Stop them before they kill again

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Why it matters to me

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I read a book last year about invasive species that talked a great deal about the brown tree snake.  Native to Australia and nearby countries, the snake traveled to Guam during and after World War II.  There it found nirvana: a world with plentiful food and no predators.  The birds on Guam had enjoyed a similar privileged status — no natural predators — until the snake arrived.  Therefore, they built their nests in handy places — handy for birds and, it turns out, just as handy for brown tree snakes.  The end result?  The extinction of most of Guam’s birds.

I may be more concerned about invasive species than other people because I grew up on Lake Erie.  While the lake had problems in the 1960s — industrial pollution and sewage pollution, among others — one thing it didn’t have was zebra mussels.  Now it does, and the ecology of the lake has changed permanently.  (The zebra mussel is currently westward bound.)  How did it get there?  Its arrival is attributed to international freighters emptying bilge water than contained the mussels.   I suspect it’s more like the brown tree snake — not just one incident of accidental importation but numerous incidents that eventually culminated in a takeover.

The drama of the brown tree snake  and the zebra mussel is matched by concurrent dramas all over the country.  Oriental bittersweet, for instance, is overpowering the native bittersweet in the park system in Louisville, Kentucky, where I live.  The species may vary, but the problem is nationwide.  I’m fascinated, in part because people continue to plant such species, even when they know about the danger.  I am, as always, attacted by the complexity of the problem.


Written by stopthembeforetheykillagain

September 11, 2008 at 5:37 pm

Posted in invasive species

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