Today wraps up National Invasive Species Awareness Week, which was marked primarily by a series of awareness-building events and seminars in Washington D.C. It also coincided with the return of CFL grad student, Alex Latzka, from a trip to Germany where he was working with a team of scientists on a new invasive species project.
by Alex Latzka
Invasive species are a huge problem for many ecosystems, including our lakes, and they’re continuing to invade new and sometimes unexpected places. One thing scientists are really missing when we study invasions is a big-picture, long-term perspective. This gap is not unique to the study of invasions – not surprisingly, most studies in any scientific field last about as long as it takes to get a PhD.
But, when it comes to invasions, this gap may be critical. What if the first five years of an invasion are remarkably different from what comes after? We often hear stories that this may be the case. “There used to be way more rusty crayfish in our lake when I was growing up,” or “I never used to see this many snails,” are anecdotes I’ve heard when discussing invasives with people who have lived on a lake for many years. And research supports some of these claims – there are scientific papers documenting similar patterns at single sites for single species.
Even though an invasive species may be very abundant and have nasty impacts now, it may not be so successful in the future. And, even if another invasive species is at low levels and not causing problems now, that may soon change. For managers of invasive species, these patterns – or what we like to call dynamics – are crucially important. If we know that it’s likely an invasive species population is going to crash down to non-harmful levels, maybe we shouldn’t invest a lot of money and effort to control it. Continue reading