Biologist Lodge calls for federal action on invasive species

by William G. Gilroy

University of Notre Dame biologist David Lodge joined other scientists at a Washington, D.C., press conference today (Thursday, Dec. 18) to call attention to the lack of progress by Congress and the president in dealing with the issue of invasive species.p. The National Environmental Council on Invasive Species sponsored the event at the National Press Club to mark the 10th anniversary of a landmark report by the congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) on harmful non-native plants, animals and diseases.p. Lodge and fellow experts discussed 10 of the most invasive species U.S. policy failed to keep out in the past decade and a new list of 10 invaders the U.S. exported. They also issued a new warning about 10 hazardous organisms poised to invade the United States and offered proposed solutions to the invasives problem. Preserved samples of invasive species – including the northern snakehead fish, sea lamprey and zebra mussels – were displayed at the press conference, along with risk maps on West Nile virus, the Asian long-horned beetle and sudden oak death.p. Lodge, who served as the first chair of the national Invasive Species Advisory Committee, said in his remarks: ?The OTA report collected for the first time the data on the huge and increasing environmental and economic costs of non-native species. The increasing awareness of non-native species that had dawned slowly on scientists, including me, was now recognized more fully, at least by OTA, as a major threat to both the environment and the economy."p. In describing the invasive species situation a decade later, Lodge said: “There has been some progress – progress on stop-gap management of ballast water, the establishment of the National Invasive Species Council and the publication of the National Management plan. However, for the most part, little has changed while invasions have increased and the risks to the environment, the economy and human health have accelerated.”p. Lodge indicated that wherever relevant data exists, it shows increasing discovery of non-native species and their severe environmental and economic impact.p. "In the northern lakes that I continue to study, the proportion of lakes with native crayfish species has fallen about 10 percent,? he said. “We have now found Eurasian watermilfoil, Chinese mystery snail, spiny water flea and other non-native species in many of these same lakes. The rate of discovery of non-native species in the Great Lakes proper has also increased, with about 15 new species discovered in the last 10 years, some of which are already having serious negative effects.” Lodge also noted that non-native species have become a direct threat to human health in the last ten years.p. “West Nile virus has swept across the country, while SARS and monkeypox were fortunately discovered early and more effectively contained,” he said. “But the overwhelming consensus among scientists, environmental economists and human health experts is that non-native species pose an urgent global threat.”p. Lodge and more than 700 other scientists have signed a letter urging Congress and the president to take action immediately to prevent the further spread of these biological invaders.p. “Non-native species post difficult problems,” he said, “but solutions are obvious: the federal government must use existing authority to address non-native species, and pass new legislation and appropriations commensurate with the threat to the country from non-native species.”

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