Term Paper: Biology/Ecology the Global Ecological Problem of Invasive

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The global ecological problem of invasive species has been widely documented. Indeed, this is the cause of not only ecological, but also economic and other related problems. What struck me most about Susan McGrath's article, "Attack of the Alien Invaders" in the National Geographic of March 2005, is the sheer extent of the problem. While I was aware of the phenomenon, I had no understanding of the widespread and diverse nature of the problem itself. I therefore believe that articles such as Ms. McGrath's are vital in the contemporary human fight against global ecological decay. It is only through awareness that human beings can make the changes needed to ensure the future for their future generations.

The article also seems to focus on both positive and negative aspects of alien species invading native ecosystems. While the ecological and economic effects are generally negative, I found it interesting that some positive aspects are also associated with the problem. One of these positive aspects is the work opportunities created by the invasive species. Individual families can benefit economically from helping with the effort to eradicate harmful alien weeds and plants from their native soil. This provides a valuable service while also providing income for persons who have been unemployed for years. According to the author, this provides not only much-needed income, but also a previously unknown boost in self-esteem: the workers are accomplishing a much-needed task. In effect then, such employment opportunities create a positive impact on the economy in terms of unemployment numbers. This seems to be particularly applicable to third-world countries, where poverty is rampant. Hence one could say that invasive species do have a positive economic impact in certain cases. It must also be mentioned however that some of these "opportunities" are volunteer-based, and the only reward is a sense of assisting with the ecology in an attempt to ensure the earth's and humanity's future.

The negative impacts however appear to far outweigh whatever positive outcomes could be extracted from invading species. Personally, I found the sheer dollar value of eradicating and controlling these species shocking. If the U.S. alone spends $140 billion on the problem, with all the technology and expertise at the country's disposal, surely the crisis must be much worse in less developed countries. An aspect that I never considered with regard to invasive species and the economy is tourism. Ms. Garth for example mentions the case of the coqui frog in Hawaii. The lightning-speed spread and the noise the frog makes have not only irritated natives, but also had a severe impact on tourism. As Hawaii is a very prominent travel destination, this impact is also severely reflected in the economy. The article appears rather gloomy regarding prospects of eradicating the frog.

Another fascinating aspect of the article is the way in which invasive species made their journeys to locations all over the globe. There appears to be two categories: intentional transportation via human assisted means, and unintentional transportation. Ironically, the intentional transport of exotic animals and plants for collection purposes, is a multi-billion dollar industry. Exotic species are generally imported for purposes such as food, collection purposes, or pets. Considering the market demand for such species, certainly one would assume that the economy of especially poverty-stricken countries is affected positively by exporting their native fauna and flora. Indeed, they are generally gracing the dinner tables and zoos of the rich with their exported items. It does however become a problem when, as in the case of Florida mentioned in the article, the owner tires of the pet and releases it.

Garth for example mentions the case of the Burmese Python, imported to Florida from Asia as pets. When the owners tire of them, they are released into the Everglades where they breed and significantly impact the environment.

Other species are transported unintentionally. This is perhaps the most… [END OF PREVIEW]

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