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Pagosa Springs
Monday, October 18, 2021

Invasive species: A threat to biodiversity

By Ethan Proud
PREVIEW Columnist

After discussing how to control invasive species for an entire summer and the tool kit available to landowners, it is time to find out why we really need to control noxious weeds. 

Perhaps this article should have gone first, but it is a good note to end the season. It will make a season of hard work more fulfilling and may spur on a more aggressive plan for next year — just remember to use an integrated pest management plan for maximum results.

Invasive species may seem innocuous, pretty, good forage for your salad, etc., but the damage they do to ecosystems can be irreparable. According to the National Wildlife Federation, 42 percent of endangered and threatened species are at risk because of invasive species. When a new species is introduced to an ecosystem, it likely lacks its native predators and pathogens, and native species have not evolved to compete with it or feed on it. 

Many invasive plants are not selected as forage by livestock or wildlife. Insect and plant species often co-evolve and cannot survive without their host plant or specific pollinator. Monarch butterflies, for example, feed almost exclusively on milkweeds. When native vegetation is displaced by an invasive species, wildlife can no longer forage and they can be pushed out by the presence of a non-native plant.

Another threat invasive species pose to native ecosystems is wildfire. Annual grasses like cheatgrass, medusahead and ventenata alter the fire regime and result in more frequent and hotter fires. In Archuleta County, nobody needs to be reminded why wildfires can be bad. While they are part of the natural order, when that order is altered it can have disastrous effects on plant and animal life.

Aquatic invasive species can effectively crowd out all other native vegetation, block sunlight and clog waterways. The recreationists who flock to the waterways each weekend and track out fragments of plant matter on propellers, fishing gear and boots often spread this species. On land, the same effect can be observed; invasive plants are excellent hitchhikers and can find a ride on your boots, your dog, your tires or your horse’s manure. To prevent the spread of invasive species, use PlayCleanGo practices. Always clean your gear after recreating, use weed-free forage and report invasive species to the proper authority.

Archuleta County Weed and Pest is your local resource for managing noxious weed populations and controlling other pests.

Upcoming events

Oct. 2: Cottage Foods Training — an online event. Please go our Facebook page or website to register or call the office for more information.

Oct. 19, 4 to 6 p.m.: Shred it. Bring up to three boxes of paper and make a donation to support 4-H. Downtown TBK parking lot. 

Oct. 20, 4:30 to 6 p.m.: 4-H open house at the Extension office. Please visit the website, Facebook or call for times to sign up. 

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