What are invasive species?
Invasive species are any organisms that have been imported into different locations around the globe. These are sometimes referred to as non-indigenous, alien, exotic and/or immigrant species. The consequence of introducing invasive organisms into foreign land has huge environmental, economic and social damage. Today, there are around 17,000 classified invasive species around the world with each ‘alien’ doing far greater harm than good.
Examples of invasive species:
– Asian Carp (fish).
– Cane Toad (frog).
– The European Rabbit.
– Kudzu (plant).
– Indian Mongoose.
– Zebra Mussels.
– European Starling (Bird).
– Asian Long-Horned Beetles.
– Yellow Nutsedge (grass).
– European Red Fox.
– Feral pigs.
– Burmese Pythons.
– Feral Cats.
Why do we move species around the globe?
Invasive species are often introduced to a foreign land as a weapon to control native species considered dangerous or pests. For example, Cane Toads native to South and Central America were introduced to Australia in 1935 to control a damaging beetle wiping out sugarcane crops in Queensland. These frogs were the equivalent of pesticides in modern agriculture. Today, Cane Toads inhabit almost all of Australia.
Additionally, alien species are sometimes introduced for buying and selling in foreign markets as ornaments or pets.
Furthermore, species can also be relocated by pure mistake. Insects like beetles or ants can live in chopped down trees used as firewood, to later be exported to other states, countries or continents.
The impacts associated with invasive species:
Invasive species can substantially alter natural environments which can decimate local habitats and drastically reduce valuable resources like water and food supply.
The Asian Carp fish for example was introduced to the United States at the beginning of the 1960s and has caused huge impacts, consuming large amounts of space and food supply. The Asian Carp has also been known to consume the eggs of other species and stir up river beds and sediment, turning clear waters into displeasing and uninhabitable habitats for local fish.
There are thousands of more invasive organisms causing huge destruction like European Rabbits, responsible for soil erosion from burrowing and the extinction of native plant species from overgrazing. Not to forget ‘alien’ grasses taking over native grassland. The arrival of invasive species has caused mass biodiversity loss and caused far greater destruction than initially intended.
Besides the environmental impacts, the export and import of new species have caused unprecedented social harm as well. By introducing new species, there’s often the risk of new diseases that may tag along. Studies have shown that the introduction of alien species can increase psychological issues like phobias and discomfort amongst the public. The University of Florence (Italy) found that the spread of water hyacinth (an invasive plant) into foreign waters has caused algae blooms, encouraging larger mosquitoes populations and generating human-malaria cases in locations not prone to such disease.
Then there’s the economic damage found in many different sectors. In agriculture, hungry birds and insects like Starlings and beetles cause huge crop destruction in turn, lowering production. In the United States, utility services are also threatened by these rude guests with power companies spending an average of $2 million AUD ($1.5 million USD) every year repairing power lines infested with the Kudzu plant native to Japan. Furthermore, the welcoming of Zebra Mussels in the Great Lakes has cost $690 million AUD ($500 million USD) in removal every year from consuming large surface areas and blocking water intake at treatment facilities. It’s estimated the global economic cost of invasive species over the past 50 years has amounted to $1.777 trillion AUD ($1.288 trillion USD).
Can introducing new species be done correctly?
The negative implications of introducing new species have far outweighed the positives. The arrival of foreign animals, plants etc has caused mass biodiversity and economic loss and a sharp increase in public concern. Introducing foreign pets as luxuries have been a huge mistake. Even ideas acted on with the best intentions like introducing new animals to wipe out dangerous natives have backfired horribly. Being optimistic about a future where this could all be done correctly would be foolish. Unlike many problems, this isn’t an easy practice to manage because to do it correctly, would require monitoring every single organism to ensure they’re doing what’s intended.
The Kudzu plant was first introduced to the south of the United States many years ago for porch decorations. However, due to a lack of intensive monitoring, the growth of this species escalated out of control and is now known as “the plant that ate the south”. This is a similar story replicated with almost all 17,000 invasive species. In short, unless we control every movement of new species, introducing them cannot be done without huge complications.
The ultimate invasive species:
They evolved around 2.5 million years ago from Africa as nothing more threatening nor valuable than anything else, today they dominate all the planet from the lands to the waters to the skies. Humans are the ultimate invasive species, originally from Africa only to one day inhabit almost every portion of the earth. Invasive species cause damage, yet this species, in particular, found a way to cause destruction on an unthinkable scale, destroying forests, burning fossil fuels, polluting the oceans and transporting other animals into a foreign land to replicate pieces of our damage.
Many believe our intelligence was what pushed us to the top (certainly helpful), although the true source was our ability to communicate effectively with one another, relatives or strangers. This ultimately saw us rise and other species perish.
From small talk between one another to planning attacks to building communities to outplaying everyone else in everything. This invasive species came from Africa to customise the globe to our exact desire, redesigning the forests into estates and farms, mining metals for nuclear warfare and building launchpads to send us beyond the earth that commenced our existence.
The welcoming of foreign species has caused destruction to native habitats, cost the global economy trillions and increased psychological distress amongst the public. Put simply, we must stop introducing new species.
Many current environmental issues are harder to eliminate because they still possess value in society, like coal which provides energy, however, introducing foreign species achieves nothing but damage. The best thing we can possibly do now is to ensure the movement of flora and fauna into unknown territories is grounded to a stop! This is, unfortunately, an issue often dismissed by many because what they see, is nature interacting with nature. If only that was true.