Learn about invasive species

Learn more about Iowa invasive species as we celebrate National Invasive Species Awareness Week February 20-26, 2023.

zebra mussels
Zebra mussels are the only mollusk able to attach to solid underwater surfaces.

What are invasive species?

Invasive species are species of organisms that are not native to an ecosystem and which cause harm. Invasive species generally grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively with the potential to cause harm to the environment, the economy, and even human health.

How do they spread?

Invasive species are spread intentionally and unintentionally through human activity. Throughout history people have introduced foreign species to new environments for aesthetic and economic reasons. Species are also introduced inadvertently on ships, in wood products, through ornamental plants, pet trade, and other means of transportation.

Why are they bad?

Invasive species can cause harm in various ways. They pose a threat to native animal species by outcompeting native species for resources, preying on native species, and carrying diseases that harm them. Invasive plant species displace native plant species. An invasive plant can quickly take over an area causing clogged waterways, and improper growth and germination of native plants species. Many invasive plant species provide no food value to native animal species. All invasive species also threaten the delicate balance of entire ecosystems by disrupting the natural food web, decreasing biodiversity, and altering ecosystem conditions.

What can you do?

  • Plant natives in your yard and remove any invasive plants.
  • Learn to identify invasive species in your area.
  • Report invasive plant and animal sightings to your local county extension office.
  • If you are traveling to another country or region, check your baggage and vehicle for “hitchhikers.”
  • When boating, always clean your boat and trailer and check it for aquatic invasive species before putting it into another body of water.
  • When camping do not bring your own firewood, instead buy locally grown firewood.

Ideas for invasive species class, family, or community projects

  • Plant native grasses, flowers, and trees in your yard or schoolyard.
  • Design and implement a local invasive species study.
  • Raise awareness of invasive species. Put together an awareness poster or campaign and help spread the word.

Invasive Plant Species

Invasive Animal Species

Learn more about the invasive zebra mussel:

Looking for classroom activities about invasive species?

Project WILD suggested activity

  • World Travelers – identify native and exotic plants and animals and the effects of these introduced species on ecosystems

Aquatic WILD suggested activities

  • Aquatic Roots – categorize local aquatic plants and animals and evaluate the appropriateness of introducing new species
  • Conservation Messaging – plan a PSA informing people about actions they can take to conserve fish and aquatic environments

Cross-reference to these units for additional information: