Even if you’ve never heard the term ‘invasive species’, chances are they’ve affected you in one way or another. Invasives are any non-native species or organism that cause harm to a non-native environment. For example, you may have heard about the brown marmorated stink bug, introduced accidentally into Pennsylvania from Asia, which has descended on towns along the east coast. With no natural predators, the insects are able to multiply, feeding on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, hurting farmers and their crops.
Credit: David R. Lance, USDA APHIS PPQ
A widely referenced paper cites the cost of invasive species to be more than $120 billion in damages every year to the United States.
I’ll say it again - $120 BILLION dollars in damages from invasive species.
Invasive species can spread at a rapid rate, and their infestations can negatively affect property values, agricultural productivity, public utility operations, native fisheries, tourism, outdoor recreation, and the overall health of an ecosystem. Once invasives become established it’s almost impossible to eliminate them completely.
Worse still, invasives are the leading cause of population decline and extinction in animals due to displacement by, competition with, and predation.
This means it’s important to find ways to keep these species from getting established in the first place. In 2011 alone, the Department of the Interior will spend $100 million on prevention, early detection, control and management, research, and more.
One of the best ways we can help is to be educated. Over the next few weeks, Open Spaces and Facebook will introduce you to case studies on some of the key species that have a devastating effect on our native and wildlife habitats and how much these species are costing the American people. Find us on Twitter for quick facts about invasives. Join our conversation with your own stories about how invasive species have affected you, or what you’re doing to help stop them from spreading.