As people who care so much about the environment, we always try our best to not disrupt or hurt many kinds of living being. However, there are times that we don’t have the faintest idea that the ones we care about are actually invasive species that can harm the ecosystem and biodiversity. Here are some of them.
1. Water hyacinth
Africa, Asia, North America, Australia and New Zealand are all the victims of this plant. They were originally from the Amazon basin and waterways of Western Brazil and they were introduced as a decorative plant, animal food, and aquarium trade. It all seemed pretty benign at first.
The thing is, water hyacinth is a fast growing water plant and they’re troublesome almost like weed. This species can double in size in just 6 days, growing so thick and compacted that rivers get clogged up because of this plant. They also monopolize resources like oxygen and sunlight that becomes impenetrable to other plants below the water.
Animals also can’t move through them, so the entire ecosystem of the waters in which water hyacinth thrives g becomes different in a bad way.
2. Asian long-horned beetle
When this species has grown into a proper beetle, it doesn’t cause that much trouble. Surprisingly, it was at the larval stage that this beetle species gets very destructive. When it’s still a larva, the beetle feeds on the layer of trees between the bark and wood. One larva is harmless to the tree, but in large numbers, these larvae is fatal to the tree.
When this happens, officials would cut down the tree or burn it so that the infestations won’t spread any further. Right now, Asian long-horned beetle threatens trees in California, Ontario, and parts of Europe. They’ve come a long way from their original habitat, Japan and other countries in Asia.
3. Barred tiger salamander
If this species weren’t half endangered, probably a lot of people would hate them already. Barred tiger salamander came about 60 years ago from Texas to California. They thrive very well, even reproduce with the native, endangered California tiger salamander.
However, this affair results in hybrid offsprings which are vicious predators. And when predators keep on eating, then there would be barely anything left for the native species and amphibians like the original California tiger salamander.
4. Japanese Barberry
Word is, the seeds of Japanese barberry were sent from Russia to the United States in the 1800s to be an exotic, ornamental shrub plant. This barberry is also the alternative of European barberry which were problematic at that time as it hosted the Black Rust Stem (a fungus that affect cereal crops).
Japanese barberry is particularly dangerous because it can grow in the shades and it’s harmful to the forest. Additionally, it also grows very densely, ‘kicking out“ native plants and prevent them from getting enough sunlight.
5. English Ivy
European colonists in the 18th century thought that English Ivy is a perfect ground cover that might remind them of home. Little did they know that this plant becomes one of the worst invasive plants because they’re able to adapt very well in many conditions.
Moreover, these vines spread very aggressively and once they’ve got a target like a tree, they’re going to smother it with their vines, slowly killing them because the tree can’t get enough light. English Ivy’s widespread is mainly caused by birds that consume and spread the vines’ seeds.
6. Purple loosestrife
Perhaps people of the 1800s thought, “We can’t go wrong with ornamental plants which has medicinal properties, right? Right?” Modern times prove them wrong, and it’s almost too late to fix it now.
Purple loosestrife is originally from Great Britain, southern, and central Europe. Today, they’re a dominant and invasive species in wetlands, as only one plant can produce up to 2 million wind-dispersed seeds annually. Their underground stems grow about 30cm per year.
7. Northern Pacific seastar
Seastars are just lovely, aren’t they? That’s what I thought, too, until I found out about this. Northern Pacific seastar is native to Japan, Korea, as well as China waters and they’ve been invading Australian waters. They attach to boats and also carry themselves in ballast water (water contained in ships’ ballast tanks to help with stability and balance).
Maybe these seastars are not much of a problem if only they’re not aggressive eaters. Just like another invasive marine inhibitor, lionfish, they eat whatever things present and they reproduce rapidly. In fact, their population reached approximately 12 million in just two years. A critically endangered species called spotted handfish are said to be declining because of these starfish. Nasty creatures.
8. North American honey bee
At times, we often get so preoccupied with one issue and completely forget about another. We’re so focused on the decline of honeybees that we disregard the fact that North American honeybee is actually an invasive species. This shocked me too.
North American honeybees are native to Europe and Europeans were the ones who introduced them in the 1600s. Now, these bees are not the kind of malignant invaders, since they help with pollination and honey-making. However, their mere existence affect the native bees and other insects, such as wild bumblebee that keeps declining in population.
9. Zebra Mussel
Usually when we talk about mussels, we only know the good deeds they do for the Earth’s water such as filtering. But this is where the quote “too much of anything is bad” really applies to this species.
These mussels are endemic to Azov, Aral, Caspian, and Black seas. They were not taken and introduced on purpose. Instead, they attach themselves to the outside of boats or floating items and they rely on ballast water.
Now, nothing is ever good when a species’ population numbers grow too rapidly. Because of this, zebra mussels are one of the most aggressive freshwater invaders, filtering almost everything they can catch, including plankton.
As a result, fish lack food and they need to move on to a different area. Other native mussels also suffer because they don’t have anything to filter. And to be honest, I think these mussels are good at making (some) people cringe. I personally can’t stand to look at them.
As you might have guessed, this plant (vine, specifically) is originally from Japan. It was first introduced to the United States in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition as a fast-growing vine species capable of preventing soil erosion. It sounds pretty harmless, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, the exposition didn’t explain how fast growing this vine was, or maybe people back then simply didn’t know. Since its introduction, the plant has been multiplying exponentially throughout the United States at a rate of 150,000 acres per year. Within the right conditions, Kudzu is able to grow about 30cm per day, it’s quite scary.
Do you have invasive species in your area? Tell us what you know or what you think! Be sure to click this article for a related reading!