Native species deserve their natural place in environment

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Ecosystems evolve over eons of time, during which the native flora and fauna develop a symbiotic harmony with other native species. However, when nonnative or invasive species enter the system things can change quickly.

There are many examples of what invasive species can do to an environment. A simple internet can lead to sites such as the National Wildlife Federation, National Geographic and Earth Rangers for examples.

Can a native species also become so abundant that it, too, becomes a problem? Take for example, the cormorant. There are six types of cormorants native to North America. The most abundant and widespread is the Double-crested Cormorant, found throughout the continent in freshwater and in seawater along the Atlantic coasts.

According to Audubon Magazine, however, the fishing industry and some sports fisherman seem to have successfully lobbied for the culling of the cormorants. Audubon questions the science used to justify the rules change.

Cormorants eat up to a pound of fish a day. Some recreational and commercial fish producers see this as a threat to their livelihood or pastime. Others claim their guano can damage rooftops and upset coastal property owners.

Many conservationists and bird lovers see the situation differently. They believe the cormorant has been unfairly maligned for doing exactly what they have evolved to do. They eat fish.

The cormorant is a native species that has been around since long before people introduced fish farms, sport fishing, or lake houses into their environment. They are a conservation success story. They rebounded from the devastating impacts of the insecticide DDT.

It is true that cormorants can make a modest dent into fish farms, but there is no clear evidence linking them to declines in wild fish populations. They have lived in balance with nature for millions of years.

The problem is not the cormorant. Rather, it is the interjection of invasive species. Invasive species, once introduced to an area, have a way of causing havoc to the native environment and impact negatively on many species of wildlife and plants.

The cormorant is native and cannot be blamed for doing what nature evolved it to do. The invasive species in this case - and in many other similar situations - is us, homo sapiens. We have invaded just about every environment on the planet and wherever we do, it is rarely for the better.

So what can we do about it? Well, at least for starters, we can stop blaming the species that were here long before us. Since we hope we aren't going away any time soon, we can at least try to minimize our damage.

John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek. john.a.riolo@gmail.com

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