There are invaders in our coastal waters, invaders whose growingnumbers have the potential to cause serious environmental andecological impacts.
Yesterday at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), PSUPresident Dan Bernstine announced that the university is teaming upwith the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) to createan interdisciplinary program aimed at coordinating a comprehensiveevaluation of invasive species across marine, estuarine and marineecosystems.
Institute will be jointly managed by Dr. Greg Ruiz, director ofSERC’s Marine Invasion Research Program and Dr. Mark Systma,director of PSU’s Center for Lakes and Reservoirs.
Congressman David Wu spoke at the event, voicing his support forthe program and the potential protective benefits it could have forour economy.
“As a member of congress who cares deeply about protecting jobs,I understand that invading species can deeply hurt our economichealth,” Wu said.
Annual economic losses due to invading species in the U.S. aloneare estimated at $137 billion annually, according to a PortlandState press release.
Oregon State Senator Joan Dukes, whose district largelyencompasses northern coastal communities, also spoke. �
“This is a really important day for Oregon,” Dukes said, goingon to further detail the dangers that aquatic invaders canpose.
According to Ruiz and Systma, invading species find ways intoour ecosystem though many different vehicles. Often, commercial andrecreational ships unknowingly carry species to foreignecosystems.
“We get a lot of invasive organisms from Asia,” Systma said.
One such Asian species, the Chinese mitten crab, can causeserious erosion in riverbeds. The zebra mussel, also originating inAsia, has such an affinity for manmade habitats that it can disruptor clog water pipes.
The new institute will focus on prevention, and seek tointegrate regional, state and national organizations in the effortto education communities about invading species, Systma and Ruizsaid.
While Systma and Ruiz related that it is very difficult toremove an entire species by itself once it has invaded a foreignecosystem, the new program will focus on prevention.
Ultimately, Bernstine hopes that the new institute will benefitthe nation, increase cutting edge research at PSU and attracttop-notch graduate students to the university.