People, Livelihoods and Invasive Species


Often overlooked in our quest to manage invasive species is the impact invasive species have not only to our ecosystems, but to people and how New York State is perhaps the single most important state to address invasive species.

Locally, regionally and globally, there are people who depend directly on healthy lands and waters for a livelihood (food on the table and family income). These include: trail guides, hunting guides, charter captains, restaurant proprietors and those individuals who hunt and fish for food. These individuals depend, in whole or in part, on healthy (invasive free) and publically accessible lands and waters for their livelihood. As stated by Early et al., states that invasive species will increasingly threaten human livelihoods especially in areas with a low human development index.[1]

The Lake Ontario fisheries provides food and income to individuals, families and water-based business’s. This lake-based way of life occurs throughout the Great Lakes and locally along Eastern Lake Ontario. Charter captains provide income to support their families through the lake fishery as do river boat guides along our inland waters. Restaurants depend on locally caught perch, trout and bullheads. Numerous individuals provide family sustenance from our fisheries. New York’s Atlantic coastal fisheries and shellfishery provide the same. The evidence is compelling that aquatic invasive species have and continue to pose a genuine threat to food webs, fisheries populations and ways of life. An example being the lamprey eel, preying on all large lake fish, the lamprey has played a substantial role in the decline of species such as lake trout. These (cultural factors) when combined with the economic benefits gained from water-based recreation and tourism dictate that providing healthy, sustainable freshwater resources becomes a local, regional and global priority.

Terrestrial invasive plants are of great concern to trail guides, natural history guides and local agricultural producers who depend on healthy lands for their livelihood or to supplement their family income. Many invasive species can reduce crop yields and many are unpalatable or toxic to livestock. Asian soybean rust for example was introduced into the United States in 2004 and has now spread to seven states. With our climate changing many southern oriented invasive species are now threatening northern states as well. The effects of invasive species on land benefactors is more than a simple frustration, it affects their quality of living.

New York State is considered to be a continental hub for the import and export of invasive species in North America. There are 13 international ports of entry along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario alone not to mention airports, military bases and the New York City harbor. Early et al., places New York State in a very high (VH) risk category for global introductions based on several factors including New York’s high level of trade with European countries including agricultural trade. From a nature perspective and according to (Pimental et al)[2] “Invasive species are the second largest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss”.    “These factors combined with New York’s Great Lakes, inland and coastal connectivity strongly suggest that, of the entire United States, New York is the single most important state to address invasive species.

[1] Early et al., 2016. Global threats from invasive alien species in the 21st century. Nature Communications. 7:12485/DOI: 10:1038/ncomms12485/.

[2] Pimental et al., 2004. Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien-invasive species in the United States. Ecological Economics 52, 273-288.