6 Ways Kids Are Like Invasive Species
I grew up in southwestern Ontario and in my younger years we heard a lot about a plant that was taking over our waterways. Purple Loosestrife was invading the rivers and wetland areas near my hometown and we were all taught how to recognize the plant and told to report it or pull it out if we could. Purple Loosestrife and it’s spread throughout the region became a learning opportunity for me. It became the frame for me and other kids to really learn about invasive species and the damage they could do to the native ecosystem. Later it was stories about Zebra Mussels appearing and spreading in the great lakes. After university in advance of a trip to Australia I learned about the out of control rabbits in Australia and the fence that has been built across the country to prevent the further spread of rabbits. Apparently they breed like… well, rabbits I guess.
Learning about Invasive Species
I was looking through some of the activities that are being offered at STEM Camp this summer in Ontario and in the Ocean Adventure theme week I noticed that the kids will be doing activities to learn about invasive species. It is such an important thing to learn about because these species are most often introduced by people, either intentionally like the Australian rabbits or unintentionally like zebra mussels entering the great lakes through cargo ships dumping their ballast from other parts of the world.
Kids are Invasive Species
In addition to thinking about the importance of kids learning about invasive species it also occurred to me that kids are pretty invasive themselves.
They arrive from elsewhere – often accidentally
- Typically transported to a new habitat by humans accidentally.
- Often accidental;
- Periodically transported to grandparents houses (usually intentionally) and wreak havoc when released into their new ecosystem.
Reduce biodiversity by out-competing native species
- Species like the Round Goby which came from the Caspian Sea in the early 90’s have no predators and are rapidly eating the food sources of native fish in the St. Clair River.
- Eat dog and cat food when you aren’t looking.
Huge economic impact
- Ecosystem damage like the decimation of ash trees by the Emerald Ash Borer in Eastern Ontario
- Clogging of waterways by species such as purple loosestrife and zebra mussels
- Steal all your food;
- Make you clothe them;
- Expect a minivan:
- Force you to sign them up for hockey, Girl Guides and rock climbing lessons.
Reduce recreational spaces
- The loss of native tree species to pests and disease reduces the urban forest and shade provided in parks
- Lego pieces in the carpet
- Netflix set to only play Paw Patrol and Caillou
Directly affect human health and well-being
- Man-eating Nile crocodiles found in Florida swamps
- West Nile virus being spread in North America by non-native mosquitos
- Invasive rodents and birds can carry disease and parasites harmful to humans
- Turn your house into a germ factory
- Bring home lice
- Throw up on parents
- Cause extreme sleep deprivation
Cause damage to the environment and leave scars
- In my city of Ottawa the Emerald Ash Borer has killed off almost all of our ash trees, which comprised 25% of the urban forest in the city. Whole streetscapes have lost their mature trees and associated shade, birds have lost nesting spaces and other animals have lost habitats. It will take decades for the young replacement trees to fill in the gaps left behind.
- Colour with permanent markers on walls
- Leave greasy handprints wherever they go
- Spill juice on the carpet
- Bite your arm
- Headbutt you in the abdomen (or worse)
- Spit up on all of your shirts leaving them all permanently stained
Controlling the Spread
Obviously birth control will do wonders to control the spread of kids in your environment. That won’t necessarily stop the spread of other invasive species. Education is key to controlling the spread of invasive plants and animals – it will also do wonders for children.
The majority of invasive species are transported by humans, in bilge water from ships, in firewood transported from one region to another, in imported food, etc. It is typically not intentional. In cases where it is intentional, such as importing plants to use as ornamental additions to a garden, which can then get out of control and spread to other areas, it is done without thought to the consequences. Educating ourselves and our kids about the risks and consequences of invasive species will help to reduce their spread and resulting impacts.
This summer, kids can learn about invasive species during Ocean Adventure week at STEM Camp in Ontario. When they come home you can point out all the similarities between them and invasive species. They will recognize the impact of leaving Lego in the carpet and clean up right away…
I have been compensated for this series with no cost registrations for my kids who will be attending STEM Camp this summer.