Introducing a foreign species to new habitats isn’t necessarily a good thing. In fact, most of the time, it can negatively impact native ecosystems and wildlife. When this happens, these species are classified as invasive. But what, exactly, is an invasive species? Moreover, what consequences do environments face because of them, and what can we do about it? We intend to answer these great questions in this brief overview.
What Constitutes an Invasive Species
Before we delve into invasive species and how they impact native environments, understanding what makes a particular species invasive is essential. Invasive species—in essence—are plants or animals that are introduced to foreign environments. These ecosystems are very similar to their natural habitats, which gives these new species what they need to thrive.
Sometimes, organisms find their way to new lands by getting trapped on boats or airplanes. But typically, humans are responsible for introducing these plants and animals. Like much of humanity’s pursuits, the motivations for doing this are well-intended. To that end, new species are often introduced to solve some problem within a particular habitat.
This isn’t a terribly challenging logic to understand. But the issue is that sometimes, these species do so well in their new environments that native wildlife suffers tremendously. The snakehead fish in Florida and the thriving population of invasive species of trees in Central Texas are prime examples of this.
The Consequences of Invasive Species
Now that we understand what constitutes an invasive species, we can begin to explore their consequences on native ecosystems. The sad truth is that these visitors often harm their new environments. Among the most significant of these is the detrimental loss of habitat. The hemlock woolly’s introduction to North America is an excellent demonstration.
Originating in Asia, this invasive insect made its way to a new continent. Then, it wreaked havoc and infested hemlock trees that lacked the population to keep up with the woolly’s appetite. In fact, it’s estimated that some parts of the Eastern United States have lost up to 80 percent of their Hemlock populations.
What We Can Do To Deter Them
By now, it’s clear that invasive species have an impact on native environments. Fortunately, various strategies have been developed over the years as experts continue to search for viable solutions to these kinds of ecological problems. And believe it or not, one of the most effective methods is educating the masses on the dangers of introducing wildlife to new areas.
Of course, several laws and regulations regarding exotic pets and Ballast water tanker decontaminations have been passed to combat the spread of future invasions. Encouraging the harvest of these species to mitigate their populations is another effective and widely used strategy.