Invasive species should be taken seriously

Invasive species should be taken seriously

Invasive species should be taken seriously
February 12
12:19 2018

Often when we think of invasive species, we imagine zebra mussels or the infamous Africanized bee. However, many plants, mammals and insects participate in the invasion of native habitats.

An invasive species is one that is not native to the environment in which it is introduced, and it adversely effects its new habitat, as well as the other species who share it.

When an endemic species, also known as a native species, is moved into an environment which is foreign to them, the organism often has fewer natural predators.

A lack of natural predators means these invasive species have a better chance of successful reproduction. The offspring of invasive animals are more likely to reach adulthood and create offspring of their own, accelerating this issue.

Often, animals are dispersed around the globe via the black market or by accident.

Unfortunately, many animals do not survive the transport due to a lack of knowledge of the species’ needs or inadequate transport strategies.

Often, transporters are more concerned with avoiding attention from law enforcement, rather than ensuring the safety of the animals they are smuggling.

A recent National Geographic article noted there is a potential a rise in demand for the red panda (Ailurus fulgens). Six red pandas were discovered in individual crates in a van in Laos. Thankfully, the animals were discovered and rescued. The poacher was arrested, but three of the six red pandas later died.

We, as stewards of nature, are responsible for educating ourselves and others to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.

If there is no demand, there will be no supply.

Invasive species are not limited to the parameters of just animals. In fact, many of the invasive species scientists are working to combat are plants.

The water chestnut (Trapa natans) and giant salvina (Salvinia molesta) are both well-known invasive plant species.

Salvinia is known as a free-floating fern. It reproduces through a process called fragmentation, a common form of reproduction among the plant kingdom. The goal of fragmentation is to increase surface area of a plant or species of plant.

This means salvinia is capable of spreading across the surface of a lake, out-competing other aquatic plants, and even depleting the oxygen levels within the water which can kill fish.

When salvinia is wide-spread in an environment, it can even become impassable for motorized boats.

Humans also have a role in the spread of invasive plant species. When travelers visit distant places, they often stumble upon plants they think are beautiful or physiologically fascinating.

The issue occurs when these plants are harvested and smuggled back home.

Upon introduction to the plant’s new home, it typically spreads without limit until it has damaged the environment and hindered many environmental services.

Environmental services are what scientists call the natural processes that occur within biological interactions that benefit us all. An example is how bees pollinate many plants, including crops, which aid both the bee, the plants and humans. Environmental services are essential for the continued well-being of our natural world.

In addition to the disruption of natural processes, invasive species often function as vectors of disease to native inhabitants.

An article aimed to inform the public about how invasive species are affecting native Australian plants and animals said these organisms, after becoming afflicted, “rarely respond well to treatment.”

Furthermore, the inability to “cure some diseases has led to the endangerment, and in severe cases, the extinction of native species.”

We face many challenges to protect and preserve our beautiful planet, and we are likely to face many more in the future.

Humans have the power to influence so much change in the environment for better or for worse. We absolutely must use this power of change to craft a sustainable future for all organisms.

This means educating ourselves about the many diverse beings we share the planet with and protecting their individual environments as best we can.

Featured Image: Illustration by Austin Banzon

About Author

Sean Rainey

Sean Rainey

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