By Sarah Fiorello

By: Deacon Mayock

I remember one day in the summer I was waiting in line to get ice cream. By the time I made it to the front of the line and placed my order, I had killed five times. Once I received my ice cream, I added three more to my list. What war-torn area am I living in? The Delaware Valley, and the casualties were not soldiers or even citizens. They were spotted lanternflies, an invasive species. We have been at war with these bugs since around 2018 when they were accidentally introduced here from South China. It is now our job as the people of the area to kill them without remorse on sight before these parasitic insects exhaust all of the host trees in the area.

Spotted lanternfly

While this isn’t the exact war one would normally think about, it certainly is an important one. Invasive species are a problem with which many areas of the world must deal in order to ensure they don’t destroy the biodiversity and livelihood of the local habitats. Not only are they harmful, but they’re also quite annoying to squish as well. They can’t really fly, but they can quickly jump away three or so times before they get tired enough to catch. Spotted lanternflies are dangerous to the Delaware Valley’s environment because of their damage to the trees they live on parasitically, which are important to not only provide food and shelter to other animals, but also for our area’s food and lumber resources. The trees they mainly target are all of our fruity trees, forcing us to have to import more apples, grapes, etc. if we do not deal with them. This hurts our industry and makes us emit more carbon during transportation. Dealing with invasive species is a challenging task for local communities, and it is only going to get more difficult, frequent, and necessary as the world continues to heat up due to climate change.

As it gets hotter, animals are going to have to leave home for places with temperatures more suited for their survival. As this happens, the number of invasive species is going to rise greatly. So, in turn with invasive species hurting biodiversity and increasing climate change, climate change actually increases invasive species as well. Kind of a compounding problem, huh?

Another awful, yet somewhat interesting possibility is what happens when an animal’s prey abandons its habitat for a new ecosystem. Would they in turn have to migrate with them? It would be fascinating to watch entire food chains follow each other around to different climates just to survive. This of course has deadly repercussions, such as what happens to the ecosystem already living there and if these animals can even survive in a new habitat, that could damage and worsen our planet. Ignoring the fact that certain places near the equator will become barren, and the rising water levels, and the melting ice caps reflecting less sunlight, and the worse air and water quality, and the… humans also have to monitor the new migratory patterns of animals before the greatest mass extinction of all time occurs.

Tropics Region map by Terpischores

As if we really needed more reasons to halt the effects of climate change, the invasive species boom may be a challenge we will soon face. Personally, I have no faith in the governments of the world to deal with such an issue. Currently in the Delaware Valley, there are about ten generally competent county governments across Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey struggling to deal with one species. I can only imagine what struggling governments without the money or support to protect the environment can, or cannot, do. Especially on such a massive scale that could have colder climates dealing with a massive surplus of invasive species, and hotter climates losing all of their native animals. I honestly cannot see a world where there is not mass extinction included in the climate change package.

Let this be a message to anyone about how bad the effects of climate change will be: it’s going to be really bad. Like, really really bad. There are so many potential consequences that we may not even know of on top of what is commonly talked about. It’s time to start attacking the root of the problem: our over-reliance on polluting nonrenewable energies and our lack of regulations on wasteful companies and governments. We must start fixing our planet, before we condemn our future generations to the problem.