One of the most important things we can do for our children is foster a love for nature. It can be a place for them to turn to for a lifetime of adventure, relaxation and connection to something bigger than themselves. It is certainly something bigger than all of us.
With this in mind we must also gently teach them about the ways humans effect the natural world. The introduction of non-native species, among the many ways humans impact the environment, is a major problem around the world that sometimes gets very little attention. The Nature Exchange introduced last week could be used as a way to teach children about non-native and invasive species while responsibly selecting nature to share with others.
What is a non-native species?
Very simply a non-native species, also called an introduced species, it is a living organism living outside its native range. Introduction usually occurs by humans either by accident or deliberately. Some non-native species cause terrible damage to an ecosystem and some are beneficial.
Examples of damaging introduced species include:
Cane toad, zebra mussels, purple loostrife, starlings, constrictors, mongoose
For more information about invasive species in the US follow this link.
Examples of beneficial introduced species include:
Food crops such as corn, wheat and potatoes. Livestock such as cattle, pigs, and chickens. Honey bees, dogs, and cats (dogs and cats can be debated as some do become feral and cause problems but most pet owners will attest to the health benefits of owning a pet dog or cat)
What is an invasive species?
In simple terms an invasive species is a non-native or native species that causes ecological damage, or adversely effects the natural environment. This includes introduced species that thrive because they have no natural predators or a naturally occurring species that is causing damage because of a population explosion, possibly due to the elimination of natural predators.
How are invasive species introduced to the environment?
The introduction of invasive species has risen remarkably since the 1900's. With the increase in world trade there was also an increase in the movement of species. There are many ways in which a new species can be introduced to a new area. Some common ways of introduction are shipping, recreational boating, cargo transportation, garden planting and escape from captivity.
The above information is in no way complete but given as an introduction to a very complex topic. Please use it as a launch pad to continue your own investigation of the issue.
Ideas for a safe Nature Exchange
~ Learn about the non-native and invasive species in your area. Your state department of agriculture should have the information on their web site.
~ Sterilize seeds before you send them. This can be done by placing the seeds on a cookie sheet and baking at 300 degrees for 30 min or in a paper bag in the microwave on high for 5 min.
~ Don't plant seeds you receive.
~ Instead of sending bark samples send bark rubbings. A book of rubbings from your local trees would be a wonderful addition to your nature box. Annie has some great tutorials on book making if you need ideas.
~ Consider making a shadow box of the nature gifts you receive. It would be a wonderful way to remember the exchange and keep everything contained in one place after it has been studied.
~ If you decide to throw out any of the nature items please do so by burning them... just to be safe.
If you have any other ideas or questions on this topic please post them in the comments or feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.
There has been a wonderful response to the nature exchange so far and we are looking forward hearing all about your exchanges in the future.