Issue Area

Aquatic Invasive Species

Overview

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
Kate Burgess

Conservation Manager

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Key Facts

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.

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Resources

NCEL Resources

Online Resources

Biosecurity and Invasive Species Special Report

This 2019 report highlights the work of Western Governors to address the challenge of nuisance species and pests in western ecosystems

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List of State Laws and Regulations on Plant Pests

The National Plant Board maintains this list of state laws and regulations on plant quarantines, noxious plants, plant pests and plant disease vectors.

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USDA's Aquatic Invasive Species Webpage

The USDA National Agricultural Library houses a National Aquatic Invasive Species Webpage containing relevant AIS publications, law, policy, media, and tools.

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Maps of All Invasive Species in U.S.

The Early Detection & Distribution Mapping (EDDMaps) project provides an exhaustive interactive list of invasive species of plants, insects, wildlife and diseases with national, county, and GIS point maps for individual invasive species.

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