Invasive Species Follow-up

Remember that hand-grenade-on-the-dance-floor article in Nature this past June questioning the invasive species paradigm?  Two of the 19 co-authors have written a follow-up opinion piece in The Scientist responding to some of the criticism their article has received.  I especially appreciate this paragraph:

What we object to is an insistence on permanent, hopeless wars on well- and widely-established non-native taxa, conflicts that continuously disrupt ecosystems where introduced species now play significant ecological roles.  Furthermore, as long as the many modes of inter- and trans-continental shipping continue to operate, organisms will unexpectedly move along with materials, goods, and people.  Thus, although we respect the values inspiring many local conservation and restoration efforts, we caution that continuous “weeding” creates a further, more permanent dependence on human judgment and activity rather than a lesser, more temporary one.

You can read the rest here.  And here is the full PDF of the original article, if you haven’t seen it already.  Let’s keep thinking this through together, both rigorously and respectfully.

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2 Responses to Invasive Species Follow-up

  1. Liz T. says:

    Thanks for posting this follow-up. I very much enjoyed the earlier discussion and would like to contribute three comments to what I hope will be a continued discussion of this important topic.
    1. I don’t see this as a particularly new idea since I was exposed to it at least 15 to 20 years ago through the work of Walt Westman with whom I did a postdoc and that of Larry Stevens and Dave Wegner who were part of the team that conducted the EIS for Glen Canyon Dam. I agree with Connor’s comment that this may be a paradigm shift and as Kuhn pointed out: what the mainstream scientific community sees as revolutionary has typically been discussed at the periphery for at least several decades and been suppressed/ignored by those in power who promote whatever the currently accepted dogma may be. I do recall that Westman’s views were hotly disputed and not easily published twenty years ago. He examined the controversy around removing Eucalypts from state parks in the Bay Area and weighed in on the side of the Eucalypts. I had other friends and colleagues at the time who did not.
    2. A commentor on the earlier post mentioned the tamarisk issue in SW riparian ecosystems. I offer this reference: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2009/southwestern-willow-flycatcher-03-27-2009.html which is a press release about a filing by the Center for Biodiversity challenging the release of the biocontrol beetle for tamarisk. One has to raise one’s eyebrow’s when a rabidly conservation-oriented organziation known for it’s work to protect endangered species attempts to prevent the use of a biocontrol to erradicate the invasive tamarisk. The punchline is the SW Willow Flycatcher. I will let you read the reference for the details. I think this underlines the point made in the earlier discussion that we live in the midst of changed and changing “ecosystems”. I also think that Larry Steven’s work on the natural and human ecology of the Colorado River provides excellent examples/discussion of the postives and negatives of this new human created “ecosystem.” I have personally reached the point where I quesiton the notion of “ecosystem” itself since I don’t believe that the concept serves us well. (Peter Taylor has commented on the Odums and the ecosystem concept in ways that I find most illuminating.)
    3. Finally, there is the “humans as part of the system or outside the system issue” and how much our cultural context influences our view of invasion. Cronin and other writers, travel, and the prolonged and profound habitation of indigenous peoples on the Colorado Plateau where I live as well as the time I spent in the Amazon has convinced me that there is almost no place on earth (Antarctica, the Artic?) that has not been touched and shaped by human hands. [ Do I want more "wild" species and just more species in general? YES! Did I feel the paucity of species and the lack of wildness when in Scotland last week or Portugal two years ago? Absolutely! Do I love having bear walk through town occasionally and elk cross the street by my house? Of course!] I very much like Connor’s comment (or my interpretation of it) that each “invasive” species needs to be evaluated on its own merits as to whether or not it should be controlled (if that is even possible.) Yes, it takes more work and makes land management harder but that is a virute not a problem because it may yield more finely tuned and efficacious results. Also to loop back to a point I made above in #2, if ecosystem gets eliminated as a concept and we see groups of organisms as assemblages with fuzzy edges and the groups of species not having completely congruent distributions, then the notion of invasion becomes difficul to define. Illegal aliens of the human kind only exist when nation states with defined geographic boundaries and immigration laws do,
    Thanks,
    Liz Taylor

  2. grousedrum says:

    Awesome, thanks for your input Liz. I would also say that we don’t need to let go of “ecosystem” as a concept (since I think it’s a useful and important one) to arrive at the same understanding. Just letting go of “ecosystem” as a static superorganism and seeing places and landscapes as the complex, changing systems that they are, and ourselves as participants in them, has helped me reframe my relationship with species on the move.

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