Pathways to Invasion

May 3, 2013

How do invasive species enter North America?

We bring them in.

Our ancestors.The early colonists, brought pigs, which they let range free, and seeds to plant as crops. Others just hitched a ride: on their shoes, in fodder, on animals, on boat hulls, and stowed among ballast cobbles.

Our tax dollars at work. Since the nineteenth century, the U.S. government has introduced several nonnative species, either as food sources or erosion control, always with unforeseen consequences. Then your tax dollars go to work on remediation.

Our military. It is believed that the brown tree snake first got to Guam as a stowaway in the wheel wells of Air Force jets. Invaders travel in military transport, bags, and equipment.

Our love of exotic plants. The nursery industry has a lot to answer for. Imported plants have a way of spreading into the wild. And they have a way of arriving with stowaway insects, fungi, and diseases. Invaders can travel in potting soils and love turf.

Our love of pets. The pet industry also has a lot to answer for. Four hundred fish species and 124 plant species were found in aquarium pet stores of Washington State over the course of a single year. Exotic pets can get too big, or too unruly, for their owners, who release them into the wild. Feral house cats, and their domestic neighbors, kill more than 2 billion birds and 12 billion mammals in the United States each year, most of them native species (alas).

Our love of hunting, fishing, and meat.  Ponds and streams have been stocked with nonnative species for fishing since the 1880s.  Bait has been released in waterways far from its source, resulting in the spread of crayfish, crabs, and other creatures. Hunters have imported wild boar from Europe for their sporting pleasure. After escaping from farms, pigs have damaged soils and plants in the Smokey Mountains. Some hunters are transporting feral pigs across state lines to encourage their spread.  They don’t need your help.

Our love of cheap manufactured goods. The wooden crates in which these goods arrive from Asia can contain invasive insects. These goods arrive on container ships from around the world, which discharge their ballast water at ports as far inland as the Great Lakes. Ballast water contains aquatic invaders.

Our love of fire. Firewood bought from a big-box store often comes from Asia. Buy local and don’t move wood around, as it can carry pests.

Our love of exotic fruit. Shiploads of fruit from Central and South America have arrived with invasive stowaways, whether insects, reptiles, or fruit diseases.

Our love of seafood. Along with ballast water, moving oysters and seaweed around the world for aquaculture has spread dozens of invasive species. Seafood is often packed in seaweed before being transported; the live packing can carry small and juvenile invaders to new waters.

So keep in mind. We can’t consume our way out of every mess.  The best way to stop invaders is prevention.  No new species should be brought in unless they are shown to be noninvasive.  Pathways are diverse and dynamic: strict controls on ballast water and wood imports are essential in saving our coastlines and trees.


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Land

Wild_boar

Wild Pig

Did the domestic ancestors of today’s feral pigs streak off De Soto’s ship into the Florida scrub of their own accord in 1539? Or did they have to be urged to go find something to eat? All you need to…


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Garden Snail

Deliberately or accidentally, by the movement of plants and by hobbyists who collect snails, humans have spread the garden snail to temperate and subtropical zones around the world.


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GarlicMustard1

Garlic Mustard

  Alliaria petiolata Native range: Europe, Asia, Northwest Africa Invasive range: Much of the Lower 48, Alaska, and Canada. (See map.) Habitat: Moist, shaded soil of floodplains, forests, roadsides, edges of woods, and forest openings. Often dominant in disturbed areas. Description: Biennial herb. First-year plant has a rosette of green leaves close to the ground. […]


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nopales con huevo

Prickly Pear

Fall is here, and the “cactus fig” is in season. Time to plate-up another widespread invader.


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Sow Thistle

It’s spring and time to weed. Sow thistle is a delicious invader found throughout the continent.


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Sea

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Asian Shore Crab

The first sighting of the Asian shore crab in the United States was at Townsend Inlet, Cape May County, New Jersey, in 1988. Though the source is unknown . . .


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Periwinkles

Periwinkle

The common periwinkle, which first appeared in New England in the 1860s, is now found along the coast wherever there’s hard substrate–rocks, riprap, broken concrete, or docks–from Labrador to . . .


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Pterois volitans

Lionfish

Some say it started in 1992 in Miami when Hurricane Andrew smashed an aquarium tank. Don’t blame the weather, others say; in the mid-nineties, disappointed yet softhearted hobbyists…


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chuka wakame

Wakame

  Undaria pinnatifida Native range: Japan Sea Invasive range: Southern California, San Francisco Bay, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Argentina Habitat: Opportunistic seaweed, can be found on hard substrates including rocky reefs, pylons, buoys, boat hulls, and abalone and bivalve shells. Description: Golden brown seaweed, growing up to nine feet. Forms thick canopy. Reproductive sporophyll in […]


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Kleiner_Taschenkrebs_(Carcinus_maenas)

Green Crab

Since the green crab was first recorded off southern Massachusetts in 1817, it has been hard to ignore. A few minutes of rock-flipping in Maine can turn up dozens of them, brandishing their claws as they retreat…


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Fresh

Armored Catfish Meatballs (1)

Armored Catfish

The armored catfish is abundant and destructive in Florida, Texas, and Mexico. Cast your nets for these flavorful natives of the Amazon. Scientific name: Two types have become established in North America: armadillo del rio, Hypostomus plecostomus, and sailfin catfishes in genus Pterygoplichthys Native range: Amazon River Basin Invasive range: Texas, Florida, and Hawaii; also […]


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Picture 1

Common Carp

For a bottom-feeder, what is the good life? The common carp isn’t very demanding: any body of water that’s sluggish and murky will do. If the water is clean, and you’ve got corn for bait, try one of these recipes.


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IMG_W007-2

Watercress

  Nasturtium officianale Native Range: Northern Africa, Europe, temperate Asia, and India Invasive Range: In USA: all lower 48 states, except North Dakota. Found in Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Also southern Canada, Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Australasia, and parts of tropical Asia. Habitat: Common along stream margins, ditches, and other areas with […]


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Crayfish

  There are numerous invasive crayfish. We include details for the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and the rusty crayfish (Orenectes rusticus). The same recipes can be used for both species–and many other invasive crayfish. Red Swamp Crayfish Native range: Known as Louisiana crayfish, crawdad, and mudbug, Procambarus clarkii is native to the south central […]


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nutria-mugshot

Nutria

Nutria, also known as coypu and river rat, is native to temperate and subtropical South America. It has been introduced to Europe, Asia, and Africa, mainly for fur farming. These voracious. . .


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Field Notes

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Qui veut manger des espèces invasives ?

Joe Roman chats with Camille Crosnier about eating invasives on France Inter. Listen here. In French.


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Berlin’s Invasive Species Cuisine

A Berlin food truck is opening people’s minds and mouths by feeding them a menu of invasive species with the slogan, “If you can’t beat them, eat them!” Read more about it in the Good News Network.


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Rack of Squirrel, Anyone?

Patrick Greenfield discusses the rise of invasivorism in the Guardian. Read it here.


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Eat the Invaders on Nerdette

Joe Roman discusses incorporating invasive species into your diet with Greta Johnsen of WBEZ Chicago. Listen here.


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periwinkles

Welcome to Invasivorism

Turning invasive species into gourmet meals could blunt environmental and economic costs across the US. But can Americans stomach them? Chefs and biologists are taking a gamble. Read more in the Popular Science.


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“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

Henry Miller

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