Universty of Hoch Katheder Faculty Publishing
A study on the impact of the introduction of invasive species into urban environments
Authored by Professor Ult Ramarine, with input from Research Assistant Ilmarhain
Data Gathered by Professor Ult Ramarine and Research Assistant Ilmarhain
As part of our mapping exercises in the newly opened up frontiers outside the city of Hoch Katheder, we have been operating out of the previously noted urban area J-724 (1). The inhabitants of J-724 are an immigrant people from a destroyed world (2) and have been using a pre-creation ruin as a hub of urban activity. During our stay an invasive form of moss was introduced to the population by unknown agents. This Moss spread rapidly and infected a large number of people via a variety of vectors. While the infection was eventually curtailed, civilian casualties were high and there was extensive property damage (3,4). In this paper we aim to examine the causes of such a disaster, its short and long term effects, and finally suggest means by which such infections can be curtailed in the future through intelligent urban planning and civic edicts, rather than the application of 'violence until it goes away', which was the chosen solution in J-724.
The introduction of invasive species into a biome has always been of chief concern to explorers, both for the positive and negative effects it can have, as well as the unintentional consequences. The case study that covered the escape of the Three-Tailed Mole-Rat rat from the Hoch Katheder university gardens, written by Professor Cer Ulean, covers the stages of outbreak well. Introduction, Initial contact, colony establishment, spread, and finally impact. The damage wrought to the vegetable gardens of Hoch Katheder may have been minimal (5) and the Three-Tailed Mole-Rat ill-suited to survival outside of the deserts of its home, but the lose of many citizens botanicals cannot be ignored. As such, the infestation that occurred in J-724 can be viewed through the lens of Cer Uleans excellent prior work, and we will be subdividing the stages of the infection according to his model. While the scale of damage is different, we expect that this model will serve well for our purposes.
One of the main issues we encountered is a relative paucity of information. Many of those fighting the late stage outbreak, our own primary contact, did not know much about its origins. As such, all our data is based on field observations and primary witness testimony.
Cause – Five Stages of Disaster
The Moss introduced to J-724 was an invasive, parasite species previously unknown to science, alchemy and magic. With infection vectors including dead bodies, standing water and (perhaps) airborne contamination, the Moss had a simple lifecycle once introduced to more complex life. First it would multiply, overwhelming the hosts nervous system and shutting down reception to pain, which also allowed for improved stamina and strength in its hosts. This stage was misidentified as an outbreak of virulent leprosy (6) and methods to contain it were misapplied. Second, it would overwhelm the brain of the poor host, causing them to become violent and delusional. Third, it would break out on the skin of the victim. In this stage the hosts became almost completely immune to pain and gained heightened strength. In the final stage, the hosts would seek to spread the Moss to new environments, either water courses, wells, or other people, using force if necessary, and it could reanimate even the dead into a shambling mockery of life. Its only weakness was fire, and victims could be saved by a massive dose of Bitter Spice in the earliest stages.
Introduction and Initial Contact
Regrettably the initial introduction is somewhat mysterious. Witness testimony tells us that the Moss was possibly first introduced as an alchemical tincture meant to assist with manual labour, certainly many mosses mixed with alchemical ingredients have a powerful curative effect and this is believable (7). This tincture, nicknamed 'sprout', proved popular and spread the infection at an alarming rate. However, the presence of the infection in at least four different districts means I believe it was introduced first to the water course. Wells were found to be fully infested with the Moss, and therefore we believe that the Tincture was synthesised from tainted well water after its raw effects were noted by alchemists. It is likely that the tincture sought to remove the negative side effects of the moss while preserving its nerve deadening powers, but failed, accelerating its spread and blinding those who had a way of stopping the spread with greed.
Colony Establishment and Spread
Colonies where established in several locations simultaneously, around wells primarily, lending credence to our theories about its initial spread. J-724 has several artesian wells that provide ground water from a reservoir almost directly under the ritual circle itself. (8) The moss's basic desire, to spread, compelled its victims to seal of these areas and resist the authorities attempts to breach them. Inside the areas the infection ran rampant and soon all were infested with Moss. This strengthened the colonies position against attack, though it should be noted that this was not an 'intelligent' response. Without its natural predators, the moss was simply able to spread out of control with nothing to curtail it.
Short and Long Term impact
Assessing the impact of an invasive species is always a sobering experience. The impact of the moss was devastating, with many lives lost and much damage done to civic and personal property. Many of the districts would later be cleansed with fire, further adding to the cost. The population of J-724 is small and this disaster is likely to impact its growth for years to come. Further, many of its alchemists and healers either fell to the Moss or lost their lives to its victims, which will impact the health of the community J-724 for generations, (9) as important knowledge has been lost either to death or the hungry cleansing flames.
In the short term, thousands of gold worth of buildings and possessions were lost, hundreds of lives and chaos and threat was introduced to a small, already damaged community. Civil order was lost for several days and productivity across the city plummeted. (3,4) Lost tax revenue will be a major consideration for the city in the future (10) as the militia took very little damage but the population base that supports it has been significantly reduced.
Suggested Future responses
All responses benefit from swift identification of potential invasive species. As such, we would recommend that all civic authorities invest in education programs and strict licensing for local apothecaries and healers. Healers guilds must be fully briefed on potential threats, and plans for containment and fightback must be in place before an invasive species is introduced to the population. In a fast moving outbreak, as seen in J-724, city councils and courts will not have time to debate before the crisis overwhelms first responders.
Further, city builders should look into the correct management of space to help restrict or slow the spread of an invasive species. Spaces below ground should be filled in, sewers should be kept as small as feasible, and clear gaps should be maintained between districts. In Hoch Katheder, districts are separated by both walls and wide avenues that are strictly legislated to remain clear of development. If one block of buildings is infested, it is possible to easily isolate it from its fellows and prevent the further spread of infection. That this also functions as a firebreak and allows the swift movement of units through a city under attack is just one more reason to implement this in civic planning. (11)
Wells and other water sources should be strictly monitored as part of the general health of any city. While a dedicated government ministry might be possible for larger cities, placing city watch houses next to wells and pumps places them under constant surveillance. Further to this, militias should be drilled with the ability to quickly seal of a sector of the city as part of their riot training, as this is useful for containing civil disobedience as well as infection by a hostile life form.
Finally, experts should be kept on retainer to be called on in the case of an outbreak.
The first response to any outbreak must be containment. With containment, time is bought to assemble experts to identify the invasive species, elucidate its key weaknesses, and develop a treatment plan (even if that treatment plan is as ruthless as 'burn it all to the ground'). After this, it is imperative that the treatment plan is followed to the letter and with unstinting devotion to detail. The moss we encountered could theoretically recover completely from a few spores smaller than a grain of wheat. Magic is a useful counter to such problems but not a complete solution. Alchemists should be brought in to develop universal cleaning agents that can be deployed to scour an area completely clean. Steam is also a powerful counter to disease, and can be used to purge an area clean without resorting to fire, if enough high pressure steam can be generated. (12)
Containment also limits property damage and panic, and on this front, containment must also be used on information. While briefings and updated information should be given to watch commanders and apothecaries, the general public should operate on a 'need to know' basis. If they come to understand the measures needed to contain a major outbreak, it may become impossible to enforce, but at the same time the citizens of a city have far more eyes and ears than its constabulary. Citizens should be encouraged to report suspicious activity to the watch during this time, who should be on high alert with as many men on duty as possible.
In summation, the devastation an invasive species can wreak in any environment is unpredictable, but in an urban environment the damage can be especially severe, thanks to the closeness with which people live in cities and towns. As new nations form on the frontier and new communities come into contact with each other, the risk from invasive species increases, from the smallest of animals that can infect blood and breath, to the largest that infect the civic fabric. It is imperative that Kingdoms plan and implement counters to these problems today, and not wait for it to happen, as occurred in J-724.
1: Interim Report by Hoch Katheder Department of Unusual Geography, Ult Ramarine et al.
2: Disposition of the 'free peoples' Iza Prussian
3: Apothecaries report to King Isaac, Various
4: Watch Commanders report to King Isaac, Various.
5: Invasive Mammals, a study, Cer Ulean et al.
6: Journal of Apothecary Auburn, Auburn Sinclair.
7: 101 uses for Moss, 5th Edition, Hoch Katheder University Press
8: Initial Survey of J-724, Ult Ramarine et al
9: Letter to King Isaac, Red Mage Ulthellion
10: Treasury Report, Afacia City Minister of Gold.
11: Letter to the Founders of Hoch Katheder, General Redbeard.
12: Healers Guild Almanac, Article by Jirin Reso.
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- David of Shea
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