Ohio’s natural resources are under attack! No, they are not under attack by jet or tanks, but rather by invasive species that live right next door to them.
An invasive species is a plant or animal that is not native to Ohio (i.e., was not present prior to European settlement) and affects native species by predation, competition, hybridization, or disease. The life history strategies of Ohio’s native species have evolved over thousands of years, so they have adapted to the landscape as it is. When an invasive gets introduced, the native species face many threats such as a reduction in food, competition for habitat, or an unfamiliar predator they can’t protect themselves against. The native species must either adapt or be eliminated. No one can predict what will happen when native species meet invasive species, thus, it is difficult to predict the consequences of a new species. From recent history though, we can confidently conclude that invasive species have the ability to destroy our native communities and reduce our recreational opportunities. In Ohio, this can be seen from the zebra mussels on Lake Erie to the emerald ash borer in Ohio’s woods, so invasive species are affecting Ohio a lot.
The take home message is that if we would like our children and grandchildren to enjoy Ohio’s natural heritage (whether that be walleye fishing on Lake Erie or hiking through Ohio’s hardwood forests) the introduction and spread of invasive species needs to be addressed. If you would like more information on invasive species please don’t hesitate to contact your local Division of Wildlife Office, local Metroparks office, or local conservation authority.