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Exotic species prove costly immigrants.

Lady Liberty's welcoming beacon doesn't shine for about 4,500 plant and animal foreigners now setled on U.S. soil. Some of these nonindigenous species, such as the African honeybee, sneaked across U.S. borders; some arrived as stowaways on ships (SN: 7/25/92, p.56).

Others had help. "Some of the most harmful NIS [non-indigenous species] -- like kudzu, water hyacinth, and feral goats -- were imported intentionally, with their negative effects unanticipated or underestimated," notes an Oct. 5 report by the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a congressional research group. At least 36 of the 300 weeds in the western United States were once cultivated as crops or in gardens. And escaped bait or aquarium fish now populate U.S. waterways.

Already this century, 79 such interlopers have caused at least $97 billion in damages, while 15 new ones could exact another $134 billion in future economic losses, according to the report. Some 205 new species have settled in this country since 1980, says OTA.

The report concludes that the first line of defense -- screening procedures -- could never intercept all unwanted organisms, adding that rapid identification and eradication offer the best chances of stopping these intruders.
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Title Annotation:Office of Technology Assessment report on environmental and economic impact of non-indigenous plant and animal species
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Oct 16, 1993
Words:197
Previous Article:Partners urged for biological survey.
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