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Non-native Invasive Species and Biodiversity
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Invasive species are one of the least understood, yet may be one of the most detrimental, threats to biodiversity.
The spread of non-native invasive species during the last century has been unprecedented in Earth's history, with the speed and scale of these infestations more rapid than natural invasions. The spread of non-native species in human-disturbed habitats reflects a deterioration of the North American landscape.
Invasive species disrupt the functioning of native ecosystems upon which humans depend. Many non-native species become pests by rapidly dispersing into communities in which they have not evolved, and by displacing native species because of evolutionary mismatches. For example, non-native species contributed to 68% of the fish extinctions in the past 100 years, and the decline of 70% of the fish species listed in the Endangered Species Act (Lassuy 1994).
An "invasive species" is defined as a species that is 1) non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and 2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.
Invasive species can be plants, animals, and other organisms (e.g., microbes). Human actions are the primary means of invasive species introductions. One study estimates that the total costs of invasive species in the United States amount to more than $100 billion each year. Invasive species impact nearly half of the species currently listed as Threatened or Endangered under the U.S Federal Endangered Species Act.