How Invasive Species Impact the Environment

Ecosystems require the maintenance of a delicate balance for their health and vitality. In order to preserve this balance, only the species that occur naturally in a given environment should be allowed to thrive there. This is because ecosystems suffer from a microcosmic version of the butterfly effect. Every bug, animal, plant, and chemical process all have an effect on one another. When invasive species are introduced into these closed systems, they bring with them the seeds of chaos.

Riding the coattails of globalization, there was a massive dispersion of plant and animal life. Every method by which non-native organisms spread to new habitats is due on some level to human interference. For example when cargo or transport ships unknowingly carry biological stowaways, humans accidentally cause the diaspora of species. Unfortunately the consequences are the same as when we problematically drag our unwelcomed domestic plants and animals across the globe.

Alien species are able to successfully adapt and reproduce in their new homes because they have no natural predators. Some cases are the result of humans introducing non-native species as pest control. Using mongoose to get rid of crop destroying rats might seem like a bright idea – but once they’ve done the job there is no way to send them home. They begin to sink their teeth into the new habitat, and alter the environment to the detriment of native inhabitants.

Alteration and destruction of habitat is the most significant negative consequence of invasive species. Resident populations are decimated by their alien neighbors out-competing them for resources. Invasive species are the second largest cause of extinctions in the United States. These issues might not at first seem pertinent to humans, but remember we are a part of these ecosystems and are bound to feel the impact eventually. Invasive species can affect humans by spreading disease, and passing various toxins up the food chain until they end up on a dinner plate.

The economic repercussions of problems caused by invasive species can be enormous, but money is not the whole problem. Systemic issues in nature are insanely complex and nearly impossible to resolve.

You can never quite go back to the way it was before. But so long as we don’t introduce new invasive species to get rid of the old ones, at least we are not making the problem worse. If your area ever faces invasive species threatening to native plants and species, check with your local county parks department for suggestions and solutions to eliminating the invasive species.

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