Aquatic invasive species are any non-native animals, plants, or organisms that have been introduced to ecosystems outside of their own that have negative consequences in their new habitat.
Their introduction can permanently change the ecosystem they now live in, wreaking havoc in their new environment.
In the United States, there are more than 250 non-native aquatic species from other continents. Additionally, over 450 non-native species in North America have been moved outside of their natural ecosystems.
Why are Aquatic Non-Native Species a Problem?
The presence of aquatic invasive species can result in harm to the economy, the environment, and overall human health.
Aquatic invasive species can be a significant threat to the biodiversity of lakes, rivers, and ponds, altering their natural ecological process. These species can become predators, competitors, parasites, and diseases, affecting native and domesticated plants and animals.
They can outcompete native species
The natural predators of non-invasive species may not be present in the new ecosystem.
This allows them to thrive, possibly harming and outnumbering native species. In extreme cases, invasive species can result in the extinction of native plants and animals.
Threat to the health of humans
We already know that new and unknown aquatic species can be a threat to the health of native plants and species.
However, it can also be dangerous to humans by causing bites, stings, allergies, and toxins. Some aquatic invasive species can also be carriers and vectors of disease. Studies have shown marine animals are acquiring disease-causing microbes in contaminated waters, several of which can be transmitted to humans.
Reduces water quality
Invasive aquatic species also negatively impact the quality of water because their toxins can unbalance oxygen levels.
The presence of native aquatic plants is crucial to the water’s ecosystem because they are the main source of oxygen for other organisms living in the water.
When too many unwanted species invade your lakes and waterfronts, it can look unsightly and even produce bad odors.
Additionally, poor water quality can limit water-based recreational opportunities.
Types of Aquatic Invasive Species
There are many types of invasive species in major bodies of water that you should be aware of.
Aquatic invasive plants include algae, they can invade multiple aquatic environments such as wetlands, lakes, rivers, irrigation systems, and more.
Aquatic invasive animals can include insects, fish, crustaceans, amphibians, and more.
These animals may feed on smaller animals and plants native to the area, decreasing food availability for native species.
In ten western states and the Great Lakes area, New Zealand Mudsnails are competing with native snails for food and space.
Like the name implies, this species is native to New Zealand and neighboring islands. They are often found in high volumes (approximately 750,000 snails/ square meters) in watersheds and can tolerate a variety of water temperatures. Their ability to completely seal their shells allows them to survive in cool and damp conditions.
Aquatic invasive organisms can include pathogens, such as molds, fungi, bacteria, and viruses. These diseases can cause high levels of mortality in some types of fish and aquatic animals, but they can also negatively impact human health.
The Cause of the Invasion
The causes of invasive species vary, oftentimes, it is unintentional.
Increased trade and travel volumes have contributed to the increased number of aquatic invasive species that have spread throughout the continents. As we travel, we unknowingly bring uninvited species with us, especially when we travel by water. Boats and ships can carry aquatic organisms in their propellers and ship ballast water, introducing them into new ecosystems.
Additionally, small invasive animals can spread by attaching themselves to the feet of wildlife, traveling along with them as they move about. Intentional introduction of non-native species includes recreational purposes, irresponsible dumping, and transport of live fish and eggs for the commercial aquaculture industry.
The best ways to stop non-native species from invading our ecosystems are knowledge and prevention.
Some preventative actions include fishing and recreating responsibly and restoration.
Clean, Drain, and Dry!
If you own a boat, three important and easy steps to take to prevent the spreading of non-native species are to Clean, Drain, and Dry.
If we don’t properly clean, drain and dry boats, invasive species that may have attached themselves to the vehicle can spread throughout the waterways we travel through.
When fishing, make sure to dispose of bait properly.
Do not overfish native fish, and do not introduce the fish game into areas where they can deteriorate the environment. Do not transport live fish or aquatic plants from one water body to another; not only is it illegal, it can be extremely harmful to the existing ecosystem.
If possible, efforts should be made to restore the habitat to its original state.
Restoration efforts include harvesting invasive species, cleaning up ballast water, and reintroducing native species to the area.
Manage Aquatic Invasive Species with Goodbye to Muck
Use our LakeMat to eradicate the weeds and unwanted aquatic plants in your lake or waterfront.
Easily target where you want to be completely weed-free and keep your water quality pristine and its ecosystem healthy without using harsh chemicals.
At Goodbye to Muck, we have products designed to specifically stop the growth and spread of invasive species on your waterfront property.
Our products are available in various sizes and come with a 3-year, parts and labor guarantee.
Contact us today, we’ll make sure your lake and waterfront stay in great shape all year long!