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Preventing and Controlling the Plant Invasion

Media Contact:
Jennifer Martin, CSREES Staff (202) 720-8188

Stacy Kish, CSREES Staff (202) 690-5716
August 7, 2006

Plants are carried to new areas by the wind, animals, and humans. Unfortunately, when a plant is introduced to a new area, it often grows unchecked by natural predators or environmental conditions. Growing aggressively, these non-native plants, often referred to as invasive species, choke out the native plant species, reduce biological diversity, and affect natural community and ecosystem processes.

Humans often carry the migrating plant species to new locations while trying to correct another facet in the environment. For example, multiflora rose ( Rosa multiflora ) was brought to this country from Japan for its beauty and ability to stabilize soil. The Soil Conservation Service sanctioned the planting of multiflora rose throughout the United States to prevent top soil erosion. This particular plant adapted so well to new environments that it effectively took over the surrounding landscape.

There have been few success stories in predicting or detecting the likelihood of invasive species becoming established and spreading across the landscape, but hope is on the horizon. Researchers at the University of Connecticut and their partners are investigating the invasive and potentially invasive plant species in New England. Their work focuses on early detection strategies and developing models to predict the occurrence and spread of invasive plants across a region.

The researchers are tackling this difficult task by enlisting the help of volunteers through a newly developed program called the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England (IPANE). The project has trained more than 350 active volunteers to identify more than 100 invasive plant species. Each volunteer records the habitat and extent of the invasive plant species within a specific area. Researchers use this information to create maps of invasive plant distribution, set priorities for control efforts, and develop models that may predict the potential distribution of invasive species in the region. The project hopes to stay ahead of new invasions and control established invasive species to prevent loss of diversity in natural native habitats. IPANE, with its science-driven programs and use of volunteers, is an ideal model for early detection networks in this country.

Visit the IPANE website at http://invasives.uconn.edu/ipane. The work of botonist Les Mehroff and colleagues was the subject of an NPR segment by Nancy Cohen. An MP3 version is available online.

The USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) originally funded this integrated research and extension project through its Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems Program and with continued support through the National Research Initiative (NRI) Biology of Weedy and Invasive Species in Agroecosystems Program. The NRI is the largest peer reviewed, competitive grants program in CSREES. It supports research, education, and extension grants that address key problems of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of agriculture.

CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education, and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. For more information, visit http://www.csrees.usda.gov.

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