Invasive species cause tremendous harm to our environment, economy, and health. When invasive species eat or crowd out native species, they reduce the vital biological variety we call biodiversity. Ecosystems with low biodiversity are more vulnerable to disease and other environmental stresses. At worst, invasive species can lead to the extinction of native species. Invasive species also can spread disease and inflict costly damage on infrastructure, such as roads, canals, and levees.
The origin and effects of invasive species vary. Many invasive species are spread or introduced accidentally (e.g., on the hulls of boats or soles of shoes). Some are purposely acquired as pets or garden trees or flowers that end up in the wild. Invasive fish and wildlife can prey on native animals and outcompete them for food and habitat. Invasive plants can outcompete native vegetation for space, moisture, sunlight, and soil nutrients. Invasive species can include animals, plants, fish, wildlife pathogens, and diseases.
Although invasive species occur on all continents, islands experience disproportionate impacts. Islands make up just 5.3 percent of Earth’s land area, but they are biodiversity hot spots — home to a host of species. Unfortunately, islands also experience the greatest concentration of species extinctions. About 75 percent of all reptile, bird, amphibian, and mammal extinctions have occurred on islands, and invasive species have played a role in most of them.
Examples of invasive species include: zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha); kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobate); cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum); feral swine; emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis); invasive carp (Cyprinus carpio); and pythons (Python sp.). In many cases they out-compete native species, which often makes invasive species challenging to control. Managers often lack the necessary tools to manage population numbers and spread. There are three types of control technologies currently used, alone or in combination, to manage invasive species:
Biological (sterilization, genetic alterations, or species introduction),
Mechanical (mowing, fire, harvesting, trapping, fencing, or containment), and
Chemical (herbicides, pesticides, toxicants, attractants, or repellents).
To win the Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize Competition for Management of Invasive Species, participants must submit their technology innovation solution– such as tools, equipment, methods, strategies, etc., that help land managers directly reduce the spread and impacts of invasive species within the United States and its Territories. Solutions should focus on invasive species that cause harm to native ecosystems. Solutions may be species-specific, but universal control techniques that may have multiple species benefits are preferred.