Invasive species threaten habitat, water supplies

Our environment and water supply face many threats, but not all of them are from pollutants.

Invasive species — flora or fauna that is not native to a particular area — destroy habitat by depleting food supplies or other species and, in some cases, reproducing at astonishing rates because there are no native predators to keep them in check.

 One such species is the Asian carp. According to a report from the U.S. Geological Survey,  “The invasive Asian carp has been breeding and spreading across the U.S. for more than 20 years.”

 And now, the USGS says, they’ve been found in the upper Mississippi River, farther upstream than ever

Photo by Jon Amberg , U.S. Geological Survey
Photo by Jon Amberg , U.S. Geological Survey

before. The Asian carp is “one of the most reviled invasive fish in North America,” the report says.

One of the biggest concerns with the carp is their size. It can weigh up to 110 pounds when fully grown, too big for predators to deplete their numbers. And like other invasive species, it eats and reproduces unchecked, destroying habitat for other species.

Scientists are puzzled about how they got so far north, because they say the water does not get high enough for the fish to jump over dams. It’s possible, the researchers said, that they were taken up that far by fishermen using them for bait.

Efforts to stamp out invasive species have cost hundreds of millions over the years. It’s likely you have some growing or living in your own back yard — plants like bamboo and butterfly bushes are considered non-native, invasive species, and if left unchecked they can essentially snuff out other plants. 

Insects include the gypsy moth, Asian Longhorned beetle, and the brown marmorated stink bug.

In many cases, invasive plants and animals were introduced accidentally – either because they were unwitting stowaways in cargo, or because someone was homesick and wanted a plant or animal to remind them of the old country. 

Unfortunately, it’s not a problem that’s not likely to go away anytime soon. Global shipping raises the chance of invasive species being spread even farther around the world. And the desire for exotic plants and animals means more people are willing to look the other way to make money.

 What can you do? Buy native plants when you’re landscaping; never release a pet into the wild; do not transport firewood long distances,  and always clean hunting and fishing equipment thoroughly before traveling to a new location.

To learn more, check out this link from the National Wildlife Federation.