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National Invasive Species Awareness Week focuses on protective native life

Carrboro Town Hall is located in Carrboro, N.C., pictured here on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. Orange County is planning to use the rest of the Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds towards improving community spaces in Carrboro like Baldwin Park.

This week is National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

Carrboro is celebrating with an extraction event at Anderson Community Park on Saturday. 

Steven Feuerstein, a local ecosystem restoration project leader, said the event will focus on extracting two different types of invasive species: Chinese privet and tree of heaven.

The awareness week is organized by the North American Invasive Species Management Association, Elizabeth Brown, NAISMA director of government relations and professional development, said. 

“National Invasive Species Awareness Week is a nationwide event focused on raising awareness of the threat that invades species pose and what can be done to prevent their spread,” she said.

Brown said the key issue of the week is biodiversity, along with climate change, infrastructure maintenance, food and water security, aquatic invasive species and protecting forest health.

Non-native plants, animals and pathogens can cause harm to human health if not removed, she said.

Local governments can access free resource toolkits to celebrate methods of awareness. 

Brown said NAISMA has a proclamation that many towns and governments, including Asheville, have issued to adopt NISAW.

Tree of heaven is a particularly damaging tree that will outcompete other native trees and “choke them out,” Feuerstein said. The tree also attracts the spotted lanternfly, an invasive insect that causes harm to surrounding shrubbery.

Some other common invasive species in Carrboro are English ivy, stiltgrass, bamboo, thorny olive, multiflora rose, autumn olive, nandina and kudzu.

“For me and the people I work with in this region, this week is no different from others,” he said.

Feuerstein leads two different UNC service groups to cut back and clear out invasive species and allow native species to grow in areas such as Battle Branch Trail and Chapel Hill Community Center Park. He said they hope to have cleared out every major invasive species by the end of the year.

The North Carolina Invasive Plant Council, started by Johnny Randall — director of conservation programs at the North Carolina Botanical Garden — also focuses on preventing and removing invasive species year round. 

NCIPC serves as an “educational body” to inform people of the dangers invasive species pose, Randall said. The website includes a “shun list” of non-native plants to avoid, he said. People can also use the app iNaturalist to take a picture of a plant and see whether or not it is invasive to the area.

“I think that people in general still are not aware that there’s an invasive species issue,” he said.

Randall said people generally assume plants around them are natural and that some people do not want to know whether a species is invasive or not because they assume it will not spread.

Many invasive species are dispersed by birds. They frequently travel out of the Chapel Hill area and deposit non-native seeds into other ecosystems, Randall said. 

Because of an uptick in invasive species growth in the last few decades, preventing new growth is more important now than ever, Damon Waitt, director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden and professor of biology at UNC, said.

The best ways to prevent invasive species is to treat them early on. He said people can stop the spread of growth by making sure to be careful not to step in areas with invasive plants and to carry them elsewhere with shoes.

@DTHCityState | 

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