Conquering Invasive Species

Scientists are using some creative ways to get rid of invasive species that threaten other animals, plants, and even entire ecosystems, reports Scientific American.

Hawaii has about 20 types of non-native algae, two of which are especially destructive, grow quickly, and destroy the coral and reef diversity.  When volunteers removing the algae by hand failed to keep pace with the algae, scientists started using a “Super Sucker” – a vacuum with a 100-foot hose that can remove up to 360 kilograms of algae every hour from the reef.

Asian CarpAsian carp, with their voracious appetite, have been found in the Illinois River, which connects the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan, says the EPA.  Since 2004, the EPA has worked with several other organizations to install and maintain electric barriers to stop the carp from advancing.  Perhaps efforts should also target the carps’ skittishness, their only known weakness.  When they hear a sound such as a boat motor, the carp jump out of the water, thereby granting, at least in my mind, an opportunity to spear, shoot, net, or somehow kill/capture them.

Sometimes the solution is in the invader’s new environment. When baby Cane Toads meet a meat-eating ant, the toads just freeze.  In Australia, cat food is used to attract the ants to a certain pond, and in a test study the ants attacked 98% of the toads. 70% of the baby toads died.

GoatOccasionally invasive species can provide a useful service.  Hawaiian and Galápagos Island vegetation is being stripped by unrestrained goats. Meanwhile, a Puget Sound business is “renting” out a herd of goats to consume voracious invasive plants including the English Ivy, Scotch Broom, Himalayan Blackberry, and Japanese Knotweed.  A herd of 120 goats can clear an acre in 6 to 14 days, depending on how dense the brush is.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Department of Agriculture uses dogs to sniff out Brown Tree Snakes from crates in Guam which are heading for other islands.  Since the snake’s arrival, nine native Guam bird species have disappeared, and the two remaining species are nearing extinction.  The snakes also bite humans and cause frequent small blackouts.  Perhaps the dogs should be used in the forests as well.

It’s great to read that scientists are using some creative methods to win the battle over invasive species.  In time, more such solutions will be thought up, hopefully in time to save native species that are being threatened by the invaders.

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Alison Wheatley

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