The Invasive Species Working Group at the University of Kentucky was initiated by Dr. Songlin Fei, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Forestry. The first meeting of the Invasive Species Working Group was held in May 2006.
The Invasive Species Working Group is comprised of faculty and staff from multiple units at the University of Kentucky including:
Invasions of exotic plants, animals, and pathogens are a significant problem, costing the U.S. economy an estimated $137 billion or about $1,300 per household each year. The result of exotic species invasion can be significant losses of native species, alteration of natural processes, degradation of soil, decreased groundwater levels, destruction of wildlife habitat, reduction of agricultural productivity, diminishing land values, increased wildfire risks, etc. Controlling the invasion of exotic species has been one of the priorities in natural resource management across the nation. In the proposed FY 2007 budget, the USDA Forest Service and the Department of the Interior committed $913 million in forest health issues, a large portion of which is devoted to invasive species research and management.
Due to its unique geographical position, Kentucky is one of the key states that plays an essential role to stop or slow the endemic invasion of exotic species such as sudden oak death, hemlock woolly adelgid, Japanese privet, and gypsy moth. There are hundreds of invasive plants, animals, and pathogens in Kentucky, including some notorious invaders such as garlic mustard, soybean rust, gypsy moth, Japanese honeysuckle, and kudzu. These invasive species cast serious threats to the Commonwealth’s cities, agriculture lands, urban-wild interfaces, and natural areas.
The University of Kentucky has the potential to be a leader in monitoring, modeling, preventing, mitigating, and eradicating invasive species in Kentucky. Researchers from the departments of Forestry, Entomology, Horticulture, Plant and Soil Sciences, Landscape Architecture, Civil Engineering, Geography, Biology, and other entities (e.g., the UK Arboretum) are working on various projects to understand and control invasive species. However, due to the devastating extent and numerous varieties of invasive exotic species, Kentucky is relatively behind in the subject area. In addition, controlling invasive species is a complicated process that requires multidisciplinary knowledge and collaboration. To effectively control invasive species in Kentucky, there is a pressing need to develop a multidisciplinary invasive species program at UK – one that integrates research, education, regulation, and extension.
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