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Invasive Species/Alien Species: What Effect Will They Have On Our Environment?

Updated on June 3, 2014

Invasive species are non-native plants or animals that pose a threat to an ecosystem, an environment, the economy, or to human health. Invasive species can be animals, plants, or microorganisms that have been introduced to a non-native environment and have a negative effect on the environment. Invasive species may destroy native animals, plants, or organisms. Invasive species are known to take over an ecosystem and drive native organisms out of the ecosystem. Invasive species have also been known to kill or eat endangered animals or native organisms when introduced into a non-native environment. Invasive species usually spread quickly and take over an entire ecosystem. Some invasive species have been introduced to a non-native area on purpose and by accident. When done on purpose people are usually trying to fight a nuisance by introducing the invasive species but after introducing the species to the area it causes a negative effect on the native plants, animals, and organisms. When introduced by accident the invasive species may hitch a ride on boats, cargo ships, or be sent over to America as pets. Soon pet owners realize that they are in over their heads and they release the species into the ecosystem and then a problem erupts. Invasive species are usually very competitive and overtake everything in their way. An invasive species is known to “wipe out” native organisms in a short amount of time. They usually devour everything in their path. America has many invasive species that have been introduced accidentally and on purpose in our environment. These species have cause chaos and strife to the ecosystems where they are located. Here is a list of some of the most destructive invasive species in America.

Cane Toad
Cane Toad | Source

Cane Toad

The Cane Toad is a native to Central America, but they were introduced in Hawaii in 1932 as a biological control for sugar cane beetles and other pests. Farmers believed by introducing the Cane Toad to the environment that the sugar cane would have less predators. However, Cane Toads are very aggressive amphibians and predacious. The Cane Toad is known for its large insatiable appetite and has been known to eat pretty much anything that crosses its path. Cane Toads will eat anything from other toads to dog food. The Cane Toad also has poisonous sacs, which make it inedible for other predators. So the Cane Toad is free to eat and roam as it likes with very little worry about retaliation from higher up in the food chain. The Cane Toad has proven to be very harmful to animals such as dogs, cats, birds, and snakes who do not realize they are poisonous prior to eating it. Just in the past 70 years the Cane Toad has somehow found its way to southern and central Florida. The Cane Toad can lay up to 50,000 eggs so it is quickly taking over its non-native ecosystem.

Giant African Snail
Giant African Snail | Source

Giant African Snails

The Giant African Snail is not your typical little slimy garden snail. The Gaint African Snail is a large pest, that can grow up to 10 inches long. Giant African Snails are native to East Africa. It is believed that the Giant African Snail was brought to America by a young boy in 1966. The young boy brought three back as pets from Hawaii to his home in Florida. It is unknown how the snail exactly found its way to Hawaii in the first place. However, after bringing the pets home from Hawaii the boy’s guardians forced him to get rid of the slimy creatures and the young lad released them in his garden. The snails are hermaphrodites, which means they have both testes and ovaries, so this means they easily reproduced. The snails can lay up to 200 eggs at one time. The Giant African Snail is known to eat everything in its path and it is known to eat over 500 native plants in America. It is one of the most damaging invasive species currently in America due to its voracious appetite. The snails population has grown from just three snails to over 18,000 snails currently in Florida. Florida has spent over one million dollars trying to eradicate the invasive snails, but people are still known to keep the Giant African Snail as pets, even though it is illegal. In addition to the over 500 native plant species that the Giant African Snail is known to eat, it also devours plaster and stucco causing even more damage.

Nutria
Nutria | Source

Nutria

This cute, semi-aquatic, beaver like varmit isn’t as cute as it seems. The Nutria looks very much like a beaver or a ground hog. It has orange fur and giant front teeth very similar to the beaver. However, the Nutria is native to South America. The Nutria was first brought to the United States in 1889 for it fur. However, after the fur trades died down in America the Nutria’s population began running rampant. The Nutria is not all bad, just mostly bad. The Nutria is known to eat a lot of unwanted weeds and plants, so this is good, however, the Nutria eats and eats and eats . The Nutria is destroying wetland and swamp ecosystems because it is eating all of the native plant species, which is taking food sources away from native animals. Native animals are starving to death because the Nutria never stops eating, so the Nutria is beginning to have a very negative effect on the ecosystems where it lives. The Nutria is currently located in over 15 coastal states in America.

Zebra Mussels attaching and taking over!
Zebra Mussels attaching and taking over! | Source

Zebra Mussles

You may be thinking a Mussel? How can a tiny Mussel be that harmful to an environment? First of all they don’t really move or do much of anything. However, the Zebra Mussel is causing a lot more problems than you think it could be causing. The Zebra Mussel is native to Russia and was first found in the Great Lakes of America in the 1980s. It is believe that the Mussels travels here by attaching their selves to the side of cargo ships. The Zebra Mussel is the size of a dime, but size doesn’t matter in this case because the mussel attaches itself to anything and everything. Since the mussels like to attach their selves to so many things they also attach their selves to native mussels in America, and when doing this they smother the native mussels and eventually kill them. The Zebra Mussel also likes to attach itself to drainage pipe, and in doing so they cause a lot of damage to the pipes and clog the pipes. Another reason why the Zebra Mussels are causing so much chaos is by the amount of plankton the mussels filter through their bodies for food. The Zebra Mussels filter very large amounts of plankton through their bodies which causes the clarity of the water where the Zebra Mussels live to become clearer. By turning the water clearer the mussels are causing plants to grow differently in the water, which is causing certain organisms to die because of the difference in the clarity of the water.


Burmese Python
Burmese Python | Source

Burmese Python

These giant snakes are aggressive and large. The Burmese Python is a native to southern and southeast Asia, but they have found their way into the everglades of Florida. Many of the Burmese Pythons were brought to Florida by exotic pet owners who could no longer take care of the pythons and instead let them go into the ecosystem. The pythons have thrived in the tropical Florida weather. The Burmese Pythons is an excellent swimmer and tree climber, these snakes pose a big threat to many native endangered species in Florida and these snakes pose a big threat to humans too. The Burmese Python can grow to be over 20 feet long and can weigh more than 250 pounds. In reality the python could spread to other states in America where the climate is appropriate. The snake has been known to eat small pets and have even attacked children in their sleep. Florida officials are afraid that the Burmese Python will mate with native snakes in Florida and produce a larger more aggressive new breed of snake.

Africanized Honey Bees
Africanized Honey Bees | Source

Africanized Honey Bees

Almost everyone in America has heard of the Africanized Honey Bee but they are mostly refer to as “Killer Bees” in America. These “killer bees” were created in the 1950s by scientist who were breeding African honeybees with Brazilian honeybees. The scientists were trying to create a honeybee that made more honey. However, the bees which were developed in South America started traveling North and made their way into the United States by the early 1990s. The “killer bees” can now be found as far north as New York. The “killer bee” is very aggressive and are quick to defend theirselves. They have been known to kill humans and animals by inflicting over 500 stings or more in just a few moments. “Killer Bee” are known to invade other honeybee’s hives and to remove the native queen and replace the native queen with their invasive queen. Sadly, the bees are not even very good at make honey. If you encounter a swarm or disturb a nest, run, and don’t stop running until you have reached shelter. The bees have been known to chase humans for over a quarter mile. Do not jump in water, the “Killer Bees” will simply wait for you to come for air.


Invasive Species and Their Big Price Tags

In 2006 alone, the US spent over 1.2 billion dollars fight invasive species that have caused havoc on the environment. This figure does not include the damage the invasive species have done to animals, property, crops, or people. It only includes the amount of money spent trying to get rid of the invasive species. It is very important for humans to realize that introducing non-native species to an environment can have dire effects for decades down the road.

Which Invasive Species do you believe is the most harmful?

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