An invasive species is a non-native plant, animal, or organism whose introduction causes economic or environmental damage or is harmful to human health.
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. Examples of invasive species in our region that are human health hazards are giant hogweed, wild parsnip, and West Nile virus. Giant hogweed and wild parsnip are invasive plants with sap that causes a painful rash and can burn the skin. West Nile virus, on the other hand, is a mosquito vectored virus that causes flu-like symptoms in humans. The COVID 19 pandemic is also a strong example of the damage that invasive species can inflict on human health.