The the opportunity to reproduce and grow

The Science Behind Invasive SpeciesInvasive species are infamous for their common behaviors in unfamiliar habitats. While some may know exactly what an invasive species is and its effect on the environment and the world, others may believe it to mean something else, as the term invasive species is often used interchangeably with other terms in the contemporary world. Scientifically, an invasive species can be defined as a species which migrates to an area, whether it be a hundred miles away, or across the globe, and experiences no natural predators in its habitat, and therefore takes advantage of the opportunity to reproduce and grow rapidly, at an uncapped rate. Such an occurrence can have a devastating effect on native communities and populations, as invasive species can sequester resources critical for the survival of native species. The snakehead fish is one of these invasive species, and we must take action in ensuring these invasive species never do harm to our environment.           According to a research paper by Cynthia S. Kolar, a researcher at the USGS, and Dr. David M. Lodge, a researcher currently serving as the Francis J. DiSalvo Director of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University, an invasive species is “a nonindigenous species that spreads from the point of introduction and becomes abundant”. The authors explain that invasive species are typically introduced to a new environment through a man made transport pathway, such as in the ballast water of a cargo ship, or imported through fishing. Usually, only 10% of such introduced species manage to latch on to the new environment. The paper also identified a few hallmarks of invasive species, that can generally be used to predict whether a species can be invasive or not. An invasive species will usually be characterized by fast growth, rapid reproduction, ability to disperse easily, tolerance to a wide variety of environmental conditions, and the ability to adapt to new environments easily. A non-native species will usually have to compete with the native species for resources such as food, light, and physical space. Therefore, fast reproduction will benefit a non-native species by allowing it to compete with and steal resources from its competition. An invasive species can have detrimental effects on the environment of which they are introduced in. According to the USDA National Agricultural Library, the brown tree snake is an example of a non-native species decimating a native population. The snake gained a foothold in guam, where it was able to prey on the native bird populations, causing their numbers to drop drastically. Meanwhile, the brown tree snake had no natural predators in Guam, so it was able to expand uncontrolled. The snakehead fish is an invasive species that has grown rapidly in the Chesapeake Bay and northeast regions of America, and was introduced through shipping routes and importation of the fish from Asia to consume in America as a delicacy. A non-native species normally needs a constant supply of the species in order to establish a population in a new environment(Stohlgren, TJ). According to a study published by authors Emma Verling and others, for the Royal Society of London, “Ships transport rich assemblages of organisms in their ballast tanks, which are routinely filled with coastal waters and discharged at subsequent ports of call”. This would be one theory as to how the population of snakehead fish in America was fueled. The snakehead fish is very common in Asia, and locals have been consuming it for a long time. Asian populations in the US used to import live snakehead fish for consumption in the US, and some researchers theorize that this is one way the snakehead fish was introduced to the Chesapeake region (Courtenay, WR, and JD Williams). Since its introduction, the snakehead has kept an extremely high reproduction rate, as a single spawning female can lay up to 15,000 eggs at a time, and snakehead fish usually reproduce twice a year. Therefore, the snakehead fish fits the first criteria of an invasive species, which is maintaining high reproduction rates.The snakehead fish can also spread very quickly and easily. According to the New York Invasive Species Information website, a snakehead has the capability of breathing atmospheric oxygen, in addition to the oxygen naturally found in bodies of water. This gives the snakehead fish the unique ability to survive without water for up to three days. Fully exploiting this ability, the snakehead fish often will crawl out of the water and move to a different habitat. This allows the snakehead fish population to expand rapidly into other habitats as well, and conforming to another characteristic of invasive species: its ability to disperse easily.  The snakehead fish also eat a wide variety of fish commonly found in the waters, and its diet resembles that of the largemouth bass. According to a report to the USGS by N.W.R Lapointe and P.L Angermeier, the snakehead fish will eat fish of prey such as the banded killifish, crayfish, and bluegill fish.  It is very crucial to stop the progression of invasive species, and many countries have taken steps to protect their environments. Customs agencies of various countries work hard to stop travellers from bringing in any non-native organisms by accident. Just like other invasive species, the snakehead fish can be detrimental to the environment. It’s predatory nature suggests that it can compete for resources and leave native species without food, causing a decline in their populations (Courtenay, WR, and JD Williams). According to a study submitted to the US Department of the Interior by a group of researchers from various reputable organizations such as the USGS, and USFWS, “Eradication of the snakehead fish will be nearly impossible and control efforts challenging in large lakes or riverine systems such as the Potomac River, where northern snakeheads become established.” The study also mentioned that while importation of the snakehead fish was banned in 2002, people have been illegally importing the fish to feed live fish markets in California and the Northeast.  While these populations have already become established, many communities have begun efforts to try to minimize the presence of the snakehead fish, such as holding annual snakehead fishing competitions in Maryland. Invasive species can be characterized by traits which allow them to compete heavily with native species. Most invasive species are detrimental to the environments they are introduced in, as they are often successful in uprooting native populations. The efforts undertaken by governments at the national and local level will play a key role in the effect of invasive species, specifically, the snakehead fish.