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We define an invasive species as that animal, plant or other organism that is capable of entering and developing in a habitat that is outside the natural range of distribution of that species and that, in addition, causes serious damage, such as the loss of biodiversity in that new habitat. These species can be introduced artificially, accidentally or intentionally by humans (ornamental plants, pest control, etc.), and it is less common for them to be indigenous species that are capable of colonizing other habitats, by eliminating their usual predators.
It must be taken into account that among the alien species introduced, only those that can colonize, develop and cause some type of damage in this new habitat are considered invasive. In this Green Ecologist article we will talk about some of the invasive species in Spain and their consequences.
Consequences of invasive species in Spain
Species that invade a habitat, which until then was obviously not part of its usual distribution, can become a big problem for the environment, health and even the economy. These are the main consequences of invasive species in Spain:
Many species are introduced into habitats for which they are not adapted, since they have not undergone a process of natural selection, as the natives of that environment have done. As a consequence, many will disappear, but only invasive species will be able to colonize this habitat and develop. These new specimens can displace native species, hybridize with them (resulting in new hybrid species), alter the ecological interactions of that community or alter their conditions.
The introduction of invasive species is estimated to be the second cause of biodiversity loss in the world.
These consequences include losses in crop productivity, losses in the survival of species, alterations in the reproductive cycles of both plants and animals, deterioration of the food produced or damage to infrastructure. To all this must be added expenses associated with the fight against these species (detection, control or elimination).
Invasive species can also bring associated pathogenic microorganisms or parasites of other species and transmit them, both directly and indirectly. This is associated, above all, with invasive animal species, although it also occurs in invasive plant species.
Therefore, not only is the health of other plant species or other wild and domestic animals at risk, but our health can also suffer damage due to the invasion of this type of species.
Main invasive plant species in Spain
Between the invasive plant species in this country of the Iberian Peninsula we find the following:
- Acacia spp: comprises several species of the genus Acacia, popularly known as mimosas. These species are widely distributed in areas of Galicia. They are species that produce substances with which they inhibit the growth of other species, they also have a great capacity to re-sprout and grow after a fire.
- Azolla spp: It is a small type of aquatic fern that is distributed on the surface of the water of slow-flowing rivers, streams and ponds, mainly in areas of rice fields, and it impoverishes the quality of the water, causing a loss of biodiversity. It was introduced as an ornamental species and associated with the cultivation of rice.
- Buddleja davidii: Introduced as an ornamental species, it is naturalized in various parts of the Cantabrian Coast.
- Carpobrotus edulis: popularly known as Cat's claw. It is abundant in areas of Galicia, mainly cliffs. Its route of introduction is not known with certainty.
- Cortaderia spp: popularly known as Pampas grass, the best known in Spain is Cortaderia Selloana, widely distributed in Spain. It comes from South America and represents a serious problem, since it competes with native flora and is difficult to eliminate.
- Caulerpa spp: popularly known as killer algae, is one of the most dangerous marine species, since its great toxic potential and resistance cause the displacement of native species and the elimination of seagrass beds, such as Posidonia. It was introduced from the Caribbean and accidentally spilled into the Mediterranean.
Main invasive animal species in Spain
In addition, not only are there plants that invade different areas, but, as we have already mentioned, there are also animals that reach habitats that are not their usual ones and manage to develop until they damage other species. So, these are the main invasive animal species in Spain:
- Asian Clam (Corbicula fluminea): clam that can measure up to five centimeters. Distributed in hydraulic power plants, where it tends to cause pipe obstruction, causing large economic costs.
- American Crab (Procambarus clarkii): it was introduced into Spain for consumption and escaped from marine farms. From there, it colonized rivers throughout the country, where it competes with the native crab and other species, exceeding them.
- Tiger mosquitoAedes albopictus): it was introduced from Southeast Asia by freight traffic. These types of mosquitoes cause serious allergies and transmit diseases.
- Raccoon (Procyon loton): Introduced in Spain as pets, their normally aggressive behavior, especially when in captivity, causes them to be released into the environment, where they are great predators and also transmitters of diseases. Their eradication or expulsion from this geographic area is difficult.
- Florida tortoise (Trachemys scripta elegans): It became very fashionable as a pet, once it grows it is released into the environment, where it competes with native turtles, preys on invertebrates and vegetables. Currently, many species have suffered great damage from the invasion of this chelon or turtle. In addition, it also transmits salmonellosis.
- American minkMustela mink): they were introduced in Spain on farms to use their skin. Escapes, accidental or caused, caused it to spread throughout the territory. The problem is that it is a large and very aggressive animal. In addition, it transmits a virus to the European mink, something that is killing this native species.
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