Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving freshwater habitats, has been improving environments for many years. Working across the nation to protect and restore freshwater habitats, Trout Unlimited faces multiple challenges. One battle in particular has proven to be a persistent challenge… fighting invasive plant species.
Though the nature of surrounding plant species may not seem significant, invasive plant species have a serious influence on freshwater habitats. Not only do they crowd out native vegetation that shades trout streams, but invasive species are also a nuisance to bikers, fishermen, hikers, and kayakers attempting to navigate such thickets. This often results in a negative impact on local economies.
In 2016, Trout Unlimited conducted a study in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, specifically looking at the characteristics of a trout economy. Restoration of productive trout streams in southeastern Wisconsin had generated billions of dollars in tourism and created more jobs.
1,200 miles of habitat was restored, totaling 24,000 square miles in the Driftless Area. An increase from $1.1 billion dollars in 2008 to nearly $1.6 billion dollars by 2016 was seen as the percentage of visitors drastically improved. These visitors are critical, as they also spend money at gas stations, specialty shops, hotels, restaurants, and more. This creates a multiplier effect.
When asked, 88% of visitors reported recognizing that the areas had been restored. They had decided to fish the Driftless Area because of its new beauty and accessible healthy trout streams.
Another study conducted by the Department of Biology at the University of Dayton concluded that honeysuckle Lonicera maackii was highly disruptive to the biomass in surrounding streams. Driving out native plants necessary for maintaining biodiversity for many species, including trout, the plant creates a very dense canopy that almost completely shades the opportunity for new plant life to emerge. Furthermore, it limits the possibility for stream regeneration to occur.
Removing the Honeysuckle eliminated massive leaf barriers, allowing native leaves to support the stream life. The University of Dayton concluded, as many others have, that invasive plant species have a strong influence on macroinvertebrates and their population survival.
Invasive Plants Are An Ultimate Challenge
Altering aquatic food webs necessary to sustain life is especially a prominent issue. With millions of dollars used to battle and remove invasive plants in such regions as the Driftless Area, it is evident how significant the issue is. However, investment in conservation and restoration has proven to improve both local habitats and economies. As a result, it is important to consider prevention methods. This way, the issue at hand could be fought before it expands.
Prevention methods are an effective solution, and one in particular works to protect environments from plants that pose harm: Plant Sentry™.