Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Guest Article - About the Midwest Invasive Plant Network

Illinois is full of dedicated people and innovative ideas for addressing invasive species. From time to time, this blog is going to host guest articles in which the stories about some of these people, projects, or ideas are told. The next article in this series comes from Kate Howe of the Midwest Invasive Plant Network or MIPN.  MIPN works across the entire Midwest and is a great source for invasive plant resources for Illinois. All of the guest articles can be viewed HERE.

About the Midwest Invasive Plant Network

By Kate Howe

Do you ever wonder what new invasive plants are coming your way from neighboring states or regions? Do you want to share information on control methods and learn about the latest control techniques? Do you want to know about the latest research on invasive species impacts? Get involved with the Midwest Invasive Plant Network!

The Midwest Invasive Plant Network (MIPN) was established in 2003 in response to a need for better communication and collaboration across agencies, organizations, corporations, institutions, and private citizens struggling with invasive plants across the region. MIPN’s mission is to reduce the impacts of invasive plant species in the Midwest, working primarily in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Our organization works to improve invasive plant prevention, early detection, control, and education by creating tools and resources to aid invasive plant management efforts.

Here are some of the things we’re doing to assist your work on the ground in Illinois.

Communication and Information Sharing

One of MIPN’s first accomplishments was to establish a listserv that provides a forum for discussion on invasive plants in the Midwest. Ten years after the listserv started, we have over 550 subscribers and host discussions on control techniques, new invasive plants, job and funding opportunities, and upcoming events. MIPN also hosts a website to provide information on all things related to invasive plants in the Midwest (www.mipn.org), including links to great resources provided by our partners.

MIPN is particularly interested in reducing the sale of invasive ornamental plants in our region. We’re working on outreach to both green industry and consumers about the impacts of ornamental invasives on natural areas and better alternatives for landscaping. Consumers can get information on what to plant and what not to plant in our brochure (also available as a free iPhone and iPad app) called Landscape Alternatives for Invasive Plants of the Midwest. We are also nearing completion of a video called “Cultivating Awareness: Ornamental Plants Invading Natural Areas”, which shows Japanese barberry, burning bush, and Callery pear invading natural areas in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. This video is aimed at demonstrating the impacts of these invasive plants when they escape from cultivation.

Early Detection

In order to spread the word about new species of concern in our region, MIPN created two flyers called Keep a Lookout for New Invasive Plants in the Midwest, one for terrestrial plants and one for aquatic plants. These flyers include photos, range maps, and descriptions of diagnostic features to help in the identification of these new species.

We have also partnered with the University of Wisconsin, Colorado State University, and the National Park Service in the development of the Great Lakes Early Detection Network (GLEDN), a web-based alert system that allows users to sign up for e-mail alerts of new species in their area of interest. GLEDN compiles information from multiple online databases into one website (www.gledn.org) and allows users to directly report invasive plant sightings. This tool improves our knowledge of where invasive plants are in the Midwest and where they might be heading next.


There is a lot of information available on control methods for invasive plants, but how do you pick the right method for your particular needs? MIPN has created a searchable on-line database of control methods, designed to help land managers and landowners compare and contrast all methods for managing a particular species and select the best one for their needs. Users can also report on their personal experiences with particular control methods, allowing us to share information that is not available in the published literature. Check it out at http://mipncontroldatabase.wisc.edu.

Supporting CWMAs

MIPN has just two part-time staff members, so we can’t possibly accomplish our goals alone. We see Cooperative Weed Management Areas as important partners in reducing the impacts of invasive plants in the Midwest, through their local, on-the-ground work. In 2005, we created the CWMA Cookbook: A Recipe for Success, A Step-by-step Guide on How to Develop a Cooperative Weed Management Area in the Eastern United States to help new CWMAs get off the ground, and we have taught workshops on how to start a CWMA in many places across the country. We also periodically host webinars to provide information on tools and resources of interest to CWMAs.


In addition to the resources mentioned above, we have some general publications on invasive plants, including A Field Guide to Invasive Plants of the Midwest, Pocket Naturalist Guide to Invasive Plants of the Eastern U.S., and Why Should I Care About Invasive Plants?
A poster session at the MIPN annual conference

For those who already know the basics but want to learn about the latest developments in invasive plant research and management techniques, we host an annual conference on invasive plants in the Midwest. The conference provides opportunities to learn through formal presentations, poster discussions, and informal conversations. This year’s conference will be held December 11-12 in Columbus, Ohio in conjunction with the North Central Weed Science Society Conference.

For more information about the Midwest Invasive Plant Network or to access any of our resources, visit www.mipn.org.

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