News Release

New Study Finds Abundance of Invasive Plant Species at Port of Savannah

May 26, 2020

Asheville, NC — USDA Forest Service researchers found that one-third of plant species growing at the Port of Savannah in Georgia (Garden City Terminal) are non-native and potentially invasive; invasive species are a costly problem that devastates ecosystems. This discovery comes after a two-year study by Forest Service ecologist Rima Lucardi.

Invasive species grow and spread quickly and can outcompete native vegetation and create fire hazards. Trade hubs are probable non-native plant hotspots and can become possible sources of non-native plant invasions. Lucardi developed a framework for inventorying these non-native plant populations at U.S. ports of entry. 

In a Shared Stewardship approach, SRS scientists joined experts from Arkansas State University, University of Georgia, and Columbus State University and worked closely with local port officials and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to make this study possible.

"This paper is a call to action," says Lucardi. "Prevention, early detection, and rapid response are key to the conservation of biodiversity and positive economic returns."

It's cheaper to prevent biotic invasions than to eradicate them. Throughout the southern U.S., for example, timber is a significant economic product and export. If the noxious weed cogongrass were to be found on a harvest site, the timber must be fumigated before export, if it can be harvested at all.

The researchers plan to study other industrial and transportation sites to provide land managers the knowledge they need to manage and eradicate invasive pests. 

"Rare and endangered species can be conserved if we prevent non-native invasions. We hope other researchers will use our framework to engage with industry to prevent exotic invasions," adds Lucardi.