Here’s yet another result of climate change: Our landscapes will change too. It’s not just that we’ll have to plant more hot weather, drought-resistant foliage, it’s that some of these plants will INVADE. Is this a problem? Just ask the city of Atlanta about kudzu!
Ecologist Bethany Bradley thinks that climate change predicted for the United States will boost demand for imported drought- and heat-tolerant landscaping plants from Africa and the Middle East. This greatly increases the risk that a new wave of invasives will overrun native ecosystems in the way kudzu, Oriental bittersweet and purple loosestrife have in the past.
The kudzu invasion of the past few decades saw whole forests overgrown in the Southeast, along with hedgerows, power lines and even houses. In wetlands across the nation, purple loosestrife is crowding out native marsh plants, and Oriental bittersweet, if left unchecked, shades and chokes out native trees, bushes and shrubs along streams, forest and field edges.
Not all imported plants become invasive, but those that do can become a significant threat to native plants and we should not be complacent about the current situation. About 60% of plants now considered invasive were introduced deliberately through the plant trade. The other 40% are human-related accidental introductions such as seeds stuck in cargo or shipping containers. Only a tiny fraction of non-native introductions are from natural causes such as blowing in with a hurricane.
Bradley says, "We probably see thousands of new species each year. All we need is another kudzu to have a big impact."
Whitley and Art Bell’s book "The Coming Global Superstorm" certainly had a big impact, especially after it was made into a movie! It’s hard to find in bookstores now, but you can still get it from the Whitley Strieber Collection (and it will come with a free autographed bookplate, designed by Whitley). Subscribers can also LISTEN to it, since we’ve posted all 4 parts in our subscriber section, just for you.