Invasive species are harmful, non-native plants, animals and pathogens that damage our economy and environments. Invasives can move into and dominate both natural and managed systems by disrupting the ability of those systems to function sustainably. They are highly competitive, persistent, and can create monocultures that will eliminate Idaho's diverse biological landscape—a landscape that nurtures Idahoan interests from our recreational pursuits to our ability to help feed the nation.
The vast majority of non-native species brought into Idaho, including most of our sources of food and fiber, are not harmful; many are highly beneficial. However, a small percentage of introduced non-native species do cause great harm to the environment and the economy of the state. When a non-native becomes invasive, it escapes its original or intended ecological niche and enters habitats where it may grow and spread uncontrollably.
Invasive species and noxious weeds are often unintended hitchhikers on conveyances and people. Over the years, human activities such as trade, travel, and tourism have substantially increased, and along with it, the movement of species at unprecedented volumes. Still more non-native species are deliberately introduced as pets, ornamental plants, crops, biofuels, food, for recreation, or other purposes. Since invasive species are often introduced without any of their native range predators and pathogens, there are no natural checks in place to keep them from spreading uncontrollably in a new environment.
Invasive species threats to Idaho include:
- Pests that threaten agricultural commodities.
- Forest pests, including those that may attack commercially valuable timber species and those that threaten shade trees found mostly in urban settings.
- Diseases that threaten the health of humans or domestic animals and wildlife.
- Nuisance exotic animal species that can displace or compete with native species.
- Noxious weeds that displace ecologically or economically valuable native rangeland species or agricultural crops or threaten the integrity of streams and lakes.
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Banner: (Berteroa incana) Richard Old, www.xidservices.com. Photos: (left) Linda Wilson, University of Idaho, Bugwood.org / (right) Plant Protection Service, Bugwood.org.