The Untold Cost of Invasive Species
Professor Ray Bartholomew
March 30, 2013
Imagine going on a day hike through your favorite forest. You take great pains to pack your gear, ensure you have adequate food and water for the day. You bring your camera and other gear to ensure you get photographs of the local forest. You visit this same place every few weeks, it is close to where you live and the scenery is amazing. There are ample opportunities to stop to enjoy just being outside. As you hike you enjoy the sound of nature, the rustling of the leaves as the wind blows, the sound of small lizards as they scurry across your path, agitating dry leaves in their wake. You listen for the sound of your favorite birds, and you are met in return with silence. This is exactly what a walk through the jungle is like for the residence and visitors of Guam. A U.S. territory, Guam is situated in the Pacific, along the ring of fire, and is a lush 212 square mile island filled with mountainous jungle, coconut trees and streams. Jungles are known for their abundance of species, insects, lizards, birds and others. This jungle, however, is nearly devoid of such species and eerily silent as a result. This remote territory was invaded by an alien species carried to her shores sometime during or after WWII (Shwiff). The invader, called the Brown Tree Snake, brought to Guam from other parts of Asia aboard vessels, devastated the islands bird and small mammal population, leaving Guam open for further invasions from non-indigenous species. Guam has become an ecological disaster; over run with the snake, an invasive species, officials have scrambled to save the native birds, to little avail. When it was recognized there was a problem, it was nearly too late, almost all of the birds had disappeared from this once tropical paradise (U.S. Fish). Now seventy years after the initial invasion, there are avenues of redress available, however the extinction of ten species of avifauna is as a result of the brown tree snakes invasion (U.S. Fish). Guam, though isolated, is not alone. The remote island, located in the Mariana Islands chain, serves as an example of what damage invasive species can have on an ecosystem and an economy, some action is being implemented in an attempt to mitigate the impact of these invaders, however, no matter what the answer is the cost to the economy, locally and nationally is steep. Even more costly is the devastation these invaders cause on the local species, which depend on the area for resources such as food, water, and breeding areas. Invasive species are the second largest cause of species decline and cost the United States billions of dollars annually in lost resources, expenditures to eradicate the invader, lost productivity and more. Additional cost of the loss of wildlife due to displacement of native species is staggering and can scarcely be accurately evaluated for cost. Through prevention measures and education the United States as a nation can help mitigate the spread and impact of these invaders.
In the 1990’s America began taking a hard look at the issue of invasive species and their toll on American ecosystems, species and our economy. In 1996 the National Invasive Species Act paved the way for later regulations by “development and implementation of a program for the waters of the United States to prevent introduction and dispersal of aquatic nuisance species (Bergman).” Later in the decade President Clinton went further to include invasive species no matter their environment, whether terrestrial or aquatic in response to their devastating effects on the sensitive ecological and economic resources of the United States. Cornell researchers estimate over $123 billion dollars in damages nationwide annually due to invasive species. This is a very conservative estimate, because no real price can be placed on ecological diversity or the species ultimately...
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