Invasives Debate

Here is a quote from an article I read this week:

“Conservationist should assess organisms on environmental impact rather than on whether they are natives…” June 9, 2011 Nature

I thought that this would make for an interesting conversation among the weed warriors in the group that have been pondering the management issue.

Personally, I am on the fence. It can take years to collect enough data to be able to say with any certainty that a species has a serious environmental impact. By then, the invasive may be well established and more difficult to eradicate. On the other hand, spending money to control a species that ultimately would have had no significant impact is a waste of limited land management resources.


2 thoughts on “Invasives Debate

  1. We could let earth do its thing- let the plants be. I think that invasives throw the ecosystem off balance and weaken our ecosystem services and resources. Regardless if we pull weeds or not, the earth will be fine when we go extinct.

    Most of us don’t want to go extinct so we want to protect our resources and ecosystem services necessary for our survival as a society. Some just want to preserve nature for the good of nature (but the earth will be fine…) or our aesthetic pleasure. So we pull weeds, for us. It’s a utilitarian perspective.

    Weeds do alter the ecosystem a great deal. But who are we to say how earth is supposed to be, right? I’ll talk about the weeds I’m dealing with. English hawthorn is a non-native tree spread by birds that is encroaching on grassland/savannah habitat which changes the understory vegetation, decreases oak stand health, and affects everything up the food chain from there. The invasive is changing the entire landscape, an entire ecosystem. Himalayan blackberries are found along many streams here and it is a nasty physical barrier between wildlife (and humans) and the stream. Scotch broom costs the timber industry something like $40 billion in one year because the invasive inhibits the growth of the trees.

    OUR environment is impacted, but the earth will be fine 🙂

  2. This is an interesting issue. I tend to fall on the fence as well. I agree with what you said. It can be a double edged sword. I can see why removing and preventing invasive and “non native” species is worth while for purely utilitarian reasons, regardless of their environmental impact. We depend on ecosystem services in numerous ways, for every aspect of our lives, and invasive species can throw the balance of those ecosystems and their services off. Which is harmful to our well-being. But we’re destroying those ecosystem services ourselves in several other ways as well. Plus, I have trouble using purely utilitarian reasoning when addressing any environmental issue.

    I contemplate the importance of all of our conservation efforts frequently. Like Caroline commented, life will go on long after our species dies off. In fact, I bet life will thrive once we’re off this planet. So what good is conservation in any manner if for no other reason than to keep our own species alive longer? If we were to truly protect the environment from harm and destruction we’d need to decrease our impact on it, and that’d require, among other things, reducing our population by billions. And that’s not humanely possible.

    But I do think the author of that article makes an excellent point. Ecosystem’s are always evolving, and who’s to say an introduced species shouldn’t be there, especially if it has a positive or neutral environmental impact?

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