An invasive species is an animal or plant that is introduced into a new environment, where does not normally live
Invasive species can harm both the natural resources in an ecosystem as well as threaten human use of these resources. An invasive species can be introduced to a new area via the ballast water of oceangoing ships; intentional and accidental releases of aquaculture species, aquarium specimens, or bait; and other means.
Invasive species are capable of causing extinctions of native plants and animals, reducing biodiversity, competing with native organisms for limited resources, and altering habitats. This can result in huge economic impacts and fundamental disruptions of coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems.
In the waters of the Florida Keys, our most infamous marine invader is the lionfish. The lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific region, but was introduced to the Atlantic and is now found along the U.S. coast from North Carolina to Florida and in the Bahamas and Caribbean.
The lionfish’s lack of predators, voracious appetite, rapid reproduction, and fast growth spell trouble for the balance of invaded ecosystems and fisheries, as lionfish can out-compete native species for food and space.
For more information:
Episode 14: First Reported Invasive Lionfish Is Captured in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (Making Waves podcast, 1.30.09)