The Impact of Invasive Species in an Ecosystem

There are many things that impact the environment and the ecosystems within them. Some of the impacts are beneficial, while others tear the ecosystem apart such as climate change, overpopulation and invasive species. While some of these events are natural many of these events are caused by the human population. In chapter five of Environmental Geology: Science, Land and Earth Systems by William A. Marsh and John Garcia Jr. there is a section that talks about ecosystem patterns and disturbances. One of these disturbances are invasive species.

According the Encyclopedia of Life and invasive species is defined as “an alien whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm to human health…. Alien species’ means, with respect to a particular ecosystem, any species… that is not native to that ecosystem.” One problematic example of invasive species harming ecosystems in Florida is the introduction of pythons and boa constrictors. People buy these snakes as exotic pets but often they don’t realize that they can reach lengths between 10 and 20 feet.

When these reptiles become larger than the owners had expected they release them into the wild and let them roam freely.

Florida’s climate is similar to their native environment in Asia, because of this they thrive in their new environment and become an invasive species to the local habitat. This is a problem that has been going on for about 11 years in the Florida Everglades. Researchers at Davidson College, Virginia Tech University and the U.S. Geological Survey found that “Burmese pythons have eaten so many small mammals in Everglades National Park that populations of rabbits and foxes have disappeared and numbers of raccoons, opossums and bobcats have dropped as much as 99%”.

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These snakes are getting brave enough to attack deer and alligators as well. Sometimes humans accidentally introduce new critters to environments that they don’t belong in. An example of this occurred in the southern states of America. Asian carp were brought to the southernstates to control water quality and vegetation in controlled farms. These fish were doing exactly what they were designed to do and weren’t creating a problem in America until a flood happened in the area. The farm had not planned for a flood and this accident led to the Asian carp making their way into local watersheds.

When the carp got into the local water ways they began to head north towards the Great Lakes. PBS claims that if the fish make it to the Great Lakes they would become the secondary consumers and consume most of the native fish in the lakes. This could endanger the native fish and leave fishermen without any of their usual fish to catch which would could destroy the fishing industry and hurt the economy. Invasive species are a problem all over the world. The northern grey squirrel has made its’ way to Italy and Great Britain where it has caused a decline in the population of the native red squirrels. The northern grey squirrel is consuming anything that it can find to eat, leaving nothing for the red squirrel population. Over time this will lead the red squirrel population to starvation and then extinction. Similarly in the United States, the Asian shore crab is more dexterous and faster than the native crabs. This means that they are naturally better at hunting for and gathering food than the native species of crabs.

Similar to the red squirrels, the native crabs will end up starving and slowly become endangered because they are pushed out of their ecosystem by the invasive species. If invasive creatures continue to kill species in other ecosystems than we will lose biodiversity around the word. If one animal in an ecosystem dies, it can lead to the decline of other species in the ecosystem as well. This is a problem for humans as well as the environment because scientists rely on the biodiversity of plants for medical uses. For example, Aloe is a plant used to relieve burns, milk weed is used to treat warts and penicillin was created from a type of mold. Native species also indicate when there is a problem in the environment. In Florida the largemouth bass population indicates when there is a mercury contamination in freshwater ecosystems and miners use canary’s to indicate trouble in mines. The decline of the bald eagle population told people that there was a problem with air quality due to DDT pollution. These native species have saved people in many cases by revealing environmental problems through their behavior and populations.

The University of Florida revealed that the environment provides us many free services such as “energy fixation, chemical cycling (oxygen production through rain forests), soil generation and maintenance, ground water recharge, water purification and flood protection.” If we continue to let invasive species into new environments than we risk harming the native animals, plants, ourselves and the goods that nature freely provides us with. Invasive species also cause economic trouble by eliminating the resources that we use for profit (fish, plants, etc.). If people would be more aware of their local ecosystems and understand what species are native or invasive than they could be proactive or even reactive to reverse the damage that has been done.

Works Cited:

  1. Marsh, W., &Grossa, J. (1996).
  2. Ecosystems and the Bioclimatic Environment. In Environmental geography: Science, land use, and earth systems (3rd ed.). New York: J. Wiley. McGinley, M. (2010).
  3. What is an invasive species? – Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved May 6,2015, from

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The Impact of Invasive Species in an Ecosystem. (2022, Mar 09). Retrieved from

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