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Great Lakes Article:

Stopping the Invasions

Earthwatch Radio
By Kathleen Schmitt
October 10, 2001

In the fight against invasive species, an ounce of prevention is much cheaper than a pound of cure.

Our forests, grasslands, and waterways are becoming polluted with animals and plants. These are invasive species that can drive out the organisms that are native. Many people are trying to fight these alien species after they settle in, but one ecologist says we should focus more on preventing these invasions from ever happening.

David Lodge is an ecologist at the University of Notre Dame. He says invasive species are leaving a lasting mark on the Earth.

"When ecologists survey on a global scale what factors are most important in the extinction of native species worldwide, what they see is that nonindigenous or alien species are one of the most and sometimes the most important cause of extinction native species."

Lodge says many invasions can be prevented before the plant or animal becomes established in its new home. But he says most researchers and natural resource managers don't deal with the invaders until after they've become a problem. Lodge says it's rare to find an effective way to control invasive species. The approach to the foreign sea lamprey in the Great Lakes is often noted as an exception. People use chemicals to kill young sea lamprey and set up barriers to prevent the adults from spawning. Lodge says many people see this as a success story, but it's an expensive one.

"That success story costs Canada and the United States 14 million dollars every year. And that, we feel is a success. So surely it would be much more cost effective for society to spend some resources up front preventing things like sea lamprey from getting established, so that we aren't saddled with paying for controlling them in perpetuity in the rare cases when we can actually figure out how to do that."

Lodge spoke at this year's meeting of the Ecological Society of America.

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