Most people agree that invasive species threaten our biodiversity and cost us billions of dollars, but few agree on what we can do. The challenge posed by the continuous stream of alien species entering Louisiana through various portals and spreading via numerous pathways cannot be met through a single "silver bullet" solution. Rather, solutions are as varied as the dimensions of this problem, and they all depend on people.

People minimize the spread of certain invasive species in their domestic and recreational activities. This is achieved when:

  • Old wood and railroad ties are inspected carefully for Formosan termite infestation before they are transported, and treated or burned if an infestation is found.
  • Aquatic plants are removed from hulls and outboard motors before recreational boats are launched in new water bodies.
  • Exotic fish in aquariums and aquatic plants in ponds are carefully controlled and not released into the environment.

People make laws more effective. Federal and state laws prohibit known invasive species to be carried in air, rail, and ship cargo. Animals or plants not specifically excluded by law may be quarantined for a period by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to assure that they are free of diseases or pests. These laws are supported when:

  • Gardeners purchase native rather than alien species from nurseries and catalogs.
  • Pet wholesalers and retailers stock native rather than exotic species.
  • Returning vacationers leave exotic plants and animals behind.

People reduce the gamble of biocontrol - that is, the introduction of species to control invasive species, a sometimes risky venture. Before introduction, scientists try to predict whether the biocontrol species will also become a pest. More wins than losses result when:

  • Farmers and gardeners use only carefully studied biocontrol species that are either native or unlikely to become invasive.
  • Hunters and anglers allow wildlife agencies the time and resources to study the impacts of stocking new species.

People minimize risks of introduced food species. Alien species may be introduced as seed to develop a food resource or to improve recreational hunting and fishing, but these species may eventually cost more than they benefit. Risk is reduced when:

  • Gardeners, especially in recently arrived immigrant communities, are discouraged from planting homeland species around their new homes.
  • Hunting and angling clubs stock private recreational areas with native species.
  • Seed species are quarantined and studied before use.
  • Aquaculture entrepreneurs isolate their equipment and processes from the natural environment, with proper disposal and treatment of wastewater.

People control "late blooming" invasives. Some alien species, like nutria, Chinese tallow, or salvinia, did not become invasive (harmful) until years after introduction. Late bloomers can be controlled when:

  • Hunters and trappers pursue invasive animals such as nutria and wild hogs.
  • Home and camp owners control invasive water plants through removal or use of approved herbicides.
  • Property owners remove invasive trees and shrubs and replant with natives.
  • Fishermen empty bait buckets and bilges before proceeding to another location.

People enforce controls in industry and commerce. The US Coast Guard depends upon the cooperation of global commercial shippers to prevent accidental species introduction through ballast water. However, ships moving freely between Louisiana, the Caribbean, and Latin America are not covered by this process, nor are invaders riding in a plane's wheel well, a ship's hull, or elsewhere. Gaps can be filled when:

  • Rail, air, and towboat crews clean equipment and transportation corridors that possibly harbor invasive species.
  • Gulf and Caribbean shippers or ports initiate local ballast water management programs.
  • Importers and exporters inspect and, if necessary, destroy cargo containers and packing materials that possibly harbor invasive species.
  • Consumers buy domestic or local products whenever possible.

Together, every Louisianian, government agencies at all levels, every wildlife, recreation and conservation organization, and all businesses and universities can help control invasive and potentially invasive species through these routine activities. Biodiversity can be lost imperceptibly, but invasive species can be controlled just as imperceptibly, with a little bit of effort from everyone.