Invasive Species - What's the Big Deal?

 

What are Invasive Species?  An "invasive species" is defined as a species that is non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. (Executive Order 13112).

 

How do they harm the environment?  Some invasive species feed directly on or make fish and wildlife ill. Invasive plant pathogens can kill forest trees. Invasive plants shade out other plants. Indirectly, invasive species compete for food and space with other species and interfere with their growth, reproduction, and development. Invasive species place other species at increased risk of extinction.

 

Do invasive species harm humans?  Giant hogweed causes blistering and severe skin reactions. Invasive plant pollen causes allergic reactions. Imported Red Fire Ants cause painful stings. “Zoonotic” pathogens and parasites infect both humans and wildlife and livestock. Additionally, pathogens are spread by ticks, insects, and other animal vectors. West Nile Virus is spread by mosquitoes and has caused over 1,000 deaths in the U.S.

 

Where are invasive species found?  Invasive species can be found in every type of habitat. They are in oceans, lakes, streams, and wetlands. On land, they can be in croplands, rangelands, backcountry areas, parks, and forests. Some invasive species inhabit homes and urban environments. While invasive species are in many habitats, vast areas continue to need protection.

 

Why should I care?  Everyone who lives in Oklahoma needs to care because more and more money will be needed to treat, control, and restore habitats and agricultural lands damage that is caused to public resources unless we fight the continued spread of invasives in our state.  Also if you love the Oklahoma's natural beauty, spend time outdoors, or rely on the natural resources for your livelihood you should care about invasive species.

Whether you farm and ranch, fish and hunt, hike and camp, or garden and watch wildlife, invasive species will have a negative impact on you.  For example, species like hydrilla and zebra mussels can take over lakes and make boating, fishing, and general water recreation less than enjoyable.  Zebra mussels can clog water pipes, which can cost millions to replace or repair. Terrestrial species like king ranch bluestem and cheatgrass can take over pastures prairies and make the land uninhabitable for many plant and animal species and less profitable for livestock. 

 

Where can I learn more?  There are a variety of online resources available to learn more about invasive species in our state.  See our Resource Page for more.

 

 

OK Invasives is the informational and citizen science project website for the Oklahoma Invasive Plant Council and their partners.

 

Email : okipc@ou.edu

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