What do the zebra mussel, purple loosestrife plant and the Asian long-horned beetle all have in common? They are all invasive species. The National Invasive Species Council defines an invasive species as "a species that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health." The New York State Invasive Species Task Force has accepted that description but also states that an invasive must be a non-native species that causes more harm then benefit.
An invasive species can be in the form of an animal, insect, plant or pathogen. These species have the ability to become invasives because of certain traits they possess. These traits include fast growth, rapid reproduction and tremendous flexibility in the environments which they can thrive and the types of foods that can sustain them. These non-native invasive species have entered new territory through a multitude of pathways. As goods are imported and exported there can occasionally be hitchhikers, such as an invasive species. According to the Environmental Protection Agency the common ways invasive species are introduced is through the discharge of ballast water, on boat hulls, on fishing gear, aquaculture escapes, escaped ornamental plants, vehicular transport, and many more. Regardless of how invasive species get established it is important to understand the damage they can cause, what they look like and what can be done to mitigate their impact.
The Problem with Invasive Species
As a resident in the Finger Lakes, you may be asking yourself why you should be concerned about invasive species. According to the New York Invasive Species Council, invasive species affect the lives of all New Yorkers and we pay a significant price to deal with them. Invasive species damage our crops and infrastructure, cause power failures, food and water shortages, harm the environment, and cause human and livestock diseases. For example, controlling Asian long-horned beetles in New York City and Long Island has cost between $13 million and $40 million per year since 1996. Zebra mussels have caused hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage since their introduction in 1988. When focusing on sensitive areas like Keuka Lake, there are some specific harmful impacts from invasive species. To examine these specific negative impacts and how the invasive species make this happen refer to the table entitled "Potential Negative Impacts on Keuka Lake from Invasive Species". For more detailed information on invasive species, go to: http://nyis.info/Default.aspx