Traditionally ignored as inconsequential, Invasive, also known as Alien Species are today a significant threat not only to native habitants of the United States’ ecosystems but also a cost to agricultural production, recreation (tourism) as well as in forestry. Mostly, the invasive species refer to naturalized species or in basic terms “Introduced species,” although not all invasive species cause harm economically or environmentally. For instance, a species such as dandelion; they are not widely considered as invasive. The conventional definition of invasive species however is “a non-native plant or animal that harms or inconveniences the normal life of the native inhabitants.”
Studies in alien species estimate that over 50,000 non-native species have been introduced in both the US’s wilderness as well as homes including crops, livestock, pets and a host of numerous other non-invasive species. Environmental economists place the total damage value caused by invasive species at over $120 billion annually. This value is the cause of alarm and concern not only for the government but to every citizen in the US. A simple invasive species in one’s garden results to enormous losses in terms of resistivity to weed control measures as well as lost benefits that native plants or animals would have made.
Today, invasive species represent a huge threat to almost every aspect of society. Mention the ecosystems, animal health, cultural resources, tourism, the economy, infrastructure and the list goes on. What is even more shocking is that the threat continues to grow as more and more invasive species are either legally introduced into the US environment or are smuggled in the country as either pets or organisms of value. To this end, it should be noted that the world today, with its enormous effects of globalization, international trade and quick transport systems make it too easy for different species of plants and animals to be moved in different parts of the world, especially in America.
Not known to many is that, the tragedy of invasive species comes with or is facilitated by numerous other elements of normal life. For instance, the Climate Change and changes in land management render the native habitants less adaptable and more susceptible which makes non-native species’ establishment possible and this is, over time, being amplified to adverse biological invasion. When invasive species are mentioned, people tend to dissociate their lives with them, but owe unto you if you are one of them, invasive species are right in your house, your garden or at least in your neighborhood. Invasive species come in all sizes and types; we have butterflies that are invasive and thus can fly in any house, there are numerous snakes that are invasive and can slither in any garden thus the threat is real across the spectrum of life.
The National Invasive Species Council (NISC) was established through the Executive Order 13112 in February, 1999 to provide leadership on combating the threat of invasive species. The council has since then established and continues to upgrade a database documenting the different types of invasive species including their sources and potential impact (Sax et al., 2005). NISC provides the following list for invasive species that should be watched:
- Asian gypsy moth
- Nun moth
- Tropical bont tick
- Siberian moth
Although the challenge is significant, it is not insurmountable. We can act right now and deal with a less heavy problem or wait and deal with the heaviest challenge of cleaning our environment. Through good decisions and strategies, America is better placed to prevent and mitigate the adverse impacts of alien species on its ecosystems, infrastructure, economy, health and cultural resources.
Sax, D., Stachowicz, J., & Gaines, S. (2005). Species Invasions. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.