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Invasive Alien Species: A Growing Threat to Ecosystem

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By: Safdar Gazi Lone

Invasive alien species, also known as invasive exotic species or non-native species, are organisms introduced to regions or ecosystems outside their native range, establishing self-sustaining populations. These species often out-compete native counterparts, disrupting ecosystem balance and causing a range of negative impacts.

In the Kashmir Himalaya, a total of 571 plant species, including 96 invasive ones, have been recorded in the alien flora. Stinking chamomile (Anthemis cotula), originating in Eurasia, is an invasive annual weed discovered in the region in 1972 and is now considered one of the worst invaders.

The Mexican water lily (Nymphaea mexicana) has proliferated across Dal Lake, showcasing invasive characteristics with its rapid growth rate. Leucanthemum vulgare, the ox-eye daisy, introduced in the 1950s-1960s, has now covered large portions of Gulmarg and other meadows, overpowering the diverse native flora.

Most alien plant species in the region trace their origin to Europe (38%), followed by Asia (27%) and Africa (15%). The study reports the first-time occurrence of seven plant species in this region.

Globally, water hyacinth leads as the most widespread invasive alien species on land, followed by Lantana and the black rat. The brown rat and house mouse are also pervasive invaders.

Factors Responsible for the Rise of Invasive Species

Globalization of Trade and Travel:

Increased international trade and travel unintentionally move species across borders. Cargo ships, airplanes, and vehicles inadvertently carry invasive species within cargo, through ballast water, or attached to surfaces, facilitating their unintentional spread.

Climate Change:

Elevated temperatures and shifts in precipitation patterns promote environments conducive to the colonization and proliferation of invasive species.

Measures against Invasive Species Invasion

Early Detection and Removal:

When invasive alien species are introduced unintentionally, swift removal is crucial. Plants must be destroyed to prevent further spread.

Control Strategies:

In cases where invasive populations are too large for removal, measures must be taken to prevent further spread.

The Black Rat’s introduction to Australia in the late 1800s, via shipwrecks and the pearling industry, exemplifies the unintended consequences of invasive species and underscores the urgent need for effective measures against their proliferation.

(The author is currently teaching Botany)

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