The National Invasive Species Council defines an invasive species as “a species that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” By overtaking and replacing native plants, invasive species disrupt natural ecosystem processes such as the hydrologic cycle (movement of water), nutrient cycling, wildfire regime, natural succession and soil conservation. This leads to ecological instability and decreased biodiversity, which in turn impacts wildlife and other species that may be dependent upon the local flora for food or habitat. As a result of these ecological impacts and also the economic impact invasive species have on industries, such as fishing and agriculture, it became apparent at the federal, state and local levels that policies and initiatives aimed to control invasive species are necessary and crucial. These policies also help ensure that our natural areas remain rich in native biodiversity, that lands are walkable, that agriculture is viable and that our waters are kept open for fishing, boating and swimming.
In 2003, the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission’s Protected Lands Council (after a long and thorough examination of ecological stressors that may impact the forest health of the Central Pine Barrens) ranked invasive plants and animals as the single biggest threat to the ecological health of the Central Pine Barrens. In order to combat and control invasive species, the Commission collaborates with the New York State Office of Invasive Species Coordination, which was established in 2007 to coordinate invasive species management efforts across the state. New York State created New York Invasive Species Information to serve as an electronic gateway to science-based information, breaking news and events, and innovative tools for coping with biological invaders in New York, which is also home to the National Aquatic Nuisance Species Clearinghouse Invasive Species Database of published aquatic invasive species research.
The Central Pine Barrens Commission has been significantly involved in programs and initiatives to combat invasive species in the Central Pine Barrens through its involvement in the Long Island Invasives Species Management Area which is one of eight New York State Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISMs) created based on recommendations from the 2005 Invasive Species Task Force report to the Governor. LIISMA is a cooperative effort of many partners, including government agencies, conservation and research organizations, individuals and others interested in the management of invasive species in New York State. Aside from being an active participant, the Commission hosts several LIISMA meetings each year. Through partnerships with other agencies, the Commission has conducted invasive plant inventories, assessments and programs. In addition, Central Pine Barrens invasive species data has been consolidated into a centralized system which includes an invasive species database and an online, GIS-based mapping tool called iMapInvasives that was developed by New York State to serve the needs of invasive species managers throughout the State.