Give invasives a chance

A paper from a Twin Cities professor calls on us to rethink our negative views of “invasive species.”

Some of our negative views about the species are informed by warnings like this one from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Minnesota’s natural resources are threatened by invasive species such as the zebra mussel, Eurasian watermilfoil, purple loosestrife, gypsy moth, and garlic mustard. These species, along with new invasive species, could be easily spread within the state if citizens, businesses, and visitors don’t take necessary steps to contain them.

Considering the harm these species can do to our environment and the challenge of raising public awareness to stop the spread of these species, it seems like urging tolerance and understanding of non-native species could be a bit misguided.

But Mark Davis, professor with Macalester College, argues that our simplistic nativism perspective that is based on a black and white reading of native species are good, non-natives are bad has had too much influence among conservationists.

“Scientists who malign introduced plants and animals for thriving under favorable conditions seem to be disregarding basic ecological and evolutionary principles,” say Matthew Chew, an ecologist and historian of invasion biology, and Julie Stromberg, a plant ecologist, with Arizona State University. “Evaluating whether a species ‘belongs’ in a particular place is more complicated than just finding out how and when it arrived.”

Scientific studies show that while some introduced species have resulted in extinctions, not all natives are beneficial, as in the example of the Pine Bark beetle, which is decimating North American pine forests (Physorg).

  • Tom

    Don’t forget, cats are invasive species…

  • Vivian

    I especially like dancing cats.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Oh, those darling, schizophrenia-causing kitties. 🙂

  • Vivian

    //Oh, those darling, schizophrenia-causing kitties. 🙂

    Point taken, Jim,

    I think what needs to be noted here is the difference between invasives and non-invasives such as a mustard plant vs. garlic mustard plant. Both are mustards, but one de-toxifies soil such as in post-industrial brownfields.

    Furthermore, having the ability to identify poison ivy on site and the wisdom to not pick it up in all it’s irresistible ‘darlingness’ and pet it, is crucial.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Vivian – Kudos on the intelligent response to my smart-assed quip. Thanks for sharing the interesting info on herbal flora that eventually gets put on hot dogs. While I’m not a big fan of wieners anymore, I’m quite the mustard enthusiast.

    In reality, I love all living things ( OK, really big sewer dwelling rodents are a bit of a challenge), and some of my best friends are probably schizophrenic. (Anybody else that I should apologize to? 🙂