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The introduction of two alien species into the United States and the ecological effect(s) they have had on local plant and animal populations


You are a demographer, a person who studies population patterns. Like most demographers, you are well aware of the growth of the human population in the last century. In 1900, the earth had a population of about one and a half billion people. By 2000, earth's population had quadrupled to six billion people. Most of these people live in the developing world.

One of your responsibilities is to help educate the public about the consequences of over-population. People don't understand much about demographics, so part of your job is to put your findings into language that lay people can understand. Sometimes you are asked to give speeches to business and environmental organizations. For example, next week you are scheduled to deliver an address on sustainable development to the annual meeting of Citizens for a Greener Planet. Shortly after that, you are participating in a panel discussion at Westmont College on the causes of famine.

You have academic responsibilities as well. For example, in a few weeks, you will be presenting a paper to the World Population Council on why fertility rates remain high in developing nations. It will be a difficult issue to present, since part of your presentation will have to deal with why some developing countries have been slow to adopt contraceptive practices that are commonly used in developed nations.

In 1922, the futurist H.G. Wells predicted that human survival would depend on "the race between education and catastrophe." Wells was speaking about mankind's ability to pervert science in ways that might cause the destruction of the planet. He might have just as well been speaking about the potential of mankind to over-exploit the Earth to the point where too many people will be left competing for too few resources. It is an important part of your job to alert the public to the consequences of the population explosion, of which climate change, air and water pollution, the destruction of forests and wilderness areas, and the loss of biodiversity are the most frequently mentioned. You know that these consequences can be averted if humankind has the wisdom to maintain the balance between its needs and the resources that are available to sustain them.

Task needing assistance

You have your own website, which has quite a following among the environmentally-conscious, as well as students assigned to research in your area. Each week, you post a short feature article, either a hot topic or educational column for your readers. Readers are welcome to ask questions or post their own information/personal experience regarding the topic on your site. This week, you have decided to post a web article about alien species.

Research the introduction of any two of the following alien species into the United States and the ecological effect(s) they have had on local plant and animal populations. If the introduction was intended, explain why. If unintended, explain how it occurred. Explain why these species are so invasive.

The fire ant
The zebra mussel
The Japanese beetle
The eucalyptus tree
Asian Longhorn beetle
Killer Bees

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Solution Preview

Here are some samples with the kinds of information you could use. I suggest you explore the other species mentioned as well, and choose those that seem the most threatening to you. There are lots of good web sites to aid you in this:

Zebra mussels are small, fingernail-sized mussels native to the Caspian Sea region of Asia. They are believed to have been transported to the Great Lakes via ballast water from a transoceanic vessel. The ballast water, taken on in a freshwater European port, was probably discharged into Lake St. Clair, near Detroit, where the mussel was discovered in 1988. Their highly mobile microscopic ...

Solution Summary

The environmental impact of the introduction of zebra mussels and Kudzu into the U.S. is examined, including references.