Aquatic Invasive Species
Invasive species are any type of living organism that are not native to an ecosystem and cause harm. Found in all 50 states, invasive species can reproduce and spread rapidly, thrive in many different environments, and withstand threats that native species cannot. Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) are present in both fresh and saltwater ecosystems and are causing significant ecological and economic damage. In the United States there are currently more than 250 non-native aquatic species from other continents and more than 450 nonnative aquatic species from other parts of North America. Due to an environment that allows for high connectivity and dispersal, AIS present unique and complex management challenges. AIS can spread in a variety of ways, including attaching to watercraft, dumping of unwanted live bait, sticking to the soles of waders, and via the release of water from ship ballasts and other water containment devices, as well as through the dumping of personal aquariums. Current AIS control methods include preventing new invasive introductions, detecting and responding to existing threats, market based tools, and educating the public.
NCEL Point of Contact
Conservation Program ManagerContact
The Great Lakes region is inundated with AIS such as zebra and quagga mussels. The management of these two freshwater invasive species alone costs $500 million annually for the Great Lakes.
People have been dumping unwanted lionfish from home aquariums into the Atlantic Ocean for up to 25 years. Lionfish pose a massive threat to reef health, which in turn can play a role in reducing both the amount of carbon storage and native fish stock available, as well as livelihood opportunities for coastal communities.
Aquatic plant invasives form dense mats of vegetation that block sunlight and prevent native plants from growing. When these invasive plants die, they consume oxygen and continue to create an inhospitable environment for native aquatic species.