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Looking at the bigger picture of invasive species in Illinois

So there has been a lot of noise about Asian carp in the news over the last couple of months, and I am certainly no exception.

But today I started thinking about how the Asian carp issue really sheds light on the entire problem of invasive species. The O'Brien lock in the Sanitary and Ship Canal is not the only weak link in the Great Lakes system. There are thousands of inlets to the lakes, and several man-made connections to the lakes besides the canals in Illinois. In fact, the biggest source of aquatic invaders in the Great Lakes is the St. Lawrence Seaway.

When we focus so closely on one invasive animal it is easy to lose the bigger picture. If we stop the Asian carp, but allow in other, just as ecosystem disrupting, aquatic invaders, we have not won any battles. Here in Illinois we face so many problems from plants and animals that are just as damaging to our native ecosystems.

One of the ones that comes to mind is the Eurasian water-milfoil. This plant closes harbors in large and small lakes alike across Illinois and other Great lakes states. Families with lakefront property on a lake that has been infested with the milfoil have had hundreds of dollars added to their homeowner fees to pay for abatement measures so that they can enjoy the water they already pay a premium to live on.

Yes, the Asian carp is a real problem. Yes, we need to take the appropriate measures to prevent them from spreading into other waterways and the Great lakes. But, we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture. The battle against invasive species is not a one animal problem, and we need to treat is as such.


  • Jean 5 years ago

    Brekke, you are absolutely right. We can be so reactionary! Yes the Asian Carp is a problem that we must deal with here and now, but what about the next invasive nightmare and the next!

    We need to think about invasive species as a problem that is bigger than the just the Asian Carp. They are just one piece of the puzzle.

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