Invasive species are non-native plants, animals, and microbes that can cause harm to the environment, the economy, or human health. They can spread rapidly and outcompete native species, reducing biodiversity and ecosystem services. In Virginia, invasive species pose a serious threat to forests, farms, waterways, and wildlife.
State Group Recommends Additional $2.45 Million for Invasive Species Programs
The Virginia Invasive Species Working Group (VISWG), a state-level advisory group, has recently released a report that recommends the Virginia General Assembly allocate an additional $2.45 million for invasive species management in the 2024-2026 biennial budget. The report identifies six priority areas for funding, including prevention, early detection and rapid response, control and management, research and monitoring, education and outreach, and coordination and collaboration.
The report states that the current funding for invasive species programs in Virginia is inadequate and inconsistent, and that more resources are needed to address the growing problem. The report also highlights the benefits of investing in invasive species management, such as protecting natural resources, supporting economic activities, enhancing public health and safety, and reducing future costs and risks.
Invasive Species Impact Various Sectors and Stakeholders in Virginia
Invasive species affect various sectors and stakeholders in Virginia, including forestry, agriculture, fisheries, recreation, tourism, conservation, and public health. Some examples of invasive species that have caused significant damage in Virginia are:
- Emerald ash borer: An insect that kills ash trees, affecting timber production, wildlife habitat, and urban forestry. The emerald ash borer has been detected in 74 counties and cities in Virginia, and has resulted in the loss of millions of ash trees and millions of dollars in management costs.
- Kudzu: A vine that grows rapidly and covers trees, shrubs, and structures, reducing light availability, increasing fire hazard, and facilitating erosion. Kudzu infests about 10,000 acres in Virginia, mostly in the southern and southwestern regions, and costs about $500,000 per year to control.
- Hydrilla: An aquatic plant that forms dense mats in water bodies, impeding water flow, navigation, recreation, and fish and wildlife habitat. Hydrilla infests about 50 water bodies in Virginia, covering about 5,000 acres, and costs about $1.5 million per year to control.
- Spotted lanternfly: An insect that feeds on various plants, especially grapes, hops, and hardwoods, reducing plant health, crop yield, and quality. The spotted lanternfly was first detected in Virginia in 2018, and has been found in 12 counties and cities, mostly in the northern region. The potential economic impact of the spotted lanternfly in Virginia is estimated at $774 million per year.
Virginia Has Several Initiatives and Partnerships to Combat Invasive Species
Virginia has several initiatives and partnerships to combat invasive species, involving various agencies, organizations, and stakeholders. Some examples are:
- Virginia Invasive Species Management Plan: A comprehensive plan that provides a framework for state agency action to minimize the harm from invasive species, based on seven goals of coordination, prevention, early detection, rapid response, control, research, and education. The plan was developed by the VISWG and adopted by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in 2012.
- Virginia Invasive Plant Species List: A list of invasive plant species that threaten Virginia’s natural ecosystems, based on scientific criteria and expert review. The list is maintained by the DCR’s Division of Natural Heritage, and is updated periodically. The list currently includes 90 invasive plant species and 17 watch list species.
- Virginia Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs): Regional partnerships that facilitate collaboration and coordination among local stakeholders to address invasive species issues. There are currently 10 CISMAs in Virginia, covering about 60% of the state’s land area. The CISMAs conduct various activities, such as mapping, monitoring, removal, restoration, education, and outreach.
- Virginia Invasive Species Awareness Week: An annual event that aims to raise awareness and educate the public about invasive species and their impacts. The event is organized by the Virginia Invasive Species Council, a statewide network of invasive species professionals and enthusiasts. The event features various activities, such as webinars, workshops, field trips, and volunteer opportunities.
Virginia Citizens Can Help Prevent and Control Invasive Species
Virginia citizens can help prevent and control invasive species by taking the following actions:
- Learn: Learn how to identify and report invasive species, and stay informed about the latest news and updates. Visit the Virginia Invasive Species website for more information and resources.
- Plant: Plant native or non-invasive plants in your garden, yard, or farm, and avoid introducing or spreading invasive plants. Visit the Virginia Native Plant Society website for more information and guidance.
- Clean: Clean your shoes, clothes, vehicles, equipment, and pets before and after visiting natural areas, and dispose of any plant or animal material properly. This can prevent the transport and introduction of invasive species seeds, spores, eggs, or larvae.
- Volunteer: Volunteer with your local CISMA, park, or conservation group to participate in invasive species removal, restoration, or monitoring projects. This can help reduce the impact of invasive species and improve the health of natural ecosystems.