Fish, fronds, frogs and fungi: Asia and invasive species
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Fish, fronds, frogs and fungi: Asia and invasive species

Invasive species from Asia have certainly made a “splash” in various parts of the world. As many as 150,000 Burmese pythons are living in Florida’s Everglades. Harlequin ladybugs, introduced to combat aphid infestations, have largely replaced native ladybug (or ladybird) populations throughout the US and Europe. They don’t just eat aphids, you see, but like to feed on all other species of ladybugs.


jumping Asian carp, Wabash River, US, pic: LouisvilleUSACE (Flickr CC)

Asian carp just love middle America’s Mississippi, Chicago and Illinois Rivers, causing huge worries concerning the native fish populations in the Great Lakes. Jumping Asian carp have also reportedly broken a couple of individual’s jaws and others have been knocked out of their boats by the flying fish.

From Michigan Radio:

The risk of Asian carp establishing themselves and having measureable consequences to Great Lakes fish and aquatic communities is pretty high especially in Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie.  A little bit less of a risk in Lake Ontario and a bit less risk than that in Lake Superior.

–John Dettmers, senior fishery biologist, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Other experts say that although the Asian carp are suited to the Great Lakes, they would face more predators than they do in their native habitats.

One partial solution could be if Americans would just develop a taste for carp. Carp is a popular dish in Asia and Europe. And since they don’t eat other fish, carp are low in mercury.

A staple of some South East Asian cuisine, water spinach (kangkong) has flourished along with the Cambodian community in the US.

From the Miami New Times:

During the 1990s, water spinach nearly strangled some waterways in the Everglades with a canopy of vegetation — “Impenetrable,” Florida reports said — until state environmentalists found a pesticide potent enough to eradicate it. Since then, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has added one more name to the list — “noxious weed” — spurring states like Iowa, Vermont and Arizona to outlaw it.


water spinach, pic: Food Stories (Flickr CC)

On the other hand, to the delight of many, endangered Chinese muntjac deer have found a haven in the UK, as have other cute animals like ring-necked parakeets from India and East Asian raccoon dogs. Though the latter two are not considered endangered, raccoon dog populations have dropped considerably in Asia in recent years.

Also in Asia, invasive species (including the spread of parasites) and development are also taking their toll on endemic ones. Case in point: frog populations. Long considered a bellwether due to their sensitivity to environmental changes, frog species are disappearing in Asia faster than scientists can catalog them. The culprits are all development-related: destruction of habitats, water pollution and the spread of chytrid fungus, facilitated by global trade.

Read more about Asia’s vanishing frogs in the Guardian.