Why Invasive Species are Harmful in the Wild

Invasive plant species, they are everywhere around the planet and can often cause troubles, especially in the wild.  How do they cause troubles for the environment?  Are they destructive to wildlife habitats or beneficial by creating more diversity.  Why can they cause problems in one area, but were okay where they started?

For starters, invasive plant species cause trouble through several ways.  The first is by competing with native plants for habitat and resources.  All plants require a physical place to live and most will take over any available space.  Kudzu, likes to climb for the sunlight and so forms a dense layer over anywhere it grows.  While this may be annoying for the electricity company by climbing power poles, on trees it can be deadly.  The Kudzu leaves are thick and dark green, and block the sunlight from reaching the trees.  Not enough sunlight and the trees cannot make food, they starve to death.  Birds and insects that rely on those trees or their seeds, then starve.  The whole ecosystem can collapse as a result of one introduced, invasive plant species.

Invasive plants can also effect the wildlife habitats though poisons.  They can poison the animals that eat them because the animals do not know better.  Native animals in an area grew up with native plants and learned what would make them, so stopped eating those plants over time.  A new plant, and one that is poisonous, they may not know to avoid.  The adults eat it and die and then the plants that rely on that animal die and the habitats break down and then reestablish themselves, but without the animals!  Plants can and do produce poisons that effect the soil, killing off neighboring plants, check out the Caribbean Manchineel Tree!  Invasive species rarely create more diversity, they usually destroy it!

Why are they only destructive as invasive and not native?  Several reasons.  Where the plants evolved, there are checks and balances, diseases or animals that might kill them, limited nutrients in the soil or even other plants that evolved to deal with the invasive.  In the new environment, these counter-balances aren’t present and so the introduced species takes off and causes complications!

Invasive plant species do effect and alter wildlife habitats.  It is rarely for the benefit of the animals.  They may create new ecosystems, but those may be unsuitable as a wildlife habitat!