Throughout history, people have intentionally and unintentionally moved plant and animal species to new environments. Some of these species caused no harm in their new environment, but others have invaded natural ecosystems, causing environmental, and sometimes economic, harm. In this activity, students research invasive species to determine their impact on ecosystems and what characteristics make them so challenging.
- Research an invasive species that is a problem in local ecosystems.
- Describe how invasive species impact the flow of energy in ecosystems.
- Create a method to inform the community about the problems associated with invasive species and how to prevent their spread.
- Alien Invasion and Comparing Invasive Species student pages
- Photo(s) of kudzu or other invasive species taking over a forest (or other ecosystem)
- Internet access
- Getting Ready: 10 minutes
- Doing the Activity: two 60-minute periods, plus time for research and presentations
- Evaluate: 10 minutes per student, plus time for student research
- Make copies of the Alien Invasion and Comparing Invasive Species student pages.
- Search the internet to find one or more photographs of kudzu (or other invasive species) taking over a forest ecosystem. Make copies or plan to project the images for students to see.
- Make a list of 10–20 invasive species in your state for students to research. In most states, the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Fish and Game, or other agency publishes a list of the biggest threats. To start, see the National Invasive Species Information Center and select “Browse by Geography” on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s invasive species website.
- Decide what material from the Background page to share with students. For example, you might present some of the information in the Explain part of Doing the Activity, or use the suggested Discussion Questions to support a casual conversation on the topic.
- See Additional Resources to find other supports for teaching this activity.
You may use the Key Vocabulary: Invasive Species student page to introduce students to the following vocabulary terms or to review or assess their mastery of these terms. Note that the definitions below are geared for students, while the definitions that “pop up” within the activity text online are geared for the teacher.
|Adaptation||A structure or behavior that helps an organism survive in its environment.|
|Adapted||Suited to certain conditions in the environment.|
|Ecosystem||A community of living things interacting with their environment.|
|Habitat||An area that provides an organism with enough food, water, shelter, and space to live.|
|Invasive species||A species that causes harm when it moves to a new area or habitat.|
|Native species||A species that occurs naturally in an area or habitat.|
|Non-native species||A species living in an area or habitat where it does not naturally live or grow.|
|Outcompete||Do better than another species in getting food, space, light, or another resource.|
|Species||A group of organisms that are very similar to one another and
PLT Conceptual Framework
- 1.1. Living components of the environment interact in predictable ways with nonliving components, such as air, water, and geologic features.
- 2.2 Altering the environment affects all life forms, including humans, and the interrelationships
that link them.
- 5.3 Ecosystems change over time through patterns of growth and succession. They are also
affected by other phenomena, such as disease, insects, fire, weather, climate, and human
See Standards Connections in the Appendices for a list of standards addressed in this activity.