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Biology and invasive species in the western U.S

January 1, 2005

The diversity of environments that characterizes the West is responsible for the region's rich biological heritage. This ecological diversity also means that opportunities for invasive species are many, varied, and complex. Island ecosystems are notoriously vulnerable to invaders as demonstrated in Hawaii and West Coast offshore islands. Aquatic invaders impose high economic and environmental costs in systems as varied as San Francisco Bay and desert springs in the Great Basin. Although the West's arid and montane ecosystems may seem resistant to plant and animal invaders, we now know that ex-otic species have altered physical processes related to fire and hydrology in a manner favoring further expansion and persis-tence of invaders. Natural resource managers value analytical, mapping, and genetics tools developed by USGS scientists to monitor invasive species and help conserve biological systems. USGS biologists conduct research to assist land and water managers' efforts to control invasive species and restore natural systems. Throughout the West, the USGS carries out studies for early detection and rapid assessment of invaders. The following are some examples of how the USGS is making a difference in the western United States.