NIS in Louisiana & the Southeastern U.S.
Louisiana and the southeastern United States are especially vulnerable to NIS invasion for several reasons.
- The Southeast has highest habitat diversity in the country, with 47 percent of the nation’s wetlands, 78 percent of its coastal marshes, 70 major river basins (including the Mississippi and Tennessee-Tombigbee waterways), and 26,000 miles of shoreline.
- Its warm climate and abundant rainfall can support many of the world’s plants and animals.
- The region is home to 62 percent of the freshwater species found in North America and 75 percent of the North American mussel species.
- The southeast region has an abundance of disturbed habitat, plus 34 percent of the country’s threatened or endangered fish populations, and 90 percent of its threatened or endangered mussel populations.
- Five of the nation’s 10 most sprawling metro areas contribute to habitat disturbance.
- Four of the U.S.’s top 10 international ports host ships from all over the world, opening U.S. waters in the region to non-native species.
From 2002-2004, Louisiana Sea Grant participated in a task force of government and nongovernmental organizations appointed by the then-governor of Louisiana, Murphy Foster, to identify the aquatic NIS in the state and the probable pathways that brought them here. The taskforce used these data to assess the impact of aquatic NIS in Louisiana and propose management strategies to control them. Their conclusions are available in a formal report, Louisiana Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan.
- Aquatic species are all organisms living at least partially in a water environment. Usage commonly refers to aquatic plants such as water hyacinth and salvinia, fish and invertebrates, but also includes mammals such as nutria. In Louisiana, for purposes of aquatic invasive species management, NIS that arrived through aquatic pathways (such as the Formosan termite) are considered to be aquatic species.
- The aquatic species currently considered invaders in Louisiana are listed below. Details about these species in Louisiana are found in the state’s management plan. Posters, brochures, and booklets about these species are available from Louisiana Sea Grant.
Introductions and spread of NIS in Louisiana has been both intentional and unintentional. Below is a list of the methods for introduction and spread of NIS in Louisiana. Details about these pathways in the state can be found in the Louisiana Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan. Posters, brochures and booklets about some of these pathways are available from Louisiana Sea Grant.
- Recreational Boating and Fishing
- Transportation corridors (highways, waterways, railroads)
- River Diversions
- Ballast water, fouling, and dunnage
- Deliberate horticultural introductions
- Deliberate aquaculture introductions
- Deliberate sportfishing introductions
- Deliberate pet and aquarium introduction
Through the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, Louisiana Sea Grant is now participating in the development of similar plans in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The goal is to prevent and control the impact of invasive species on the ecological, economic, and societal values of the Southeast.
In 2004, the Louisiana legislature established a permanent Aquatic Invasive Species Council and Advisory Task Force to implement the management plan. Louisiana Sea Grant participates in this Task Force, as well. In 2005, the Council began to establish a working relationship through a signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) among all of the council members. The top objectives of the state management plan are the first priorities of the Council and Task Force:
- To hire staff to administer the LAIS Council and Advisory Task Force,
- To develop a rapid response and early eradication plan that will prevent new introductions,
- To assess Louisiana ports and waterways to identify the presence of invasive species.