Is global swarming worse then global warming?

I attended this week’s “Freaky Friday” seminar on Global Swarming, presented by Anthony Ricciardi. It was a wake up call to the effects that human activity and the global environmental changes it induces have on other species, effects that in most cases are harmful to us in the most unexpected ways: they are costly -from an economical point of view, and they are hazardous to our health. For example the Leafy spurge, an invasive specie that is taking over the farms in Manitoba, has both economical effects, resulting from loss of farmland and toxicity to cattle, as well as human health effects: it causes contact dermatitis. Another costly example is that of the Zebra Muscle, who spread from the Black Sea and is now found on the Eastern coast of North America and in the Great Lakes. It reduces the turbidity of water, thus creating a proper environment for the growth and spread of weeds, their decay causing anoxic zones favorable for the development and persistance of human pathogenic germs like Clostridium Botulinicum. The same Zebra Muscle was responsible for three emergency shut-downs of a US nuclear plant by multiplying in the water intake systems. And these are just two examples. But there are many more plants, insects and animals that with the “help” of humans are spreading faster and invading parts of the world that otherwise would have been impossible for them to reach.

One of the most important points of the seminar for me was the labeling of cargo ships as “floating syringes”. The cargo ships that we now use and depend on for transport of food and freight, are the most common means of spreading invasive and deadly species around the world. The water released from their tanks in different ports (on coasts or up rivers) contains enormous quantities of viruses, bacteria, plants and animals. In Mr. Ricciardi’s view, these are the true terrorists crossing our borders each day and causing the loss of billions of dollars worldwide.

So is global swarming worse then global warming? They’re both very serious threats, closely related, caused and sustained by the same thing: human activity. We seem to be the worst kind of invasive specie, the one causing unsurpassing environmental changes wherever we go. And as Mr. Ricciardi pointed out, there aren’t many places on Earth right now where humans can’t go. It’s high time we face the consequences.

4 Responses to “Is global swarming worse then global warming?”

  1. patagonia says:

    I enjoyed your post, and I believe your question is hypothetical but I would like to respond with some thoughts; global warming is more like an umbrella issue, overarching a variety of other local to global-scale environmental changes. I dont believe that global warming can be directly compared to other global changes as it is interacting with these issues, not seperately. For example, the issue of transoceanic ships carrying around plants, animals, pathogens, bacteria, etc.: under normal climatic conditions only a fraction of these species would survive outside their natural environmental/ microclimate, however, the species being transported will be increasingly likely to survive and establish themselves in the oceans, lakes and streams where they are moved to due to global warming. I loved the way you say that we, humans, are the worst invasive species; we combat vectors like moisquitos carrying malaria but what are we doing to cambat human vectors carrying and spreading just about every living thing.

  2. supernova says:

    It is true that human do move things a lot, and I also agree with the facts that climat changes probably helped many invasive species to seetle and reproduce in their new environment. I can’t help but wonder what would the world be if climat changes would still occur without invasive species being carried over by human. Be consious of the fact that natural invasion are very rare and that many species need a specific environment to be able to carrie their fonction and life cycle. With increased climat change, there is always a possibility of migration of those species to follow their environment up until they hit a wall (say a desert, a montain, an ocean) were they will eventualy disapear. And for those who can’t really migrate, well its though luck for them. In our world, invasive species are filling those gaps (as well as taking other species place). That’s why i think the patagonia is right. This problem is overshadowed by a bigger issue, climat change.

  3. Johannes says:

    I do prefer the name “Zebra Mussel” :).

  4. After reading through this article, I just feel that I really need more info. Could you suggest some resources ?