Monday, November 5, 2007

Invasive species and the death of biodiversity on Earth!

It has come to my attention that 300 species a day are transported in the ballast water of large ships or freighters. Many species including lamprey, alewife and zebra mussels have been introduced into our Great lakes and some of these species are having a very negative affect on the biodiversity in this area. I was utterly shocked to learn that invasive species were being introduced to these lakes in this manner and at this rate. Ships fill there ballasts with water while out for stabilization in the sea and many times will not release this water until they are in an extremely different ecosystem. In this water there are many species that are alien to this dumping location.

In many cases the new species is incapable of surviving, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, the introduced specie is capable of invading the habitat of native species and becomes a strong competitor for food and space. An excellent example of this is the introduction of the zebra mussel into the Great lakes some time in the 1980s.

This species, believed to be transported in the ballast of a large freighter, is a filter feeder that is capable of surviving at an extremely high density rate. Due to the increase of this species population the water looks much clearer than it has in the past, although many native species are suffering because of this. With the numbers of zebra mussels increasing the amount of food they intake and deprive native species from also increases. There are many other native mussels and fish that feed on the phytoplankton that these invasive mussels are hording.

Why must such a ruthless and corrupt invasion continue? These species damage many aspects of the community and are capable of blocking drains, and even small inlets, yet, it is not a very high priority. Many states have adapted new regulations regarding ballast exchange before entering this water system, but it will require an extreme group effort considering the amount of people, and different governing systems that surround these bodies of water.

I did come across some information regarding some possible solutions that may have the ability of counteracting some of this invasion. One is the introduction of a less invasive species that is capable of feeding on the mussel. There are may different sponges that feed on these mussels but research is still underway.

Scientists are also trying to come up with a possible chemical that would kill all life in ballasts before they unload and would not harm the ecosystem. To me, this is just ridiculous! To fight a problem that occurred because of lack of knowledge, we should dump newly tested, chemically treated water into an already stressed habitat? How does that make sense? These lakes contain 95% of North Americas surface freshwater. This fact alone makes us aware of the importance of these lakes, and the impact they have on our survival. It is almost a guarantee that a few years down the road there will be a negative impact on this environment due to the intoruction of this chemical. What would the solution be then, and what impact would it have on the Great Lakes?