How Invasive Species Affect The Ecosystem

September 20, 2023


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Red lionfish

Lionfish are known for their striking appearance, but despite their flashy looks, these creatures have become an unwanted neighbor among coral reefs in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Originally native to the Indo-Pacific, lionfish were first observed along the coasts of Florida in the 1980s. With few natural predators outside of their natural range, lionfish populations continue to grow, causing negative impacts on the health of coral reefs and native fish populations.

lionfish lionfish
spotted lanternfly spotted lanternfly


Spotted lanternfly

The spotted lantern fly, which is native to China and other South Asian countries like India, was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014. Since then, the population of spotted lanternflies in the U.S. has skyrocketed.

While these small spotted bugs might seem harmless, they actually pose a serious threat to agriculture, feeding voraciously on the sap from plants and secreting detrimental amounts of honeydew that can produce a mold that can cause disease and death in trees, crops, and other plant life.

If you happen across a spotted lanternfly, it’s always best to squish them, though it may take a few tries because those suckers are quick jumpers. You may also spot their egg sacs on trees, buildings, or elsewhere. If you find a lanternfly egg sac, you can scrape the egg sac off of its host surface and squish or kill it using alcohol or hand sanitizer.


Norway Maple

Norway maple trees are originally native to Europe and western Asia but can now be found growing across the United States. Norway maples are known for their dense canopies, which create excessive shade, inhibiting the growth and diversity of native trees and other flora, such as wildflowers, which are a vital resource for pollinating insects.

With few native “enemies,” the Norway maple has been able to thrive in many wooded areas, remaining widely unaffected by pests and fungi that can kill other native tree species, such as the sugar maple – allowing the Norway maple to further take over our native woodlands.

norway maple norway maple
zebra mussels zebra mussels


Zebra mussels

Zebra mussels are small, freshwater shellfish originally native to the Caspian and Black Seas south of Russia and Ukraine. Zebra mussels are now widespread across Europe and the United States, and it is believed they were likely brought to the U.S. as a stowaway on a ship.

Zebra mussels' can reproduce FAST, which is why their populations are able to grow and take over non-native areas so easily. When in large enough numbers, these mussels will out-compete native inhabitants for food and habitat. They are also voracious filter feeders that can suck up plankton and other particles in the water, increasing water clarity and making it easier for predators to hunt vulnerable native species.

How can I help prevent the spread of invasive species?


A quick clean can help to prevent the spread of foreign seeds, organisms, and pathogens that can harm non-native ecosystems. Simple tasks like rinsing down your boat before using it in a new body of water or cleaning your boots before hiking a new area are easy ways to make a difference!


When landscaping your yard, choose plants native to your area to prevent the spread of invasive plant species. Even though these plants might be “safely” planted in your garden beds, seeds can spread quickly, causing invasive species to take over before you know it.


NEVER release aquarium fish or plants into the wild – it might seem harmless, but soon enough, non-native species can become invasive. Owning an exotic pet is a lot of work, so research and plan ahead before committing to the responsibility.


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