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Invasive Species

What Are Invasive Species?

 

Invasive species are non native species that do not belong or originate from the habitat they are currently in. Invasive species can enter an environment by transportation due to such as travelling on vessels, to exterminate pests or accidental release. However not all invasive species are harmful to the environment. This paper will explore 3 different invasive species and the problem they cause to the environment and economy.

 

What Are Some Examples of Invasive Species?

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Kudzu

 

One example of an infamous invasive species is the Kudzu, a fast spreading vine related to the pea family. This particular species originally native to Southeast China and Japan, was introduced in 1800 to parts of North America and was quickly popularised in the south due to sweet smelling fragrance and sturdy vines that proved to be good decoration. This plant grew at the rate of up to 1 feet a day in the right conditions making this plant spread rapidly taking over forests, especially as its growth rate increases exponentially due to the increase of the production of CO2.

 

Not only does it spread so fast, it can also survive winter as when the vine dries up and dies, the roots survive. The Kudzu is named an invasive species due to the fact it aggressively

spreads and has the capability to kill plants by covering young sprouts with its leaves by preventing sunlight consumption. In 1970, Kudzu was taken off the list of approved plants for erosion control and officially labelled a weed, Kudzu also have an effect on forest’s ecology by influencing bodies of water through eutrophication, forest nitrogen cycles and regional air quality as it emits isoprene. There are measures in place to prevent the spread of Kudzu by using herbicide as other methods of prevention such as hand-pulling and mowing are ineffective due tot he plant’s biology. Even though as of now Kudzu poses less of a threat than a century ago but is still rampant in Oklahoma and Carolina and other states in the south. 

Lionfish

 

Lionfish are part of the scorpionfish family and they originate from the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean. However they populate  the Gulf of Mexico and the coast of Florida to North Carolina. They are often found in coral reefs as there is an abundance of prey. Lionfish can be identified easily as they have brown scales with white stripes, they also possess 3-5 inch venomous spines along their dorsal fins, sides and some on their underbelly. The venomous spines secrete a neurotoxin that paralyses the muscles and causes extreme pain to organisms that come into contact with it, although they are lethal to fish, the spines do not pose a threat to humans but still have the effect of causing great pain. Aquariums in America owned Lionfish as they have flashy exotic colours and spines which make a good addition to aquariums. However, in 1890 aquarium owners accidentally released Lionfish  into the bay which resulted in an influx of Lionfish due to its lack of predators and easy prey.

Lionfish are responsible for destroying ecosystems in coral reefs by hunting and killing off entire species of fish. It is speculated that Lionfish egg sacs contain a chemical preventing fish from consuming them. The egg sacs also have the ability to ride on ocean currents that carry them to other regions which is responsible for the spread of these invasive predators. However, a robotics company named iRobot has designed and constructed a robot that remotely targets and electrocutes Lionfish by positioning itself so that a Lionfish is in

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between 2 discs. Subsequently, the robot collects the Lionfish in a net or cage to bring up to the surface. iRobot aims to eliminate the threat of Lionfish through the use of these automated mechanical hunters.

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Zebra mussels

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Zebra mussels have become a huge problem in the United States to ponds and lakes. Originally narive to Russia and parts of Eastern Europe, this pest was brought to the Great Lakes where they multiplied and spread fast as they reproduce extremely quickly and of now 270 lakes have been overrun by zebra mussels. Zebra mussel larvae resemble microscopic plankton named veligers that spread and attach to surfaces where they spread quickly. They are easily identified due to their iconic zig zag pattern resembling a zebra’s

hide and are around the size of a fingernail. They clog pipes, drains and boats making them a large inconvenience. Therefore the government urges boat owners to thoroughly check and clean exposed pipes and surfaces of boats as they can damage the boat’s engine and to prevent zebra mussels from spreading to other bodies of water. The economic impact of this invasive species totals up to 5 billion US dollars as they take over beaches and lakes, preventing any source of tourist income.  Even though the mussels voraciously consume and filter our plankton and bacteria, they produce a foul odour that emanates from the bodies of water they occupy and even linger after the water has been cleaned and filtered. 

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Ultimately, this paper has discussed what invasive species are , examples of various harmful invasive species  and the threat they pose on our environment and economy and the various ways that companies, governments and individuals are doing to prevent the major threat and raise awareness of these detrimental non native species.

Sources

 

Cordry-Sweetwater Conservancy District, Zebra Mussel Prevention. [online] Available at: https://cscd-in.org/zebra-mussel-prevention

 

Britannica (2019), kudzu. [online] Available at:  https://www.britannica.com/plant/kudzu

 

World Resources Institute, Atlantic and Caribbean: Lionfish Invasion Threatens Reefs. [online] Available at: https://www.wri.org/research/reefs-risk-revisited/atlantic-and-caribbean-lionfish-invasion-threatens-reefs#:~:text=Lionfish%20are%20now%20invading%20the,people%20who%20depend%20on%20them

 

NOAA Fisheries (2020), Impacts of Invasive Lionfish. [online] Available at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/southeast/ecosystems/impacts-invasive-lionfish#:~:text=As%20lionfish%20populations%20grow%2C%20they,the%20health%20of%20coral%20reefs

 

All images belong to their respective owners.

Written by Timothy Tan