That's right, the fight against nonnative invasive plants in Great Basin National Park has begun. Not all nonnative plants are invasive. Many, like the fruit trees in the historic orchard by the visitor center, require care taking to survive in this environment. Only a very few of all introduced plants become pests. These plants arrive in an environment that is actually better suited to them than the ecosystem they evolved in. They thrive because of different seasonal patterns, water patterns, or lack or competition or predation.
These plants can outcompete the native plants. This can reduce bidiversity, create conditions for increased soil erosion, reduce forage and alter habitats. Spotted knapweed secrets biotoxins that inhibit the growth of other plants. Cheatgrass sprouts earlier than the native grasses, then uses enough water that the native grasses (generally better forage) have a hard time competing.
Although there are over 25 species of nonnative plants in the park, management is only targeting a few of them for control. The effort is focusing on plants with the greatest potential impact that can be controlled feasibly, such as spotted knapweed, bull thistle and musk thistle. You may see park employees and voluteers spot treating plants, pulling flowering plants or scientifically monitoring the effects of treatment. One problem is that some plants are continuously being re-introduced into the park.
Plants are introduced via many routes. Some are planted in gardens or during roadside stabilization projects. Others are introduced accidentally as contaminants in seed, animal feed, or even packing material! Nonnative seeds and plant parts are often spread by being carried on the hooves or hides of animals, in the doors or undercarriages of vehicles, or on hikers' apparel.
You can help! Check the doors and undercarriage of your vehicle for plants. Scrutinize your pet's coat and your shoes, socks and pants legs for "hitchhiking" seeds. If you find any plants or seeds, remove them and place them in a garbage can. Use weed-free hay when taking stock animals into the park. If you want to contribute more actively in the fight against nonnatives, contact rangers at the visitor center about volunteering for an hour or more as a Weed Warrior. Consider landscaping around your own home with native plants.