Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate may have spread non-native freshwater plants and animals into new water bodies, where some of them can disrupt living communities or change the landscape.
To help land managers find and manage these flood-borne newcomers, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey have created four online maps, one for each hurricane. These “storm tracker” map sets, on which users can see the potential spread of any of 226 non-native aquatic plant and animal species during the 2017 hurricane season, are available at https://nas.er.usgs.gov/viewer/Flooding/.
More than 1,270 freshwater aquatic species have been reported as found beyond their home ranges nationwide. Some have caused no obvious ill effects on their new habitats. Others, like the zebra mussels introduced into the Great Lakes, have caused damage to fisheries, shipping, water utilities and other industries.
Storm surges and floodwaters can quickly spread non-native aquatic species into waterways where they weren’t found before. They can even create temporary freshwater zones in saltwater environments, as Hurricane Harvey did in parts of the Gulf of Mexico, said biologist Pam Fuller, the leader of USGS’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program…