Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for...

Invasive/ Introduced Species.

Many of you may not realize, but introduced and invasive species are a big influence on the native biodiversity of many countries in the world today.  And for the most part humans are solely responsible for this.  Most of these species were introduced with full knowledge of humans, say reintroducing mustangs into this country.  But it is usually the unintentional introductions that do the most harm.  And I say this because the unintentional ones are usually very small animals or plants or insects that are overlooked on transport vessels or imported goods, etc.  Think zebra mussels.

Zebra mussels were first detected in this country in 1988 in the Great Lakes.  They now inhabit most of the waterways from the Mississippi to the East Coast.  And just look what they can do:

These critters mean business.  And they're not the only ones.  The reason I am so impassioned about this topic is my experience in New Zealand.  New Zealand is extremely aware of their invasive species, and they love telling everybody about them (plus I did a paper on "The Impact of Introduced Species on New Zealand Biodiversity").  That picture at the top?  That is a common brushtail possum, native to Australia. They were introduced to NZ in the late 1800s in the hope to start a fur trade.  Those cute, fuzzy, and ridiculously soft creatures are really rampaging killers.  No, seriously.  Possums love to eat birds.  And, if you didn't know, almost all of NZ's native species are birds.  These birds evolved without any major predators to worry about, thus not evolving an instinctive anti-predator behavior. So combine these helpless birds with more than one new predator (the stoat is another major problem species), and without interference the birds will be gone sooner rather than later. 

Luckily NZ is aware of these issues and participates in measures to prevent the extinction of all of their native flora and fauna.  While the United States may not have any species that is quite this bad, at least not nationally known (cane toads are a big problem in Hawaii), we do still have a lot of invasive species and such.  I mean, just think of the size of this country.  We're bound to have a few problems.

If your interest has been piqued by this post, you can find a list of invasive species  in the United States (by state) here.  Or you can just try Wikipedia.  Despite the reputation, most of Wikipedia's articles are mostly correct.  After a quick scan of this article I believe you can gain some useful, true information.

And on that note I am off to bed.  It's been a long day and my pillow is just calling my name.  Tomorrow's letter is J... I wonder what I'll come up with for that?