August 3, 2011

THE BARRED OWL IS TO THE LEFT AS THE MEXICAN IS TO THE RIGHT?:

The invasive species war: Do we protect native plants because they're better for the earth, or because we hate strangers? A cherished principle of environmentalism comes under attack (Leon Neyfakh, July 31, 2011, Boston Globe)

The reasons to fight invasive species may be economic, or conservationist, or just practical, but underneath all these efforts is a potent and galvanizing idea: that if we work hard enough to keep foreign species from infiltrating habitats where they might do harm, we can help nature heal from the damage we humans have done to it as a civilization.

In the past several months, however, that idea has come under blistering attack. In a polemical essay that appeared in the leading science journal Nature in June, a biologist from Macalester College in Minnesota named Mark Davis led 18 other academics in charging that the movement to protect ecosystems from non-native species stems from a "biological bias" against arbitrarily defined outsiders that ultimately does more harm than good. According to Davis and his co-authors, the fight against invaders amounts to an impossible quest to restore the world to some imaginary, pristine state. The world changes, they argue, and in some cases, the arrival of a new plant or animal can actually help, rather than hurt, an ecosystem. The whole idea of dividing the world into native and non-native species is flawed, the article says, because what seems non-native to one generation might be thought of as a local treasure by the next. Instead we should embrace "novel ecosystems" as they form, and assess species based on what they do rather than where they're from.

"Newcomers are viewed as a threat because the world that you remember is being displaced by this new world," Davis said recently. "I think that's a perfectly normal and understandable human reaction, but as scientists we need to be careful that those ideas don't shape and frame our scientific research."

The article in Nature joined similar arguments that had recently appeared in the journal Science as well as the op-ed page of The New York Times, where an anthropologist who had recently become a naturalized US citizen likened the control of invasive species to the anti-immigration movement.


It is interesting that the very same folks who claim to believe that nature evolves also think it appropriate to try to impose stasis upon it.


Posted by at August 3, 2011 7:05 AM
  

blog comments powered by Disqus
« THE EHRLICH'S AMONG US ARE ALWAYS EASILY PARTED FROM THEIR CASH (AND BASEBALL CAPS): | Main | EITHER/OR: »