Your hobby’s potential impact on the environment

Today's aquarium hobbyists, backyard pond owners and water gardeners have access to a wide variety of aquatic plants and animals from many different countries and continents. As a result, the movement and establishment of live non-native species around the world has become one of the most challenging resource conservation issues we face. Although we are more conscious of the negative impacts these invasive species may have on our environment, every year we continue to introduce these aquatic plants and animals through various commercial activities and unknowingly continue to spread them to other waters. Once released into the environment, if they survive and become established, control of their spread becomes next to impossible.

Carassius auratus

© Photo : Adrian Angelov -

Allowing the wrong aquatic plant or animal to establish itself in the wrong place will:

Reduce natural biodiversity

Biodiversity" refers to the biological diversity of all forms of life. Essentially, invasive species reduce biodiversity by competing with native species for resources and thereby eliminating them from the genetic pool, which reduces the larger diversity of species.

Hydrocharis morsus-ranae

© Photo : Kriss de Niort - Forum FAAXAAL

Degrade ecosystem functions

"Ecosystem functions" refers to the activities of organisms in an ecosystem that are necessary to sustain life, e.g. feeding, growing, moving, excreting waste, and the effects these functions have on the corresponding conditions of their environment. In our natural world, everything is connected to everything else.

When one aspect of an ecosystem is affected, it creates a domino effect resulting in many unforeseen changes. For example, nuisance plant invasions can degrade water quality by blocking photosynthesis, which greatly reduces oxygen levels in the water. This creates a cascading effect by reducing other underwater life such as fish and other plants.

Make lakes and rivers unusable for recreational and commercial activities

Some harmful, non-native plant species are so detrimental that they completely cover the waters they invade. Waters become so choked that it is practically impossible to get water craft through and there is no open water left for swimmers to enjoy.

Increase operating costs of drinking water plants, power plants, dam maintenance and industrial processes

With the spread of harmful, non-native plants and animals in areas such as the Great Lakes, many industries have had to develop costly control methods to maintain their water intake systems.

Certain species can easily colonize on structures like those used for power and municipal water treatment plants, thus reducing pumping capabilities and in some cases resulting in occasional shutdowns.

For more information on impacts of aquatic plants and animals specific to your hobby, visit the "Case Studies" section of this web site.

Phragmites australis

© Photo : Matt Lavin, Montana State University