To Plant or Not to Plant? Regulating Invasive Plant Species in the Mid-Atlantic States (2015-13)

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Nov 16, 2016
Lea R. Johnson

Along the Atlantic U.S. coast, the states from Virginia to New York share many things: humid climate, warm summers, productive farmland, forested mountains, urban traffic, and invasive plant species.

Invasive plants are introduced, intentionally or unintentionally, from other parts of the world, and cause economic or ecological harm. Some invasive plants are famous, like kudzu, the “vine that ate the South.” Others are newly emerging problems. As these species spread rapidly across the landscape, growing costs of their economic and environmental impacts have sparked interest in regulating their sale and transport. Laws now prohibit the sale and movement of some species. State and local governments are drafting regulations that will affect horticulture, plant nurseries, and options for landscape design. Awareness of invasive plant species is slowly increasing among homeowners and professionals who make local-scale planting decisions, while panels of experts and industry representatives are being convened to decide which plants to restrict, and how. These important questions require synthesis of economic, social, and scientific information.

 This case study asks students to explore the problem system from a variety of perspectives, including business, policy, and ecological science. 

Estimated time frame: 
A few class periods or Units within course (i.e. multiple weeks)
SES learning goals: 
  • Understand the structure and behavior of socio-environmental systems
  • Consider the importance of scale and context in addressing socio-environmental problems
  • Find, analyze, and synthesize existing data, concepts, or methods
  • Co-develop research questions and conceptual models in inter- or trans-disciplinary teams

Has this been tested in the class room: 
Course and class size: 
Undergraduate plant science course with students majoring in landscape architecture, plant science, wildlife management, and landscape management; enrollment 30-50
Does this case have an answer key: 
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