Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018
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EDITORIAL

Uprooting wild invaders

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The Ohio Department of Agriculture has established new rules that make it illegal to sell or distribute 38 destructive invasive species of plants, including honeysuckle.

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State authorities have taken steps to stop illegal invaders that are threatening to wreck Ohio’s ecosystem.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has established new rules that make it illegal to sell or distribute 38 destructive invasive species of plants. Many of the plants — including some types of honeysuckle, autumn olive shrubs, and Bradford pear trees — took root in the state when they were mistakenly imported to the region. Some have spread aggressively after they became favorite sellers at commercial nurseries and garden centers.

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The plants are threats because they choke out native species, reduce biological diversity, affect the food sources for other native plants and animals, and even displace wildlife, according to the Ohio Invasive Plant Council.

Some honeysuckle varieties that have invaded Ohio riverbanks and wooded areas shade out native species. They also harm birds because their seeds provide inferior nutritional content and birds that nest in the honeysuckles are more vulnerable to nest predators.

The invasive plants are not as obvious as toxic green algae growing in Lake Erie, or even the Asian carp that also pose a threat to Ohio’s environment and economy. But invasive plants also present a real ecological hazard.

The council estimates that about 25,000 nonnative plant species cause more than $34 billion damage a year to the environment, business and industry, and recreation in the United States.

Preventing the sale of invasive species from commercial greenhouses and nurseries is a good step toward eliminating their threat. Even better are the efforts of many park systems, watershed stewards, and others who steadily work to remove invasive plants where they find them.

Metroparks of Toledo and the Toledo Zoo, for instance, have a partnership that makes good use of invasive honeysuckle. First, teams of volunteers cull the nonnative plant from the region’s parks. Then, the zoo’s African elephants get to enjoy the weeds as a snack.

Rooting out invasive species that threaten the environment and economy is going to take a sustained and cooperative effort. Cutting off sales of the damaging plants is a good start.

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