Habitat Degradation in Woodlands and What We Can Do About It
Updated: Mar 2
Habitat degradation is a significant issue in the United States. Native plants are unable to grow because of invasive species that take up their habitat, nutritious soil, water supply, and many other essential resources. For example, invasive shrubs such as French broom, Scotch broom, and Reed canary grass have inhabited the space of native plants like Canary grass. If the number of foreign plants is not decreased, the invasive plants will take over the habitat of all native greenery and reduce the food sources of indigenous animals. This could cause a drastic drop in animal populations. If we abstain from taking care of our native plants, species that rely on them for food will be driven to extinction as well.
Habitat restoration of native plants has proven to be immensely complicated, as invasive species outnumber native plants, causing many environmental issues. The leading cause of these issues are tourists who inconspicuously bring in invasive plants that destroy natural habitats. As the native species die off, the invasive species find spaces in which they can breach. In doing so, the ecosystem gets thrown off balance. For example, animals only feed on the native species, not the invasive ones. If they continue to do so, with the help of invasive species, they can drive the domestic species and animals into mass starvation or even extinction. Ignoring this situation can result in the destruction of many habitats of native species. Since many of these harmful invasive plants are highly brittle, dry, and flammable, they can lead to uncontrollable fires that can destroy habitat. Some more examples of these harmful characteristics include Reed canary grass, which removes moisture from the soil that is crucial for native plants, and French broom, which increases the nitrogen level in the soil, harming native plants that thrive in low-nitrogen soil. Focusing on helping the environment by eradicating these harmful plants thwarts the complete depletion of necessary components native plants need.
A five-point plan to resolve this issue to prevent invasive species from being brought into the United States is provided below. Parks and recreational areas can start providing brochures with helpful tips on how to navigate the area and avoid invading native plants’ habitats. In addition, people can brush off the soles of their shoes after a hike as shoes tend to pick up foreign seeds which can harm native plants in the area. To prevent these seeds from sticking, rubbing alcohol can be sprayed on the bottom of the shoes. This takes off the seeds that could have been carried from other areas, and the alcohol prevents more seeds from latching on. Companies can also lead workdays on weekends to help control populations of invasive plants or pour herbicide on plants to prevent further spreading of the seeds. Lastly, the government can enforce strong quarantine practices and support restoration projects. If other organizations start focusing on the removal of invasive plants, they can lessen the amount of habitat degradation.
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DiTomaso, J.M., G.B. Kyser et al. 2013. Weed Canary in Natural Areas in the Western United States. Reed Research and Information Center, University of California. 554 pp, http://wric.ucdavis.edu/information/natural%20areas/wr_G/Genista.pdf.
“Elkhorn Slough Plants: Harding Grass.” ElkhornSlough.org, www.elkhornslough.org/sloughlife /plants/harding_grass.htm.
“French Broom Identification and Control.” French Broom Identification and Control: Genista Monspessulana- King County, 28 Nov. 2017, www.kingcounty.gov/services/environmen t/animals-and-plants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/french-broom.aspx.