Story last updated at 7/10/2013 - 2:21 pm
The Exotic Plant Management Team (EPMT) for Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park invites everyone to join the 5th Annual Community Weed Pull, at the Skagway Airport on Saturday, July 13 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. David Golden, a biologist intern and spokesperson for the EPMT, reminds us that we can help fight seasonal invasive plants.
A non-native or exotic species is simply a plant that is not living in its natural range, regardless of how it got to where it is, and does not necessarily pose a threat to the native ecosystem. An example of a non-native and non-invasive plant is rhubarb. Rhubarb is not native to Southeast Alaska; and it is not able to establish itself in our native plant community. Rhubarb is therefore not a threat to the native ecosystem.
Conversely, invasive plant species are non-native species that have been introduced into a foreign ecosystem and are rapidly spreading. Due to the absence of natural population restraints in their native environment, these plants spread and out-compete native species. Invasive plants often disrupt pollinator ecology by attracting pollinators that might otherwise be working for native species, alter soil chemistry, and crowd out native species- sometimes disrupting and changing entire ecosystems. These plants are also often capable of eliminating habitat and food sources for local animals.
"If you have lived in Skagway for any length of time, there is a good chance that you have heard of invasive plant species," said Golden.
Humans are the greatest vectors for spreading invasive plants and, knowingly or unknowingly, transport them via shoes, clothes, cars, and boats, carry the seeds in top-soil and gravel, and transplant them into our roadsides and gardens. Some species such as Ornamental Jewelweed, Yellow Toadflax, or European Mountain Ash, are often found and nutured in our gardens and yards due to their aesthetically pleasing flowers. Still others such as Reed Canarygrass, White Sweetclover, and Narrowleaf Hawksbeard, are commonly found along roadsides or in open fields. In a way, these plants have ingeniously evolved to take advantage of our natural desires for beauty and control. They have done so by developing habitat preferences which coincide with human-influenced disturbances.
At least 48 invasive species have already reached Skagway.