Invasives 101

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “invasive species” somewhere as you have watched the news or read a news article, and you’ve wondered, “What do they mean by ‘invasive species’?”  Several of them have made the news.  Remember the zebra mussel that made the news several years ago by clogging municipal water intakes in the Northeast?  The zebra mussel is an invasive species.  Specifically, it is a non-native invasive species.  It is native to Asia but not the United States.

Zebra mussels first were discovered in North America in 1988.  Since then they have spread to most of the major river drainages and many of the larger lakes across North America, including Arkansas.  Along the way, they have clogged municipal and power plant water intakes, caused the extinction or near extinction of several native fishes and mollusks, and injured people wading in infested lakes.  Because they are not native, no natural control mechanism exists for zebra mussels.  Zebra mussels are one of many non-native invasive species that now inhabit North America and Arkansas.  Others you might recognize include kudzu and Japanese honeysuckle.

Ok, so invasive species are here; but do they really cause that much trouble for us?  When one considers the cost of invasive species control and the cost of attempting to keep new invasive species out of the United States, we spend more than $130 billion annually on eradicating and blocking entry of non-native invasive species.  This figure does not include much of the value of volunteer labor involved in invasive species eradication.  To put that $130 billion in perspective, 128 countries in the world had a lower gross domestic product in 2010.  Obviously the problem is huge and getting larger every year.

Here’s something to think about.  What are you willing to do to avoid writing a $500 check to cover your share of this cost this year?