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Invasive Species

Invasive species are non-indigenous species (e.g. plants or animals) that adversely affect the habitats they invade economically, environmentally or ecologically. The control of invasive species can involve their eradication or their containment within a specified area. In both cases, the goal is to prevent further spread to un-invaded systems. This type of management can be implemented at several scales, from a homeowner working in his or her own backyard to large government agencies taking a national approach.

Marine Invasive Species

The introduction of non-native species into the state of Rhode Island is not a new phenomenon. European settlers intentionally introduced numerous non-native plants and animals upon their arrival in the New World. Non-intentional introductions also occurred early in the settlement process. Rocks used as ship’s ballast that were discarded in New England’s coastal waters are a likely vector for the introduction of European marine species such as the common periwinkle that dominates most rocky beaches in Rhode Island today.

Under the National Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, an aquatic nuisance species or “invasive species” is defined as a nonindigenous species that threatens the diversity or abundance of native species or the ecological stability of infested waters, or commercial, agricultural, aquacultural or recreational activities dependent on such waters. Invasive species are considered to be second only to direct habitat destruction as a cause of declining biodiversity in the United States. Marine aquatic invaders that have become established in Rhode Island include the European green crab (Carcinus maenas), Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus), lace bryozoan (Membranipora membranacea), codium (Codium fragile), the red macroalgae (Grateloupia turuturu), and various species of sea squirts and shellfish pathogens.

Educational Tools

Terrestrial Invasive Species

Invasive plant species have a combination of characteristics that allow them to thrive in their new environments, out-compete native species and create dense monocultures. They often produce prolific fruit or can reproduce vegetatively, are easily dispersed and established, grow rapidly, have a lack of natural pests, tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions and have a longer growing season than their native counterparts. Effects of invasive plant species include the disruption of natural plant succession, reduction in biodiversity, change in the natural community structure, alteration of ecosystem processes, and loss of ecosystem services. Some invasive plants can even pose risks to human health.

It is the policy of the CRMC to encourage the restoration of upland coastal buffer zone habitats through the management of invasive plants and the protection and enhancement of native plant communities. A successfully restored buffer zone is one that contains a diversity of native plants, varied plant layers and suitable vegetative structure for wildlife cover. Applicants may apply to the CRMC to perform additional invasive plant management beyond the initial permitted area only if it can be shown that the initial buffer zone restoration / invasive plant management was successful after a period of three growing seasons.

Resources

 

State of Rhode Island Web Site
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