What are Invasive Species and How Can We Best Protect Our Environment? - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Jul 14, 2021

What are Invasive Species and How Can We Best Protect Our Environment?



Whether you’re heading to the campground or putting your boat in a lake, invasive species may not be at the forefront of your mind. You may even be unaware of what they are or the danger they pose within our ecosystem. Continue reading below to learn about invasive species and what you can do to best protect the great outdoors.

 

What Are Invasive Species?

Invasive species can be defined as non-native organisms that enter into an ecosystem, causing harm to the new environment. Dangers of these species can include spreading diseases and disrupting ecological cycles.

 

Becoming Aware of Invasive Species in Your Surroundings

Invasive species are smaller, and more portable than you may realize. You may notice various little insects that are around but might not know they can be easily transferred to different areas. This transportation may cause organisms to be introduced to a place where they are not native and potentially cause danger. In New York State, there are various aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals that are invasive species.

 

What Invasive Plants Could Be Living in Your Favorite Lake?

Two non-native species of aquatic plants that have infested New York State lakes include Didymo, an algae, and Hydrilla, an aquatic plant whose growth makes swimming for native species more difficult. Another invasive plant is the Starry Stonewort, an algae that forms at the bottom of lakes. This type dominates native plants that provide shelter and nutrients to underwater animals. All of these species can be spread to different bodies of water by boats.

 

Non-Native Underwater Animals

One common type of invasive species found in lakes is the Spiny Water Flea, which has invaded bodies of water such as Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake George, Saratoga Lake, Lake Champlain and more. These species negatively affect the survival rates of native fish, as there is more competition for food. The Spiny Water Flea can be spread to other areas by attaching to boats.

 

Another type of invasive species commonly found in New York state is the Northern Snakehead. When young, this fish eats various organisms that native fish rely on. Once an adult, these fish will begin feeding on those native fish, as well as their food source.  These non-native species have the potential to greatly reduce the native fish population. These fish are spread by humans through aquarium dumping, market releases, or by illegally using them as bait. Snakeheads can also spread to nearby waterbodies on their own, as they can survive outside of water for many days.

 

Invasive Terrestrial Vegetation

There are various invasive plants that reside on land - one being the Giant Hogweed. Once this plant has been brushed against or broken, the weed releases sap that can cause burns and scarring to anyone who touches it. If in contact with the plant, you should wash the infected area immediately. Giant Hogweed grows in areas with plenty of sunlight and moist soil. They are most likely to grow by streams, roadsides, fields or even in yards.

 

Additionally, Wild Parsnip has the potential to cause a similar reaction to individuals as the Giant Hogweed. This plant has a yellowish top with a celery-like stalk and is likely to grow in fields and yards.

 

Another invasive plant is called Slender False Brome. This species threatens native vegetation by outcompeting and preventing trees from seeding as well as changing food sources for animals.

 

What Land-Roaming Invasive Animals Should I Look Out For?

With so many native animals and insects it is sometimes difficult to identify if the species is invasive. One non-native animal that may be easy to detect is the Eurasian Boar, it also has the nicknames wild hog and feral swine. This animal is destructive, damaging most things in its path.

 

Another animal is the Gypsy Moth, which feeds off leaves causing defoliation. You may have seen these critters on branches along with egg masses.

 

The Emerald Ash Borer is a non-native, small, destructive form of beetle. An infestation of this species is a threat to ash trees because the beetle eats the inner bark that is vital to the tree’s survival. To spot the damage, look for S-shape patterns on bark and D-shape exit holes.

 

How Can I Help Prevent Invasive Species From Spreading?


Whether you're boating on a lake or camping beneath the trees, going outdoors is likely to be on your summer to-do list. Below are some precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of invasive species:

 

1. Camping and Outdoor Gear

While on a hike you may have collected an invasive species on your gear unknowingly, this can be in the form of insects or seeds. Making sure the gear has been cleaned after use is important, especially when traveling. Also, when setting up a tent, it is a good idea to avoid damp soil as invasive organisms are likely to be living in that environment. Shaking out your tent before packing it away is also helpful to avoid traveling with unwanted critters. It is also recommended to use local firewood by the campsite because of insects that may be living in the logs.

 

2. Cleaning Your Boat 

After a day on the lake, invasive species can accumulate on the boat. Scrubbing off mud and plants that are visible will help to limit the spread of non-native organisms. Also, draining any water that is in the boat over dry land before leaving the launch site is recommended. You should also wipe any wet areas, both inside and out, of your boat which can help to remove organisms you can’t see. Some lakes have specific rules when it comes to cleaning your boat before and after entering a body of water, so be sure to research and follow any rules before and after launching.

 

3. Gone Fishing!

Fishing may be an exciting or leisurely activity that allows you to enjoy the outdoors, but there are important considerations that should be taken to prevent introducing invasive species to other areas. One way is to clean the gear that was used to fish in another body of water that could have collected non-native species. Another tip is never move fish from one body of water to another. Using native bait to catch your fish is beneficial as other bait could be an invasive species. It is also important to not dump bait into the water.

 

Prepare for Your Outdoor Getaway


There are a few details that are important to consider before embarking on your trip. Ensuring that you have packed the proper cleaning supplies that will be used to clean your boat and other gear before transporting to another area is important.

 

Lastly, whether you're on a road trip or on the lake boating, reviewing  and understanding your insurance policy is vital should anything happen while on your trip. Click the link below to find a local insurance agent near you.