Invasive species cause ecological harm by displacing native species, degrading habitat and altering food webs. This, in turn, can negatively impact industries such as fishing, agricultural, and tourism, and can threaten human health.
The Great Lakes Basin provides drinking water, transportation, power, recreational activities, and over 1.5 million jobs. This precious resource has severely degraded over the years and is in need of immediate on-the-ground action. This region is the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth; it holds 95% of the United States’ surface freshwater and has more than 4,650 miles of shoreline and 30,000 islands. More than 30 million people live in the area.
Aquatic invasive species can harm local water supplies, damage native ecosystems, impact outdoor recreation activities, and threaten our health and safety. They cost the U.S. billions of dollars annually to manage and can cause long-term economic and environmental harm.
Common invasive species in the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes ecosystem has over 180 documented species of invasive and non-native species. It is extremely difficult to eradicate invasive species once they have become established. Early detection or prevention is much more cost-effective in controlling or preventing ecological and economic damage caused by invasive species. While invasive species in the Great Lakes include crustaceans, mollusks insects and algae, the majority, and most widely known, of these are fish and plants.
Species such as the Asian carp, zebra mussel, quagga mussel, round goby, sea lamprey and alewife are widely known as invasive. Some of the common plant species that are invasive in the Great Lakes include purple loosestrife, curly pondweed, reed canary grass, common reed (Phragmites), cattail, Japanese knotweed and Eurasian watermilfoil.
Invasive species and noxious weed classifications are very regionally specific. Sometimes, a plant classified as invasive in one area may not be invasive in another.
For questions on noxious and invasive plants in your region, the following contacts are a good place to start:
The best way for you to help prevent the spread of invasive plant species is to stop new outbreaks before they start. Each of us has a role in keeping our waterways clean and healthy for future generations. The best way that you can help to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species is to always clean your boat after use.
Early detection and reporting can help avoid many of the environmental and economic losses caused by invasive species. Reporting invasive plant species to the experts could stop the next invasion.
Check the local noxious weed lists for species considered invasive and what level of control is required. Treatment/removal is unique to the plant species. Some species are easy to remove with hand-pulling. Some species infestations are made worse by hand-pulling and must be controlled with pesticides in accordance with a permit. Consultation with local invasive species authorities is necessary when working with invasive species.
Report invasive plant species in your region:
Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System:
Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (national)
Many states have their own reporting hotlines. Some use forms filled in online, some have hotlines to call, and some use mobile apps that can be loaded on a phone. Using your internet browser, search with the terms “invasive species reporting [enter your state or county]” to discover how best to report in your area.