What’s the Big Deal About Invasive Species?

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What’s the Big Deal About Invasive Species?
April 6, 2013 10:00 am
April 6, 2013 12:00 pm
January 5, 2013

What’s the Big Deal About Invasive Species?

April 6th, Saturday

Donation $5.00 a person – 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

“Invasive Species” are and their devastating effects on our song birds, wildlife, humans and the world we live in. Class will identify some that are growing here at the HCNC and how to get rid of them, so dress for the weather. We will also discuss the importance of native species in the wild and in our own landscapes.

Speaker Laurie Grant


Invasive Species

During  the past two centuries, invasive species have significantly  changed the Great Lakes ecosystem. In turn, the changes have had broad  economic        and  social effects on people that rely on the system for food, water, and recreation.

An “invasive species” is a plant or animal that is non-native (or alien) to an ecosystem, and whose introduction is likely to cause economic, human health, or environmental damage in that ecosystem. Once  established, it is extremely difficult to control their spread.

Invasive Animal Species

At least 25 non-native species of fish have entered the Great Lakes  since the 1800s, including round  goby, sea lamprey, Eurasian ruffe, alewife and   others.  These fish have had significant impacts on the Great Lakes food  web by competing with native fish for food and habitat. Invasive animals  have also been responsible for increased  degradation of coastal wetlands; further degrading conditions  are resulting in loss of plant cover and diversity.

Non-native  mussels and mollusks have also caused turmoil in the food chain. In 1988, zebra  mussels were inadvertently introduced to Lake St. Clair,  and quickly spread throughout the Great Lakes and into many inland lakes, rivers, and canals. Since then, they have caused severe problems at power plants  and municipal water supplies,  clogging intake screens, pipes, and cooling systems. They have also nearly  eliminated the native clam population in the ecosystem.

The spiny ter flea (Cercopagis pengoi) was the most  recent species to enter the Great Lakes . This organism, a native of Middle Eastern seas, is a tiny predatory crustacean  that  can reproduce  both sexually and, more commonly, parthenogenically (without fertilization).      This allowed them to quickly populate Lake Ontario.

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Invasive Plants

The Great Lakes have also been troubled by fast-growing invasive  plants such as common reed  (Phragmites  australis), reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), curly pondweed (Potamogeton crispus), Eurasian milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), frogbit (Hydrocharis  morsus-ranae), and two types of non-native cattails (Typha  angustifolia and Typha glauca).

Some of these plants are prolific seed producers, which  allows them to spread rapidly over large areas. Invasive  purple loosestrife, for example, are 2-3 meters  tall and can produce 2.7 million seeds ach year. Others reproduce from fragments of root  or rhizome, which hinders removal and control. All have become established  quickly in  the Great Lakes, displacing the native plant populations that support  wildlife habitat and prevent erosion. Their prevalence in recreational  waters also hinders swimming and boating.  In the St. Lawrence River, studies have found that  disturbances by boat or fish may facilitate the spread of common reed, a very persistent  invasive plant. Dense beds of common reed may threaten local fish and bird habitats.

What EPA and Other Agencies are Doing

To   prevent and control additional invasions in the Great Lakes, coordinated   efforts are under way by  U.S. and Canadian governments, eight state governments, two provincial  governments, and regional and local programs.

Ballast Water Regulation

Ballast water is taken onto or discharged from a ship  as it loads or unloads its cargo, to accommodate changes in its weight.

Thirty percent of invasive species have been introduced in the Great Lakes through ballast water.  In the early  1990’s, the  U.S. Coast  Guard began  requiring  ships  to exchange their ballast water, or seal their ballast tanks for the  duration of their stay. The Coast Guard later used their success in the  Great Lakes to  develop a ballast management program for  the entire nation. Currently, the Coast Guard is in  the process of  developing ballast water discharge standards. Preventing Potential Invaders

Based on the problems caused by non-native species, scientists are also  closely watching other species that have invaded nearby ecosystems. Asian carp are of particular concern because they have been found        in nearby waterways that eventually connect to the Great Lakes. In 2004,  EPA and other state and local agencies began construction of a permanent   electric barrier to prevent the fish from entering Lake Michigan (more  about the barrier).

EPA is also studying how existing invasive species have become established in the Great Lakes. These studies  will help develop new techniques to predict future invasions.

General information

Regulations and Research