Invasive species can do immense damage

ASIAN CARP CLOSING IN on Great Lakes” read a headline in Tuesday’s Review. The story went on to explain how grass carp imported from Asia decades ago to control algae and unwanted plants in controlled settings such as sewage treatment lagoons have escaped into the wild and could destabilize the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing industry.

It’s another instance of the oft-repeated tale of how “invasive” species can wreck havoc with the environment, the economy and human health.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that there may be 50,000 species (plants, insects, animals and fish) which are not native to the United States, and about 4,000 of these are “invasive” because of their potential to do harm.

Some of those we hear most about locally are zebra mussels, purple loosestrife, garlic mustard, sea lampreys, gypsy moths and the emerald ash borer - at which public campaigns are aimed.

But there are many others, to the point that Sheboygan County has an official invasive species coordinator to help raise awareness and promote identification and controls.

Why bother?

The service has a pretty convincing list of reasons on its very thorough invasive species website, summarized as:

Impacts to natural resources and environment

• Reduce the ability of streams to make historic water deliveries.

• Displace native plant communities and/or radically change the nature of the habitats they invade.

• Compete for the same natural resources and life requirements (food, water, space, shelter) as native species and degrade local ecologies by disrupting the food chain.

• Cause the extinction of native species.

• Increase soil erosion and fire hazard.

• Decrease the quality of understory habitat in forests and facilitate the spread of other invasive species.

• Decrease the quality and amount of range for wildlife (and range animals).

• Degrade aquatic habitats and clog waterways.

Impacts to the economy

• Cause reduced revenues to natural resource based businesses.

• Affect boaters and fisherman by changing fish habitat and clogging waterways.

• Act as hosts for other damaging organisms.

• Decrease the quality and quantity of rangeland.

• Decrease land values and cost the landowner time and money.

• Cause soil erosion.

• Cause damage and increased maintenance costs to power plants and industrial water systems.

• Have a negative impact of tourism.

Impacts to Human Health

Although most of the impacts caused by invasive species are to our ecology and economy, invasive species can also have severe impacts on human health.

Invasive species can:

• Serve as vectors (carriers) for human diseases.

• Be poisonous or caustic to humans.

Some of the simplest ways for individuals to resist are to clean outdoor recreation gear, boats and boots, report suspected species, observe rules limiting the movement of firewood, and don’t release unwanted pets or dump aquariums.

At issue:
Invasive species
Bottom line:
A fight we all need to make

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