwise known as PRISMs, that the public can reach out to or their cooperative extensive agents. So, there’s a number of ways the public can report unusual happenings in their ecosystem, in their environment, that they’re curious about.”

To learn more about invasive species and how to prevent the spread of them, click here, and attend one of the events the DEC is hosting as part of New York’s Invasive Species Awareness Week, which ends on Saturday.

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