JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Volunteers braved the rain at Jacob’s Nature Park on Saturday morning to work on removing invasive species, specifically plant varieties that didn’t originate in Northeast Tennessee.

But what’s going on at the park is more than just cosmetic; Johnson City naturalist Connie Deegan says non-native, invasive plants are the environmental equivalent of junk food.

“If I gave you two packs of ramen and a yogurt to eat every day, you’d be alive,” Deegan said. “But you wouldn’t be really zippy, and that’s what we’re doing to our pollinators, to our birds, who are our critters.”

In the long run, failing to support healthy forests could even impact the human food supply, according to ETSU biologist Darrell Moore. He said he’s been researching honey bees for over 20 years.

“This rapid change is not healthy for bees,” said Moore. “I’m afraid this kind of thing is probably not healthy for other pollinators also.”

Despite the potentially dire consequences for plants and animals, Deegan remains optimistic that small changes like the work at Jacob’s Nature Park can make a big impact.

She recommends people who want to make a change should start small by learning to identify native and invasive plants and replacing invasives with natives in their own yards.

The next work day at Jacob’s Nature Park is scheduled for March 11.

Deegan says the fall work dates will focus on planting native species. She told News Channel 11 has yet to decide the schedule for those work days.