Invasive species and their effects on native species
Ronsheim, Margaret L. Department of Biology, Vassar College. Poughkeepsie, New York.
- Disease and insect pests
- Ecosystem transformers
- Future conservation
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Many thousands of species, including animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and viruses, have been transported to areas outside their native ranges and have successfully established new populations there. If one of these introduced species then causes significant negative ecological, economic, or human health impacts, it is categorized as an invasive species. The movement of species around the globe is not a new phenomenon, but human intervention has drastically increased the rate of movement, the distances that organisms can travel, and the types of species that are now transported around the globe. Invasive species are accidentally or intentionally introduced to new areas via many routes, including the horticultural trade, agriculture, aquaculture, agroforestry, the game animal trade, the pet trade, ship ballast, fishing bait, transport of untreated wood, and mud stuck to boots or tires. They also can be introduced as food items. The economic cost of invasive species is considerable. For example, the impact of introduced agricultural pests and weedy species on cropland, pastures, and forests costs billions of dollars annually in the United States. Invasive trees in South Africa have been calculated to reduce current river flow rates by up to 22%; controlling their spread will cost many millions of dollars, but allowing them to spread further would be costlier still, given their threat to critical water supplies. Invasive species also increase public health risks. In the Northeast United States, areas with invasive Japanese barberry bushes (Berberis thunbergii) had nine times more blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis, the species responsible for transmitting Lyme disease to humans) than areas without Japanese barberry.
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