Invasive Species and Environmental Problems

Invasive Species and Environmental Problems - Lionfish
Red Lionfish

It is interesting to hear skeptics blaming God for the existence of invasive plants and animals. There is no question that non-native species thrive in the United States. However, some species brought to this country have no natural predators to keep them in check. As a result, they cause crop damage, human health problems, and environmental damage. There are nearly 6,500 invasive species in America, and they cause more damage every year than all natural disasters combined. The stories of how they got here are interesting. Here are some examples:

NUTRIA – Also known as coypu or “swamp rats,” these South American rodents were brought to America by fur farmers in the 20th century.
BROWN GARDEN SNAIL – These mollusks were brought to California as food by French immigrants in the 1850s.
KUDZU – This Asian vine was brought to the U.S. as an ornamental plant in 1876, and farmers used it to feed livestock and reduce soil erosion. To make kudzu widely available to farmers, government agencies provided 85 million seedlings.
WILD BOAR – These animals were native to Eurasia and brought to the U.S. in the early 1900s for hunting. Early settlers in the 1500s introduced domestic pigs as a food source. Unfortunately, some escaped pigs mated with the boars resulting in the invasive species we have today.
LIONFISH – These beautiful fish with venomous spines are natives of the South Pacific and Indian oceans. Aquarium enthusiasts brought them to the U.S. between 1985 and 1992, but when released, they wipe out native fish populations.
DANDELION – Early European settlers brought these “weeds” to the U.S. for food and medicinal purposes.

These invasive species and others cause billions of dollars in economic damage annually. However, we should understand that not all non-native species are considered invasive. For example, corn and wheat are not native to the United States but were brought here as successful food crops.

In Genesis 9:3, God told Noah, “Everything that moves shall be food for you, just as I have given you green plants.” God has given us a wide variety of food sources designed to thrive in various ecological environments, but we must be good stewards of how we use and spread them.

Problems arise when people purposely or accidentally transport plants or animals to new locations where they become out of control. Without predators to control populations, they can throw an entire environment out of balance. Most of our environmental problems are human-caused, and invasive species of plants and animals are good examples.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Discover magazine for September/October 2022 (pages 34 – 41)