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Information is Useful in Fighting Invasive Aliens
by Susan McCarthy, National Agricultural Library
(As originally submitted for publication in the Beltsville News September 2006.)

bull thistleInvasive aliens seem to be everywhere: in the water, on the land, in the air; attacking our wildlife, natural areas, and agricultural lands. These aliens are invasive species--harmful non-native plants, animals, or microbes, transported here by boats, planes, and winds from their native lands. They are harmful in Maryland because they crowd out native plants and animals by grabbing space, light, and nutrients.

Invasive species are very costly. Nutria, for example, which is an aquatic mammal with a voracious appetite for marsh grasses, is damaging hundreds of acres of valuable wetlands. The wetlands in turn provide spawning and nursery grounds for many shellfish, fish, and wildlife important for

commercial fisheries and recreational activities around the Chesapeake Bay. Nutria cost the State of Maryland more than $5 million in direct and indirect losses in 2001 alone.

Beltsville has its share of invasive species. For example, explorers from the National Agricultural Library (NAL) found Bull thistle growing near the library adjacent to Sunnyside Avenue. Native to Europe, Bull thistle produces millions of wind-dispersed seed that rapidly colonize areas of disturbed ground, excluding other herbaceous plants and making access difficult, if not painful, to people and wildlife. Bull thistle is listed as a prohibited noxious weed in the State of Maryland and must, by law, be controlled. Indeed, a worker from the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center came by to control the weed as we were photographing it for the Beltsville News.

Information is a key weapon in the fight against the invading marauders. The NAL’s National Invasive Species Information Center (NISIC) maintains, an extensive Web site focused on the wide range of issues raised by invasive species.

The NISIC Web site includes reliable information from the Federal, state, and local governments, universities, and other organizations. Central to the Web sites are profiles of nearly 100 species, including species of interest to Maryland such as the Northern Snakehead fish, Giant Hogweed, Emerald Ash Borer and Orthomyxovirdae (the virus responsible for Avian Influenza). The species profiles point to Web resources describing the introduction history, impacts, distribution, habitat, and much more for each species.

NISIC is the latest of eight subject-focused information centers at the National Agricultural Library (NAL); each provides Web access to rich information resources on topics related to their subject focus. If you would like information on invasive species, visit the National Agricultural Library’s Invasive Species Information Center Web site or contact the Information Center by . Tours and presentations about the NAL may be arranged through the public affairs office by calling 301-504-6778.
Last Modified: Oct 31, 2012
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