Invasive species damage the lands and waters that native plants and animals need to survive. Approximately 42% of Threatened or Endangered species are at risk primarily due to invasive species. Invasive species also threaten economies and human health. The impacts of invasive species and the costs associated with restoration efforts to eradicate them result in the loss of billions of dollars each year. Many commercial, agricultural, and recreational activities depend on healthy native ecosystems. The dunes are no exception to this pressing threat; in fact, Save the Dunes believes invasive species to be the largest threat to the Indiana dunes ecosystem.
An invasive species is a living organism that is not native to the region in which it has established and threatens the health of native plant and/or wildlife of that region. Invasive species grow and reproduce rapidly and outcompete native species for resources. For example, invasive vine Oriental bittersweet overruns native vegetation, blocking native species from access to sunlight and suffocating trees. Invasive species kill surrounding native species and create a monoculture; these conditions are not conducive for a healthy ecosystem, which depends on the functions of a diverse range of plants and animals.
Invasive species are a significant threat to the health of the Indiana dunes. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore ranks in the top five most biodiverse national parks in the country; that biodiversity is threatened by the establishment of invasive species in the dunes. We can all work to protect our own backyards, parks, and the dunes region as a whole from the threat of invasive species.
Landowners can be educated about the invasive plants growing on their properties and learn about native alternatives. For information about prominent invasive species in our region and how to identify these species check out our Invasive Species in the Indiana Dunes page. Additionally, check out this list of Plants to Avoid and Native Alternatives to learn about commonly planted invasive species and native alternatives for these species. Verify that the plants you are buying for your yard or garden are not invasive. Replace invasive plants in your garden with non-invasive alternatives. Ask your local nursery staff for help in identifying invasive plants! If you are interested in planting more native species in your garden, check out local nurseries such as Cardno JFNew and Native Connections or stop by the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society’s annual plant sale and auction on Mother’s Day or the Friends of the Indiana Dunes’ plant sale on April 12.
For landowners interested in controlling the invasive species on their properties follow this link to the Midwest Invasive Plant Network’s website. There are different methods and timing of control for each species, so please consult a guidebook or local expert before cutting or herbiciding the invasive species in your yard.
Gardens populated with native plants are low maintenance and provide habitat for key native wildlife. Make your garden or yard into a healthy ecosystem by planting a native garden!