A new book, Novel Ecosystems, edited by Richard Hobbs of the University of Western Australia and others, shows how many superficially natural ecosystems are heavily influenced by the introduction of alien species. Whether intentional or accidental, most introductions seem to have human origins.
This is disconcerting. “Over large parts of the globe, the ‘wilderness’ that people refer back to never existed,” says one of the book’s authors, Michael Perring, also of the University of Western Australia.
Nature has always had open borders for alien species on the move. Those itinerants may have been a driving force of evolution. But human activity has dramatically increased their travel options. We move many deliberately, as commercial crops or domesticated animals, for instance. Today, others can hitch a ride on ship hulls or in ballast tanks, aboard planes or on the wheels of trucks or the backs of domesticated animals. This phenomenon seems to have been going on for much longer than we sometimes imagine.
Posts tagged invasive species.
Ticks are champions at spreading diseases, expanding in both poor countries and rich ones, and delivering an extraordinary menagerie of bacteria, protozoans, and viruses. In a 2010 report on the dangers of ticks, the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, declared the animals, with what sounds almost like admiration, “the Swiss Army knife of disease vectors.”
IT’S STARTLING to look at the graphs of tick-borne diseases over the past few decades. They’re mostly going in the wrong direction. The research on Lyme disease is fairly recent, sparked in the mid-1970s after a cluster of children around Lyme developed fever and aches. They were diagnosed with juvenile arthritis—a peculiar diagnosis for so many children in one place. Their parents searched for an explanation, and eventually Allan Steere, a doctor at Yale, figured out that they suffered from an infectious disease. The fact that they all came from a rural part of the state suggested that an insect or some other animal had delivered the infection. In 1982, Willy Burgdorfer, an entomologist with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, discovered corkscrew-shaped bacteria in black-legged ticks from Long Island. He exposed the bacteria to serum from people with Lyme disease and discovered that their antibodies swarmed around the microbes. That was a sign that these bacteria—which would later be named Borrelia burgdorferi after him—were the cause of Lyme disease.
Since Burgdorfer’s discovery, Lyme disease has spread relentlessly. New York and other northeastern states started recording new infections in the eighties. In the Midwest, Lyme disease came to light around the same time in Wisconsin and began radiating out from there. Today it can be found as far west as California, as far south as Virginia, and to the north across the border into Canada. Each year, 38,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with the condition. The list of symptoms includes fever, aches, fatigue, and, if left untreated for a length of time, arthritis, heart arrhythmia, and neurological damage. Lyme disease is rarely fatal.
The fish could be causing major problems for Louisiana’s coastal fisheries in eight to 10 years if nothing is done.
Asian carp, including species such as bighead and silver carp, were introduced in the Midwest in the 1970s to clean murky fish farm ponds. The fish are filter feeders, munching microscopic plant and animal plankton from the water. Flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers caused ponds to overflow, allowing Asian carp to escape into other rivers and reproduce in the wild.
These fish eat voraciously and reproduce rapidly. One fish reproduces three to four times a year, releasing between 100,000 to 3 million eggs each spawning, Parola said. They have no major predators and can eat more than 20 percent of their body weight in algae and plankton a day. Asian carp can weigh up to 100 pounds. With their large size and hunger for plankton, they could pose a threat to native species.
Invasive species in Florida: The Giant African Land Snail. Government blames immigrants.
A typical snail can produce about 1,200 eggs a year and the creatures are a particular pest in homes because of their fondness for stucco, devoured for the calcium content they need for their shells.
Image description: Mexican fruit flies (an invasive species) feed on citrus fruit.
A species is considered invasive when it is nonnative to the ecosystem and its introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proclaimed April to be Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month. USDA has developed “Seven Ways to Leave Hungry Pests Behind” to aid Americans in protecting America’s agricultural bounty and natural beauty.
Photo by Jack Dykinga, Bugwood.org.
Irony knows no bounds.
Rodents of Unusual Size is a new documentary on an invasive rodent called Nutria. Nutria’s grow to about 20 pounds(!) and are destroying critical wetlands in Louisiana. Click above to learn more.
Vicious, invasive gallinipper mosquitoes are coming to eat you. They were brought to America by tropical storms, which deposited eggs in Florida. (Can’t wait for the headlines out of Florida this summer.)
Super-sized mosquitoes as big as quarters which can bite through clothing are headed to Florida ‘in large numbers’ this summerMega-mosquitoes which are the size of quarters are expected to take over areas of Florida ‘in large numbers’ this summer, scientists have warned. The hurricanes of last year brought large numbers of the insects to the Central and South Florida area which laid dormant eggs in the soil near ponds and streams. Now scientists are predicting heavy rainfall will come again and cause the eggs to hatch, releasing the super-sized bugs in large numbers.
The special breed of the nuisance bug, which can be 20 times bigger than common menacing Asian tiger mosquitoes, are described as ‘notoriously aggressive’. They were handed the perfect breeding ground by last year’s tropical storms, according to scientists at the University of Florida, so are coming to a town near you.
Psorophora ciliata, or Gallinipper mosquitoes as they are commonly known, have half inch long bodies and the same black-white color pattern of the more common Asian Tiger Mosquito with a wingspan of 6-7 millimeters.
They have a ‘Persistent biting behavior’ and their bite is much more painful. ‘The bite really hurts, I can attest to that,’ said Kaufman. They can also bite through light material, and like other mosquitoes only the females bite, the males Gallinippers feed on flower nectar. They also feed on other mosquito larvae and even tadpoles and are most active at dusk and dawn.
It’s a war between invasive species. Stinging Asian needle ants overtaking invasive Argentinian ants in the U.S.
But, what really caught my eye was the last paragraph of the story:
Spicer-Rice works on a citizen-science project called School of Ants where people send in ants collected in their backyards to North Carolina State University for identification. Today, “Asian needle ants are the most common ants found,” she said. “Five years ago, nobody even knew what an Asian needle ant was.”
What an interesting project - people send their backyard ants to a university for study. Kids would LOVE to do that! Check out the project: School of Ants.
On a dim February evening, seven people crowded around a row of television monitors in a shack on the rear deck of the RV Nathaniel B. Palmer. The research icebreaker was idling 30 kilometres off the coast of Antarctica with a cable as thick as an adult’s wrist dangling over the stern. At the end of that cable, on the continental shelf 1,400 metres down, a remote-operated vehicle (ROV) skimmed across the sea floor, surveying a barren, grey mudscape. The eerie picture of desolation, piped back to the television monitors, was the precursor to an unwelcome discovery.
The ROV had visited 11 different sea-floor locations during this 57-day research cruise along the Antarctic Peninsula in 2010. Each time, it had found plenty of life, mostly invertebrates: sea lilies waving in the currents; brittlestars with their skinny, sawtoothed arms; and sea pigs, a type of sea cucumber that lumbers along the sea floor on water-inflated legs. But at this spot, they were all absent.
After 15 minutes, the reason became clear: a red-shelled crab, spidery and with a leg-span as wide as a chessboard, scuttled into view of the ROV’s cameras. It probed the mud methodically — right claw, left claw, right claw — looking for worms or shellfish. Another crab soon appeared, followed by another and another. The crowded shack erupted into chatter. “They’re natural invaders,” murmured Craig Smith, a marine ecologist from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “They’re coming in with the warmer water.”
As the climate warms, plant species that prefer a colder environment are disappearing from the mountain ranges of Southern Europe. Since many of these species have small distribution areas, they are now threatened with extinction, according to two new studies from European researchers.
“These species have migrated upwards, but sooner or later the mountain reaches its summit,” said researcher and biologist Ulf Molau at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg. “Many alpine plant species are disappearing from mountain ranges in Southern Europe, and for some of them - those that are only found in a single mountain range - the outlook is extremely bleak.”
Over a period of 10 years, researchers around Europe have gathered samples from 13 different mountain regions.
Using digital technology and intensive on-site field work, they have been able to study a grid pattern of square meters, selected on different high mountain summits, from the treeline up to the highest peaks.
The digital photographs provide a detailed picture of which species have disappeared between 2001 and the present day.
“Every research square is digitally photographed so that we can find our way back to the exact same position after 10 years or more, with centimeter precision,” said Professor Molau. “By rolling out an analysis network, small 10 x 10 cm squares can be re-mapped.”
Today, the researchers are able to observe that species are migrating upwards and that the variety of species in Southern European mountain regions has declined during the 10 years in which samples have been taken.
“This finding confirms the hypothesis that a rise in temperatures drives Alpine flora to migrate upwards. As a result, rival species are threatened by competitors, which are migrating to higher altitudes. These changes pose a threat to high-mountain ecosystems in the long and medium term,” the authors state.
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A 66-foot dock washed onto a beach in Oregon last week. The dock broke off from a port in Japan during the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
A 66 foot dock washed ashore in Oregon from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
These are excellent.
The Worst Mistake in History by Jared Diamond - Could civilisation itself be a crisis measure, a result of the overpopulation brought about by the unique success humanity? A fascinating perspective on progress.
The Case Against Babies by Joy Williams - A strong argument for abstaining from reproduction.
Planet of Weeds by David Quammen - Decreasing biological diversity tends to favour adaptable invasive species, like us.
Warming waters and killer Zebra mussels - an invasive species that kills by multiplying by the million.
According to the most recent national climate assessment, populations of native species are expected to decline under future climate conditions, although the extent will vary depending on the location and the species involved. Both invasive and native species will try to migrate to new territories where conditions are more suitable. In some cases, today’s invaded may become tomorrow’s invaders.
The uncertainty of how zebra mussels will respond to the warming of the Great Lakes due to climate change is a complicating factor in resource managers’ efforts to reduce the harmful impacts of this invader. Based on some initial experiments, some researchers predict that populations of invasive mussels in the Ohio River and farther south could suffer if water temperatures increase. However, more northern populations will probably benefit from climate change and may extend their range to higher latitudes and altitudes
Via Climate Watch
Workers at Israel Electric Corporation’s Hadera plant have removed some 100 tons of jellyfish from the plant’s filters in the past three days. The power plant sucks in seawater to cool its turbines, and in summer the jellyfish – considered an invasive species - are drawn in with the water. Chief Maintenance officer Rafi Nagar told MSNBC that if the jellyfish went through the filters, the turbine could shut down, causing rolling blackouts in some cities. Nagar’s crew – wearing special goggles and gloves – is working around the clock to keep the filters jellyfish-free.
Source: Climate Progress