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Invasive Species: An Introduction to this Year’s Global Topic

An invasive species is a non-native species that causes harm to an ecosystem. Any kind of living organism can be an invasive species. They are most commonly generalists, meaning they “can live in many different types of environments, and have a varied diet.” Invasive species also typically have the ability to grow and reproduce quickly. In addition, they rarely have natural predators in their new ecosystems. All of these characteristics together make it easy for invasive species to outcompete native species; invasives eat the food of native species, utilize the native species’ habitats, and overall, use up resources the native species depend on, leaving the native species unable to compete.

Invasive species are one of the biggest causes of biodiversity loss and pose a major threat to native species worldwide. Whether they’re brought in from a foreign country or from another region of their own country, the impact is the same – devastating loss. And once they’re in the new location, invasives can be quite challenging to remove. The global economic cost of removing invasive species is quite large and that total doesn’t even include the cost of fixing the damage they cause. As they invade new ecosystems, invasives can damage infrastructure, properties, and agricultural lands. 

Invasive species pose a major threat to agriculture production as they can invade grazing fields and destroy, or outcompete, crops. They can also carry diseases with them, spreading pathogens to new areas and potentially causing new outbreaks. This is compounded by the fact that humans are the primary mover of invasive species, whether intentionally or inadvertently, especially as the world has become more globalized and connected. 

Climate change will only exacerbate the spread of invasive species. Invasives are typically much quicker to adapt to changes in their ecosystem than native species. Climate change also makes ecosystems more vulnerable to invasive species.

Learn more about Invasive Species by reading the full topic overview.