Fruit flies to wild boars to French broom, alien species are changing Monterey County.
Silent and persistent, intruders arrive in county and disrupt natural order
Peering into a magnifying glass, Brad Oliver scans 2,000-plus small insect traps a month.
In the broken wings and inert bodies, he seeks signs of trouble to come.
"If it's suspicious, I take a closer look," said Oliver, a veteran biologist with the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner's Office.
"It's part of my job."
Fifteen miles west in a Quonset hut-like structure on an open field at California State University, Monterey Bay, Christina McKnew works on the same perplexing problem as Oliver.
Beneath a thick plastic roofing that diffuses the direct sunlight, she tends to thousands of fledgling native plants.
McKnew and Oliver share a concern over alien species invading Monterey County.
Such species can arrive in various forms - non-native plants, insects, mammals, aquatic beings, even fungi.
They threaten crops, crowd out native plants and animals and menace public health.
Oliver checks the small traps for signs of invasive insects.
McKnew, who manages greenhouses for CSUMB's Watershed Institute's Return of the Natives program, focuses on growing native plants.
Once ready, the plants are reintroduced in spots along Salinas creeks, on the former Fort Ord, behind the library in Marina and at other points degraded by alien species.
Little by little, such species encroach, often undetected, Oliver and McKnew said.
Nor does the public grasp the severity of the encroachment, they said.
That's why a nonporous inspection program at state and national borders is essential in controlling the problem, Oliver said.
"We need to monitor for these species," he said. "They're easier to control when you find them in the early stages."
Originally published: http://www.thecalifornian.com/article/20091128/NEWS01/911280305/1002/rss
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