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Invasive species are plants, animals and micro-organisms that have been introduced into areas beyond their native range and negatively impact the environment, the economy, or society.
It is widely accepted that invasive species are an immense threat to biodiversity worldwide. In Canada alone, more than 20% of our species at risk are threatened with extinction by invasive species. Invasive species cause harm in several ways. For example, they may eat native species, take their food and space, contribute to soil degradation and erosion, introduce new diseases, and degrade water quality and habitat. The destruction caused by invasive species also has adverse effects on human life. Invasive species can damage buildings and roads. From an economic viewpoint, invasive species greatly impact productivity and profit in forestry, agricultural, and fishing industries – as well as reducing recreational opportunities.
Humans are largely responsible for the movement of invasive species from one area to another. Many human-assisted pathways have permitted the introduction of invasive species in Nova Scotia. Examples of these pathways include – but are certainly not limited to – horticultural trade, aquarium trade, the movement of shipping containers, ballast water tanks in cargo ships, recreational boating, and the release of species for hunting or angling purposes. Once established, invasive species can spread naturally, or be moved further by human activities such as outdoor recreation, release of pets into the environment, or movement of firewood.
Everyday activities often contribute to the spread of invasive species. For example, buying products from overseas requires transportation via container ships; those ships may inadvertently transport invasive species to Nova Scotia. Buying local products and reducing your overall ecological footprint not only helps to reduce habitat destruction, climate change, pollution, and overexploitation of natural resources – it is also fundamental for the prevention of invasive species introductions across the globe.