If you have bird feeders out in your yard, you may be familiar with Starlings coming around. Starlings are actually an invasive species to the United States and cause many problems for our native birds.
Invasive species usually end up in a place they’re not supposed to due to something called pathways. These pathways can be either natural or man-made. A natural pathway example would be something like wind movements. A man-made pathway would be something like someone deliberately bringing an invasive species to a new place, or a species being brought over accidentally via international travel.1
A great example of an unintentional, man-made pathway of invasive species being brought over is ballast water on ships. Ballast water is water that is put into a ship in order to give it stability while it's on the water. When it gets into a port and receives cargo, it no longer needs the balance from the water and so dumps out the water. Species can be caught up in the ballast water and deposited accidentally into a new place where they’re not supposed to be.2
Why Do We Need To Worry About Invasive Species?
When a species isn’t native to an environment, it can find itself at an advantage, because its normal predators may not be around. They become direct competitors with native species for resources. This can:3&4
- Ruin biodiversity
- Reduce the number of resources available
- Affect population numbers of invasive species
- Interfere with nutrient cycling
Preventing Invasive Species From Arriving
This is a preventable problem in some cases. Once invasive species arrive in a new place, it can be very hard to remove them from an environment. Taking steps to prevent them from arriving in the first place is important.
Washing boats to keep them clear of invasive species and accidentally transporting them is one way. This stops boats from being accidental taxi rides for invasive species. Another way to help is to clean your boots before you go into a new area to hike. This ensures you’re not tracking anything in that could be harmful. When you plan your garden, opt for native plants, too, to keep the environment healthy.3
Check out more on our blog: What Keeps Animal Populations Healthy?