Are Invasive Species Really That Bad?

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A new study in the journal PLoS ONE found that damage from non-native insects such as the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Longhorned Beetle is costing local governments about $2 billion a year, and nearly a million in lost residential property values.

An estimated 1,500 plants and animals across the U.S. were brought into the country for cultivation, or hitchhiked rides on the trains, boats and planes of international commerce.

They ended up in places where most scientists say they don't belong. Think Zebra Mussels, which are native to Eastern European, but are now found in the U.S. Also now in the U.S. is the plant Kudzu, native to Japan.

Each year billions of dollars are spent in the effort to control or eradicate these invaders. But a number of researchers say it's time to re-think our relationship with these species.

Macalester College biology professor Mark Davis told Here & Now's Jane Clayson that most of the species are benign and here to stay.

"You can call them aliens, exotics. You can call them terrible names. The fact is they are now residents in our forests," he said.

In fact, Davis says that some of the so-called invasive species provide food or habitat for other animals, and in that way have a benefit.


  • Mark Davis, Dewitt Wallace Professor of Biology at Macalester College

This segment aired on September 16, 2011.


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