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Lucy Irons

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Are you concerned about the spread of invasive species?

Invasive species are non-native species that have a negative impact on their introduced environment. Invasive species are a huge issue not only due to their environmental impacts, but their economic ones as well. According to the National Invasive Species Information Center, there are currently about 50,000 invasive species in the United States alone that cost over $138 billion annually to manage. invasive species have a number of distinctive traits, including A general diet, large amounts of genetic variation, the ability to survive in a wide range of climates, a continuous breeding season, and the production of many offspring every year. What role do these versatile organisms have in a world where many species and ecosystems potentially lack the diversity required to survive rapid changes in their environment? Is it possible that, in the face of global climate change and biodiversity loss, invasive species can contribute something positive to biological systems?

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  • Mar 17 2012: It has been argued throughout this thread whether or not invasive species are doing more harm then good? There are many great supporting claims for each side. Invasive species can be seen as contributing to the overall biro diversity of that community. They can also be seen in a negative light if they disrupt the natural 'native' life. Perhaps they are doing more harm then good...What would be the best way to eradicate them (if necessary at all..)?
    The options could include: genetically modified virus that would wipe out the population, a naturally occurring virus that would wipe them out, species specific predator, isolate the community so no dispersal or migration could happen, or propaganda.
    I was thinking that the first step in the efforts to get rid of any invasive species would be to give information to the local people of that area to give an awareness. I have heard that in Napa County, CA the glassy winged sharp shooter is decimating many vineyards. Many fliers and informational ads were circulating around the community advertising ways for farmers to control the pest. The efforts eventually payed off and there has been quite a reduction of the shooter. Educating people on the way invasive species travel, or hitch a ride, could force traveling regulations to be more strict for carrier ships. After educating the general public I think that if the plot of land where the invasive species was taking over, with negative consequences, should be isolated and controlled. If this area is too big then I would say to introduce a natural virus that would only harm specifically the invasive population. It is tough because each solution seems to come with its own repercussions. Is there one answer to this?
    • Mar 17 2012: I know this was a small part of your comment, but non-native species don't necessarily contribute to biodiversity. In many cases, the introduction of non-native species decreases biodiversity. If there is no predator (or other limiting factor) in the new environment to keep the population of the invasive species in check, it can quickly overrun an entire community and essentially create a monoculture. This can cause local extinctions of native species and could also alter the environment enough that re-establishment of these species is nearly impossible.

      As for eradication, I completely agree that education and fast action are the best route. If you know something about the biology of an invasive organism, it may be easier to control its spread. A great example of fast action within a community occurred in New Zealand, where an invasive tunicate was quickly overgrowing shipping vessels and hugely impacting the local mussel industry. The community worked very fast to eradicate the invader before spawning season, and were very successful. Here's a link to a report about this eradication: http://www.nzmfa.co.nz/assets/PannellCoutts07.pdf

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