Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Invasive species from buildup worry experts

Invasive species from buildup worry experts

Posted: Feb 10, 2010 2:27 PM
Updated: Feb 10, 2010 6:50 PM

by Janjeera Hail

Guam - There's been a lot of talk about what's in store for Guam with the military buildup. But it's more than the human population increase we've got to worry about.

Invasive species are defined as species that are not native to an area and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. And while Guam may be a small island, miles away from different ecosystems, we are not immune to foreign pests.

USDA Assistant State Director Dan Vice knows this all too well. His work focuses on eradicating the brown tree snake, a species that first arrived on Guam after World War II, on ships from its native South Pacific. "Anytime you have a substantial increase in traffic whether it's airplanes or boats or cargo you increase the risk of invasive species moving around so the challenge with the buildup or any sort of activity like that is to try and forecast to address what kinds of needs you have to address that increased risk," he said.

And the fear is that history may repeat itself as Guam prepares for an increase in traffic from the military buildup. Fortunately, an intensive study called the Micronesian bio-security plan is already underway so that prevention efforts can be implemented before the buildup is in full swing.

Phil Andreozzi with the Invasive Species Council said, "It's something that DoD has paid for to proactively look at all the invasive species problems and damages that could come into Guam and could come into the entire region because of the buildup and to do something about it now and do something about it now, to figure out how we can best address the situation now before the buildup starts," he said.

The study has picked up steam in the last several months as the region welcomed about 30 federal scientists to study local environmental concerns. While the military buildup will take place on Guam, the Micronesian Bio-Security Plan recognizes that prevention and mitigation efforts will have to spread throughout our region. "This kind of study has never been done anywhere on the planet before, not only just the United States, but nowhere on the planet have they looked at everything coming into an area and not only on the land but in the water as well so this is both terrestrial, marine, and freshwater," said Andreozzi.

When the study is complete, the hope is that it can be applied to the local agencies as soon as possible to avoid the kind of havoc wreaked by the brown tree snake and protect our fragile ecosystem.

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