Robert H. Tichenor, Maryland Department of Agriculture, 410-841-5920
ANNAPOLIS, MD (February 12, 2003) - The northern snakehead fish may be the most recognized invasive species in Maryland. Invasive species of many types present a threat, second only to habitat loss, to the conservation of desirable animals, plants and their environments. In an effort to raise public awareness about the management costs and damage these invaders do to native Maryland species, the Maryland Invasive Species Council (MISC) is publishing an updated description of the worst invasive plants, animals and diseases in the state. The publication, Invasive Species of Concern in Maryland, includes information on each species found in the state as well as "red alert species," that are not yet present in Maryland but have potential for introduction.
"The list is the first in a series of publications that MISC will produce to alert the public to unwanted invaders," said Robert Tichenor, facilitator of the council. "Each month, starting in March of this year, we will publish detailed information on an invasive species that is most recognizable during that month."
Nearly half of the plants and animals listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened or endangered are under attack by invasive species, with an estimated $138 billion per year impact on the nation's economy.
One of the best known invasive creatures is the northern snakehead, which was recently eradicated from a pond in Crofton, Maryland. Like the snakehead, most invasive species are plants and animals that are accidentally or intentionally introduced into the environment outside of their native habitat. In this new home, their capacity to reproduce and spread is not limited by the diseases and predators of their native habitats. As a result, invasive species can crowd out native plants, insects and other desirable organisms, increase the risk of wildfires and floods, change the temperature of soil, destroy wetlands, damage pipes and other infrastructure and increase the risk of disease for humans, plants and animals.
"Increasing numbers of invasive species are being found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed," Tichenor said. "Concern for the Bay is increasing at every level of government and among industries, conservation organizations and citizens."
MISC, a group of scientists, conservationists, land managers, business people and other concerned citizens, is working to address these concerns by raising awareness of this important conservation issue and recruiting help in managing invasive species in Maryland.
"Our mission is to coordinate the diversity of knowledge on plants, insects, fish and wildlife, and to provide leadership and support for reducing adverse effects of invasive species in Maryland," said Tichenor, who is also an entomologist with the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
By naming an "Invasive Species of the Month" and publishing other information about invasives in Maryland and the damage they do, MISC hopes to avoid future infestations and more effectively control invasive species populations already in the state.
A copy of "Invasive Species of Concern in Maryland," is available on the Internet at http://www.mdinvasivesp.org, or contact the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Plant Protection and Weed Management Section at 410-841-5920.