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Invasive Species

Invasive species are capable of causing extinctions of native plants and animals, reducing biodiversity, competing with native organisms for limited resources, and altering habitats.

The 50,000 exotic species in the U.S. cost an average of $138 billion per year in damages, losses, and control measures. They threaten nearly half of the species protected under the Endangered Species Act. Invasive species are biological pollutants, capable of having similar impacts to coastal ecosystems as chemical pollutants.

Non-native plants and animals are imported for the aquarium trade and for agricultural and pest control. They are also introduced unintentionally, as hitch hikers in globally traded goods and in ballast water released from ships.

We evaluate risks and quantify the impacts of plant and animal invasions to coastal economies, ecosystems, and human health, focusing on lionfish, the Asian tiger shrimp, and tunicates in the east coast of the U.S. and the Caribbean.

In the Great Lakes, we are looking at interaction between nutrient pollution and zebra mussels and their role in promoting harmful algal blooms. We are also developing strategies and technologies to find and monitor deep water invasives that endanger the fragile Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Here are some of our efforts to predict and control the spread and impact of invasives.