Invasive Species

For several years I’ve been observing, documenting and appreciating nature and the environment in Michigan. During those years, I’ve discovered some of the subjects I’ve photographed and written about are in fact invasive species.

Phragmites

field

Photos Copyright Jeffrey Foltice

Some non-native species in Michigan can become established. At times they pose health risks to people and can cause economic harm or damage to eco-systems. One such example I’ve found in wetland areas of Michigan is an invasive grass called Phragmites australis.

This aggressive wetland grass outcompetes native grasses and effectively displaces local animals. A few of the other negative impacts from this grass include increased dangers of fire, elimination of natural feeding grounds and refuge for animals as well as an impact on open views that make recreational activities more difficult. ( They can grow to a height of over 19 feet in dense configurations ).

Mute Swans

Swan1

BabySwans

Another subject I have photographed that I later found to be an invasive species are Mute Swans. Originally brought to the Americas by Europeans in the mid 1800’s because of their beauty, these birds have quickly taken over wetland areas from native swan species as well as other waterfowl while increasing their numbers from 10 to 20 percent each year.

One example of their affecting another species directly can be shown with how they prevent native Michigan Trumpeter Swans from breeding. Both prefer the same habitats, but the Mute Swans nest three weeks earlier than the Trumpeters. Once nesting begins, the Trumpeters are prevented from entering the area by the Mute Swans. They also tend to be aggressive toward humans at times when they are guarding their territory and have been said to be the most aggressive waterfowl species in the world.

Purple Loosestrife

Purple_Loosestrife

Another picturesque invasive species, purple loosestrife ( Lythrum salicaria ), has taken over many wetland areas throughout the United States and Canada. Since the early 1800’s when brought from Europe, this plant has suppressed native vegetation and changed the ecology of wetland areas as a result. There are programs introducing biological control through the use of the plant’s natural enemies, such as leaf-eating beetles, which help to keep the growth somewhat in check.

As I continue to explore and enjoy nature in Michigan, I’ll endeavor to be more aware of what I may find. Although these are often beautiful photographic subjects, they can also be destructive and disruptive to native species.

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23 Comments

  1. We have many invasive species here. Colourful lantana bushes were introduced for hedges in gardens but have caused serious problems in our bushlands here, taking over many areas. There are many introduced species here that I thought were indigenous when I was growing up. I was a little disappointed to discover their true status. My streets are lined with purple flowering Jacaranda trees which I only found out actually originate from Southern Africa. We even have an annual Jacaranda Festival, which is amusing when you think about it. Interesting about the mute swans. Our native species are actually black swans and the white ones were introduced. Many of these introduced species are so beautiful to look at but sadly cause many problems. The poisonous cane toad was introduced to Queensland to control the sugar cane beetle but has spread in huge numbers causing great devastation to native species that eat them or that compete with them for breeding habitat. Your pictures are beautiful and the your post interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Very interesting post, Jeffrey. I had heard about how invasive Purple Loosestrife had become in parts of the States but hadn’t realised that Mute Swans and the Common Reed were such a problem as well. I have just finished reading a book called ‘Weeds: the Story of Outlaw Plants’ by Richard Mabey who, though a British naturalist, also cites many cases of problems with invasive plants you in the USA are experiencing. Though many plants, animals and insects have been consciously introduced many others have been brought in by accident – seeds or insects in packing materials or on shoes and clothes for example. In a new land with no natural enemies these introduced plants or animals spread very quickly and often mutate to adapt even better to their new surroundings. We have our own problems here as do all countries round the world it seems. I read that Australia is the worst hit of all.

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  3. Breathtaking pictures and very informative post. Mute swans is such an interesting topic to observe……I’m a nature lover and your post filled with me with extreme happiness 🙂

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  4. We are all paying the price for past generations taking species to lands which were not their natural habitats.

    The Mute swan is a lovely bird but very aggressive. In Scotland they show aggression to the other birds in my local pond.

    In the UK we have the Grey Squirrel which was brought over from North America and has almost wiped out the native Red Squirrel. Fortunately there are still a few remaining in Scotland and hopefully the population will not die out completely.

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  5. After direct habitat destruction by building, invasive species are the most destructive force that humans have dispersed through Earth ecosystems. Long before global warming has its day, invasive species will have eliminated many native habitats and species. Reblogged using Scoop.it. See on my blog or at http://scoop.it/t/ecoscifi.

    Thank you for the great photos.
    Garry

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  6. I wouldnt be to hard on the invasives (tho I did see a video about farmers fighting back against some type of thistle hurting their industry aside) after all everything used to be one land called pangea, and many animals and plants came and went and were invaded as well, I personally hate those invasive mints in my yard, which I forgot what they are called, but there are here to stay. and what we considered native may itself had invaded an area before anyone migrated here from europe eons ago and another plant took over and on and on. there was a time there were no natives here that we see today but these replace other natives, humans are not the only carriers of new species into an area too many animals bring them from other areas as well as humans. so no need to worry about eradication (unless it is really destroying someones livlivhood or something) we need to learn to live with changes (even tho some of them I surly hate) and move on to maybe hybridizing them with natives maybe to make them able to compete? maybe they will do that naturally? animals all belonged to planet earth maybe we need to stop thinking interms of native and start thinking in terms is these plants and animals are residents of planet earth just like us. (I know we want certain plants and animals to stay and not die off due to competition with stronger and more capable animals and plants, but isnt that what evolution is supposed to be about? I mean if natives cannot compete should we not just stay out of the way? of course just so you know I do not believe in evolution or that things arrived by survival of the fittest and ability to alter their entire dna to go from one kind of animal to a totally unrelated kind of animal. But the reality Jehovah created all these things and should we not enjoy them find ways to live with the changes? I dont like starlings but should we erradicate them? well maybe yes maybe no. maybe just live and let live? not sure.

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  7. Students of the subject say that invasive plants and animals began to be dispersed in great numbers after humans crossed the oceans. Prior to around 1500, intercontinental dispersal was limited. As with CO2, it’s not that it never occurred before, it’s that it never occurred so rapidly before.

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  8. I’m sure you already know this being our neighbor to the north but here in Ohio we have the Multiflora Roses among many other invasive species. Growing up on a farm, my dad always fought these invasive flowers. Louis Bromfield, one of the first conversationists (who was from my area of Ohio) introduced them as “natural fencing” but they grew like wild fire and we’re still fighting them today. I have to admit, however, I photographed some this past summer and they are quite lovely.

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