Why should we care about invasive species?

What is an invasive species?

An invasive species is a non-native plant, animal, or organism whose introduction causes economic or environmental damage or is harmful to human health.

Why should we care about their spread?

There are many reasons invasive species are problematic. First, invasive species can have a profound, negative impact on biodiversity. In fact, it’s estimated that 42% of threatened and endangered organisms are at risk because of invasive species! Invasive species cause harm to wildlife directly and indirectly. Some direct threats of invasive species on native wildlife include, out-competing native species for resources, preying on native species and acting as a disease vector. Indirect threats include disruption of native food webs and altering ecosystem conditions.

Invasive species can decrease agricultural crop yields, clog waterways, impact recreational opportunities and decrease waterfront property values. Therefore, economic costs are incurred from control, removal and prevention efforts. Overall, it is estimated that invasive species cost the US upwards of $138 billion dollars per year.

Many invasive species also impact the welfare of human beings. Two examples of invasive species in our region that are human health hazards are giant hogweed and West Nile virus. Giant hogweed, an invasive plant, has a sap that causes painful burns. West Nile, on the other hand is a mosquito vectored virus that causes flu like symptoms in humans.