National Invasive Species Awareness Week and its relevance in Pennsylvania
A hundred years or so ago — back when I was an inexperienced general assignment reporter — I worked for a city editor who loved to assign me and other writers at the newspaper stories about national awareness weeks and months.
I hated those stories.
So I feel a bit guilty about pointing this out, but it’s National Invasive Species Awareness Week. So if you care to, you could participate in events across the nation to raise awareness and identify solutions to invasive species issues at local, state, regional, international and national scales.
But this week has more relevance in Pennsylvania than you might realize. Invasive organisms are playing havoc with our forests and waters. Just this past month it was revealed that one more invasive species, gill lice that only infect rainbow trout, have shown up in a tributary of Tulpehocken Creek in Lebanon County. That parasite is from California.
It joins aquatic organisms such as zebra mussels, quagga mussels, round gobies, rusty crayfish, silver carp and snakeheads in Pennsylvania waters — and more are here or are coming. And aquatic plants such as didymo (rock snot), hydrilla and Japanese stiltgrass menace our waters as well.
In our forests, where a fungus from Asia in the last century wiped out the American chestnut, another invasive-species-related tragedy is unfolding. A beetle from Asia is removing ash trees. Almost 4 percent of Pennsylvania’s forests are ash — many in the Northern Tier. There are 300 million ash trees in Pennsylvania, and 99 percent of them will die due to emerald ash borer.
And then there is the woolly adelgid — a small, aphid-like creature from Asia — devastating our state tree, the hemlock. In coming years, we’re told, most hemlocks will die, too.
Invasive species in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are a huge and growing problem — and whether you want to think about them this week or not — you’ll be hearing more about them.