Invasive species are never to be taken lightly. While some are accidentally released, others may be introduced as floral design or food stock- even as pets. If you really wanted to get technical about it, humans could also be classified as an invasive species.
The entire world, since exploration started, has entered a sort of pandemic around the influence of invasive species. While this isn’t really a headline for most people, since global warming and deforestation like to take the center stage, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. Entire communities are rearranged as a new species enters, and sometimes this can lead to the extirpation, or local extinction, of a species. Even others in the ecosystem can be indirectly affected by this change.
In the San Juan River, tilapia and peacock bass are the two species who really impacted this river. While they’re still a good source of food for animals and people alike, the biodiversity of other fish species which would historically fill that niche have been extirpated. Small minnows and larger prey fish have been replaced with the African tilapia and South American peacock bass- which is a common story across Central America.
The Embera people still use these fish for their survival, as do the fishing birds and mammals around the San Juan River, so at least this story doesn’t have to end in complete tragedy. That being said, a lot of fruit in their diet is also non-native. Mangos from Southern Asia, as well as watermelon and cantaloupe from Central Africa, are all fruits grown by the Embera people along the Panamanian river. Of course, they aren’t the only humans to introduce non-native species and use them as a source of food or profit. This behavior seems innate in humans themselves, bringing what species they know to a new place, regardless of what could be found their already. This only hurts the native fauna, however, as they have to compete with new species who may not have any predators or pathogens to keep them in check. Native pollinators may not be able to get the right fuel from the new flowers, or don’t have the hardware to do so. New fruits could be toxic to the native animals, or not nearly as nutritious as the ones which they have been evolving alongside of for millions of years.
Really, this is a problem which cannot be fixed entirely. Some species are here to stay, no matter how damaging and invasive. The priority now is to understand how we can try to keep these in check, and to make sure that no new species can begin to pervade the wilderness. This is a hard law to keep, but knowing that a culture removed from the modern era such as the Embera have accepted non-native species into their way of life just serves as a reminder that nowhere is really safe from the invaders.