How Ecology Can Inform Control Of Invasive Plant Species
Invasive plants make up a substantial portion of the damaging invasive species in our world.The control of invasive species can be very costly and is often ineffective. In some cases, the control can be effective, leading the plants to spring right back, and causing the resources spent on control to be wasted. However, knowledge of the ecological principles governing the success (and control) of these plants can lead to more cost-effective and sustainable methods of control.
Competition in ecosystems
In a healthy, wild ecosystem, competition between Invasive Plants is stiff. Different plants occupy different ecological niches, which allows them to partition their occupancy of spaces and roles in an ecosystem, minimizing their direct competition. Niches can become saturated, and at this point, it is hard for new species to enter into the ecosystem without displacing others.
Most of the invasive plant species that cause the greatest ecological and economic impacts are generalist species, adapted to a wide range of conditions. Under many conditions, they will be outcompeted by more specialized species that are more fine-tuned in adaptation to their environments. While not always the case, it is often the case that invasive species have a harder time invading more intact, healthier ecosystems that have greater biodiversity.
One of the most common reasons that invasive control efforts fail is that the plants are removed without replacing them with any native species (or enough native species) to create the lush, competitive ecological environment that is necessary to keep invasives in check. Merely removing the plants often causes them to rebound.