COLUMBUS, Ohio - A statewide coalition of natural resource-related groups is recognizing National Invasive Species Awareness Week from March 3 to 8.
The National Invasive Species Council, which is sponsoring the week, said invasive species "cause a multibillion-dollar annual drain on our nation's economy."
The Convention on Biological Diversity calls invasive species the second biggest threat to the world's biodiversity after habitat loss.
"A lot of (the week) is about early detection," said Avraham Eitam, pest survey specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), one of the sponsors of the week's observance in Ohio. "If we can get people to be more aware of invasive species, we can catch infestations earlier instead of after they've been here awhile.
"The earlier we find invasive species, the better the chance to control them."
Invasive species - whether trees or beetles, shrubs or mussels, fish or fungi, weeds or pigs - aren't native to a place but arrive through people's actions, either by accident or on purpose.
They escape, usually spread fast, and can reduce or eliminate native species, said Kathy Smith, forestry program director with Ohio State University Extension, which is also one of the week's sponsors in Ohio. OSU Extension is the statewide outreach arm of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
In the process, invasive species damage their new home's environment and cost people, communities and businesses money, Smith said.
The week's activities in Washington, D.C., will include a webinar, regulatory forum, congressional reception, Capitol Hill staff briefing, even a dinner featuring invasive species on the menu. A number of other previously scheduled events for the week have been cancelled due to the budget sequestration. The revised schedule of events can be found at http://www.nisaw.org/2013/agenda.pdf.
Locally, the National Invasive Species Council suggests that people "volunteer in an eradication effort or write a letter to their representatives" about the impact of invasive species.
The Ohio Woodland Water and Wildlife Conference, which is an educational program for natural-resource professionals and land managers, also takes place during the week, on March 6 in Mansfield. The program will feature, among other things, sessions and displays on invasive species, Smith said.
Sponsoring the week's observance in Ohio are APHIS's Plant Protection and Quarantine and Wildlife Services programs, OSU Extension, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership, Wayne National Forest, the Ohio Invasive Plants Council, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Ohio Environmental Council, Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio Sea Grant, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' (ODNR) divisions of Forestry, Wildlife and Watercraft.
Examples of Ohio's invasive species include tree pests such as emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle; aggressive plants such as kudzu, garlic-mustard, callery pear, bush honeysuckles and hydrilla, an aquatic weed; West Nile virus; zebra mussel; and round goby, a fish.
Other, older Buckeye State invaders include plants such as common reed, tree-of-heaven and Canada thistle; tree pests and diseases such as gypsy moth, chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease; European corn borer, a major corn crop pest; aquatic species including the common carp and the sea lamprey, which is a primitive fish that parasitizes game fish; and birds such as the house sparrow and the European starling, both of which outcompete bluebirds and other native species for nest sites.
Recent arrivals include feral pigs, white-nose syndrome in bats, the silver carp in the Ohio River, the hemlock tree killer called hemlock woolly adelgid, the aggressive ground-covering plant called lesser celandine, and the walnut twig beetle, which spreads deadly thousand cankers disease in walnut trees.
Two species of Asian carp - the silver and the bighead, both from Asia - haven't reached Lake Erie or the other Great Lakes but pose a significant threat if they do, says an ODNR website.
The National Invasive Species Council's website is at http://www.invasivespecies.gov/.
Links for more information about invasive species include APHIS's "Hungry Pests" website, http://www.hungrypests.com; ODNR's "Ohio Invasive Species" website, http://go.osu.edu/SUS; and the Ohio Environmental Council's "Asian Carp" website, http://www.theoec.org/campaign/asian-carp.