Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is an invasive weed?
A: A weed is just an undesirable plant. A weed is invasive if it is not native to an area and it causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.
Q: Where do Alaska's invasive weeds come from?
A: Most of Alaska's invasive weeds are native to Europe and Asia but not North America. An important reason for this is that there are large areas of Europe and Asia that are very similar in climate and geography to Alaska. The plants of these regions are thus perfectly suited to thrive here when removed from their natural enemies in their native habitats.
Q: Alaska's invasive plants don't come from Southern Hemisphere or North America?
A: The Southern Hemisphere has very little vegetated land area in the colder regions, and so its plants are less competitive and diverse than those in the Northern Hemisphere. Canada, on the other hand, has many of the same native plants as Alaska, and so they wouldn't be considered invasive.
Q: Isn't this just Nature taking its course?
A: The introduction and spread of noxious, invasive plants is nearly always the result of artificial introduction, not natural. Whether transported back to Alaska as whole plants by well-intentioned tourists, hitchhiking as seed or root segments on shoes, tires, boat hulls, or aircraft or through internet retail options, invasive weeds are ending up in Alaska in ways that Nature never intended..
Q: Species move around all the time. Why should human introductions be considered separate from Nature?
A: Spread of a species is highly dependent on introductions to get the species to a new place, and disturbance to create space for the species to take hold. Humans create disturbances when building and maintaining roads, trails, infrastructure, material extraction, and other activities. Because there are so many people, we have the ability to create larger disturbances that happen more frequently than the resources we depend on have adapted to. Introductions of a species are facilitated by humans due to technologies such as planes, trains, automobiles, boats and the internet which allow us to accidentally or on purpose introduce species at a much larger scale/frequency than is natural. For these reasons, more species with invasive characteristics have a chance to take root in Alaska.
Q: Don't we all have dandelions and chickweed. What's the big deal?
A: Dandelions and chickweed are weeds and they are nuisances. However, they do not have the ability noxious invasive plants have to cause tremendous losses to the economy, ecology and environment. The type of impact that we are trying to avoid includes loss of salmon and moose habitat, reduction of property value, reduced agricultural capabilities and destruction of native Alaska species of plants and wildlife.
Q: Are you saying that any plant that isn't native to Alaska should be targeted and eradicated?
A: Not at all. Non-native doesn't always mean invasive. In fact, more often than not, introduced plants are not noxious or invasive in the Alaskan ecosystem, for various reasons. Caution needs to be used, however, when considering purchase or transport of plants from outside Alaska, avoiding those that have shown invasive tendencies in areas with similar climate conditions. Many of the Lower 48 states have learned very hard lessons that we in Alaska can benefit from..