Invasive species

The First Step to Getting Rid of Invasive Lionfish? Listen Closely …

Clearfin lionfish.
Clearfin lionfish. The High Fin Sperm Whale/CC BY-SA 3.0

They can be awful pretty, but there are very few circumstances under which a lionfish is a welcome sight on a coral reef. They are voracious, aggressive, and territorial—and surrounded by a halo of long, twitchy, venomous spines. For divers and fishermen there is the risk of a sting, but it’s worse for full-time reef dwellers. One study conducted in the Bahamas by marine biologists from Oregon State University found that just one lionfish took out 80 percent of the juvenile fish in its territory. In the Caribbean, East Coast of the United States, and other places outside of their usual range on Indo-Pacific reefs, they are…

New Zealand’s Quixotic (Perhaps) Mission to Kill Every One of Its Rats

A rat in a cage in New Zealand.
A rat in a cage in New Zealand.

Thousands of years ago—when humans weren’t a threat to the Earth and invasive species couldn’t stow away on ships, enter foreign lands, and destroy many of the things that made those lands unique and beautiful—all sorts of distinct native birds flourished on the islands that now constitute New Zealand.

Today, more than 40 of those unique species are extinct, thanks to humans. We hunted them, destroyed their habitats, and, maybe most importantly, introduced rats and opossums and stoats—a type of weasel—which slaughtered the birds, many of which, the Associated Press says, “gave up flight altogether to strut about the forest floor.” The 40-odd surviving native bird species struggle on.

Now, the government and activists have come up with a solution: kill all the rats and opossums and stoats, every last one of…

Invasive species, climate change threaten Great Lakes

zebra mussels
BAD NEIGHBORS Zebra mussels (shown) and other invasive species are just one of many threats to the Great Lakes’ ecosystems, as detailed in a new book.

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes
Dan Egan
W.W. Norton & Co., $27.95

Every summer, people flock to the Great Lakes to swim and fish in the seemingly infinite waters and hike along the idyllic shores. But an ominous undercurrent flows just out of sight. Below the water’s surface rages an environmental catastrophe 200 years in the making.

In The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, journalist Dan Egan describes how the lakes’ natural history gave way to an unnatural one. From the effects of global trade and urbanization to climate change, the book offers an exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) account of the abuses the lakes have endured.

Scars left by retreating glaciers and a failed continental rift, lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior are more like inland seas, holding about 20 percent of Earth’s surface freshwater. The lakes were mostly isolated…