Any plant or animals that is not native to a particular area, has a tendency to spread uncontrollably, and can cause damage to the environment is known as an invasive species. The term is generally restricted to plants or animals that have been introduced to an area and cause adverse effect. The kudzu vine, native to eastern Asia but introduced to the United States in 1876, often grows uncontrollably in many areas, and is considered a classic example of an invasive species.
Scientists have identified a number of traits common to invasive species. These traits include fast growth, rapid reproduction, high dispersal rates, the ability to alter their growth to suit current conditions, their tolerance for a wide range of conditions, and their ability to live off a wide range of foods.
The introduction of European rabbits to Australia in the 18th century has demonstrated the negative economic and environmental impact that invasive species can have. In 1907, the Australian government went so far as to construct the world’s largest unbroken fence (the rabbit-proof fence) in an unsuccessful effort to control its rabbit population. Not all invasive species are negative, however. The introduction of Asian oysters to the Chesapeake Bay may prove beneficial, as these creatures filter water pollution better than native species, and could improve the deteriorating water quality of the Bay.