Archive for November, 2010

Global Warming a Bioinvasion? Part 3

One of the most commonly known global effects of bioinvasion is global warming. In a study completed by the National Invasive Species Awareness, it was discovered that rising air temperatures affect “marine ecosystems by raising air temperatures, decreasing oceanic pH, altering stream flow patterns, increasing storm events, and contributing to sea level rise”. The overall health of a marine species is dependent on its interaction with the environment. If the condition of the environment is changed by even a degree, marine species are threatened. Many fish in our oceans are heat sensitive and any change in water temperature can demolish a whole species. Just think about how hard it is to have a salt-water fish tank: most people have a hard time keeping fish healthy because the water temperature fluctuates too often. It’s the same sad story with our oceans. With rising temperatures, we are already seeing a loss of the sea-ice habitat with polar bear populations decreasing at alarming rates. Ice is melting at a alarming rate leaving polar bears limited ice caps to live on. Climate change has also increased the occurrence of severe weather around the world. An example would be the recent monsoon in Pakistan that affected nearly 13 million people and killed over 400 people. The three day flood wreaked havoc on northern Pakistan and left many climate scientists concerned for the future. An Article by BBC News described the monsoon to be larger than the combined effects of the three worst natural disasters to strike in the past decade. Climate change is clear indication of the extent of global bioinvasions. A recent study conducted by a group of Purdue students found that “future climate change will influence monsoon dynamics and cause less summer precipitation, a delay in the start of monsoon season, and longer breaks between rainy periods”. These changes will undoubtedly affect the fragile ecosystems who cannot handle the shift in temperature and changing weather patterns. As time goes by and temperatures continue to increase we will be faced with deadly weather systems. We must cut down our carbon emissions and educate others to do the same in order to make a positive change for our environment.

Bioinvasions Rapidly Expanding: Part 2

Many travel from far destinations to experience San Francisco clam chowder or fresh seafood dishes but some bay area residents are starting to realize that not all shellfish is welcome. On a local scale, we are also suffering from environmental invaders. In the bay area, and other local communities, waters are continuously being contaminated by the zebra mussel. Zebra mussels have managed to contaminate large areas of the world and have numbers that are steadily climbing considering their fast reproduction rate. With our need for constant consumption, cargo ships from China, Japan and many other countries are continuously trafficking our bay, carrying goods from all over the world. Zebra mussels are a marine hitchhiker on these cargo ships by tagging along in the ballast water of the ship. The ballast is filled with water at the ships origin, and is sometime emptied upon arrival at its destination, leaving behind organisms that are not native to the waters. The zebra mussel is one such organism. With the ability to multiply quickly, the zebra mussels have become invasive to small marine species which cannot compete with the alien mussel. Zebra mussels are not only killing off marine species but they also create clogged piped and infest waterways. “Zebra mussels have inflicted tremendous damage to native ecosystems and to facilities using water, like power plants and municipal water suppliers. Millions of dollars have been spent by water users, to control and eradicate zebra mussels”. Recreational boats contaminate California lakes and reservoirs without being properly treated by educated professionals. Zebra mussels are an example of bioinvasion that burdens California residents, and while these mollusks threaten our local ecosystem, we also have larger, frightening global bioinvasions as well.

There are an endless number of species in our waters and countless species that have been unaccounted for to date, that are at serious risk of destruction from biodiversity threats. With over 100,000 synthetic chemicals in our atmosphere, existing species have little chance of survival simply because they have not evolved with these deadly chemicals. Many marine ecosystems are fragile and extremely vulnerable to damage. Bioinvasion changes these ecosystems greatly and countries around the world are recipients of unwanted visitors each year. Obviously, The San Francisco Bay has not been immune to these unwanted visitors. If we are seeing bioinvasions expanding rapidly locally, it’s only evident that the rest of the world is being damaged too.

Environmental Invasions: Part 1

California is a wonderful place to live, the attractions offered to residents are endless and people all over the world dream of living in California but humans aren’t the only species migrating to the golden state. On a daily basis, our environment is invaded by unwanted guests who wreak havoc on our ecosystems. The effects of human carelessness are taking over our environment at an alarming rate. The impact the human species has done to alter the planet is drastic and is evident through the environmental consequences that conscious people see today. Human growth, expansion, and sprawl has spread throughout all continents and with this continuous growth, biological invasions have increasingly manipulated existing natural ecosystems. There are various ways invasive species have altered landscapes from the every day rise of synthetic pollutions, which leave species and ecosystems little opportunity to adapt. With the subsequent effects on nature, the destruction and loss of plants and animals has become ecologically and economically damaging and unfortunately, will continue to worsen.

Increased human population density has created an increase in international travel and trade, and with it an increase in production. Human behavior is dependent on production which enhances the spread of invasive behavior. Most of today’s society would describe an invasive species as a weed in their garden, or the mice in their attic, but a biological invasion is a complex relationship between human behavior and the effects it leaves on the environment and its native communities. As defined, a bioinvasion is the rapid expansion of a species into regions where it had not previously existed, often as a result of human agency. Bioinvasions are taking a toll on all territories of the world. Also referred to as invasive alien species, bioinvasions are a serious threat to habitat loss and generally become noteworthy when damage has already taken place. One of the more prominent bioinvasions takes place in our oceans. There are an endless amount of species in our waters and millions more unaccounted for. Many marine ecosystems are vulnerable to damage and countries around the world are recipients of unwanted visitors each year. The overall health of a marine species is dependent on its interaction with the condition of the environment. With rising temperatures, we are already seeing a loss of the sea-ice habitat with polar bear populations decreasing at alarming rates.