Invasive plants are ones that are non-native plants that invade our natural plant communities, replace native vegetation, cause economic, environmental, and human health issues that cannot be ignored. These plants are slowly, but persistently making their way across the land and are the silent invaders of our times. They destroy three million acres each year in the United States, cost our society $35 billion annually, devour even our ﬁnest natural areas, and pose a major threat to restored areas and endangered species. Invasive plants aﬀect us all. Executive Order 13112, signed by President Clinton in 1999 to address the issue of invasive species, further states that they are “likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” “Non-indigenous” species are also known as “non-native,” “alien,” or “exotic” species. These terms, for the purposes of this book, will refer to species that did not occur in a speciﬁc area or plant community before the European settlement of the upper Midwest. Farmers, suburban homeowners, and apartment dwellers face increasing costs for food and lumber production, while property values and recreational opportunities decline in areas where invasive species have taken hold. The beauty and biological diversity associated with healthy natural areas are being lost as well. As international trade expands and the human population continues to rise, the spread of ecologically invasive plants takes its toll.” (Elizabeth Czarapata, Author, Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest, 2005)
A tragedy is relentlessly unfolding—yet few people recognize these plants or are aware of the consequences of allowing them to proliferate. To the untrained eye, the lush, green landscapes often associated with invasive plants create illusions of vibrant, ﬂourishing ecosystems when, in fact, many species have been lost and complex natural processes have been disrupted. Greater understanding of the fragile and amazing natural world that surrounds and sustains us is desperately needed. A 1993 report by the U.S. Congress Oﬃce of Technology Assessment titled, Harmful Non-Indigenous Species in the United States predicted that if we continue with “business as usual,” biological invasions will become one of the most prominent ecological issues on earth by the middle of the twenty-ﬁrst century.” (Elizabeth Czarapata, Author, Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest, 2005) Invasive species have earned official standing as a leading threat—second only to habitat destruction—to the native species of the United States. (William Stolzenburg, Science editor, Nature Conservancy ,July–August 1999) Numerous studies show reduced numbers of birds, reptiles, small mammals and insects in stands of nonnative plant species. (Jerry Asher,“War on Weeds:Winning it for Wildlife,” Bureau of Land Management, March 2000) Invasive plants are spreading at about 4,600 acres per day on Western federal lands alone (outside of Alaska). (Jerry Asher,“War on Weeds:Winning It for Wildlife,”Bureau of Land Management, 2000) Biological diversity is our most valuable, but least appreciated resource. (E. O.Wilson, University Research Professor and Honorary Curator in Entomology,Harvard University,Cambridge ,MA) Invaders don’t simply consume or compete with native species they change the rules of existence for all species by altering ecosystem processes such as primary productivity, decomposition, hydrology, geomorphology, nutrient cycling or natural disturbance regimes. (Peter M.Vitousek,Carla M. D’Antonio, Lloyd L. Loope, and Randy Westbrooks, American Scientist,84,September–October 1996) and (Elizabeth Czarapata, Author, Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest, 2005)
Where do invasive plants come from? Nearly any place in the world can produce plants that can become invasive elsewhere. Such plants typically become disruptive in regions that have a somewhat similar latitude and climate to their native range. Because they often occupy large north–south areas of their homeland and are adapted to a wide variety of growing conditions, their impact is likely be felt over wide geographic areas here. The majority of plants that have become troublesome in the upper Midwest are from Europe and Asia.(Elizabeth Czarapata, Author, Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest, 2005)
Why Are Invasive Plants a Problem? Invasive plants are a problem because they have competitive advantages over native plant species. These advantages include: (1) the absence of plant diseases, insects, and other plant-eating organisms that help keep plant populations in check in their place of origin. (2) The ability to grow and leaf-out earlier than native plants, which gives invasive plants a competitive advantage in terms of capturing sunlight.(Elizabeth Czarapata, Author, Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest, 2005)
In 2009, Wisconsin DNR adopted administrative rule NR 40 that put into place law on invasive organisms that paved the way for local groups to form organizations now called cooperative invasive species management areas (CISMAs). That is where the LCIP story begins and how that infrastructure and backing allowed the group to thrive.