The recent field of invasion biology faces a new challenge as 19 eminent ecologists issue a call to "end the bias against non-native species" in the journal Nature.
Often called aliens, hitchhikers or invasives, some scientists say that non-native species could just as easily be coined "abductees" whose transport links to activities by humans.
The authors of the Nature comments section note that assumptions that "introduced species" offer only deleterious impacts are misguided and "that human-induced impacts, such as climate change, nitrogen eutrophication, urbanization and land use change are making the native-versus-alien species dichotomy in conservation increasingly meaningless."
Mark Davis, lead author and professor with Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, says that a nativism perspective – native species equals good, non-native species equals bad – has dominated conservation efforts over the past few decades. He points to a number of ecologists, "including those who rightly could be called legendary for their contributions to the field over the past decades, who believe there has been way too much ideology and not enough good science associated with the anti-non-native species perspective."
The authors believe that a shift in the field is needed to consider outcomes and impacts of an organism on an environment rather than focus on native origins.
"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.
Chew and Stromberg have studied the impact of the non-native species in riparian ecosystems, most particularly tamarisk trees in the Southwest United States. Introduced to control erosion, Chew and Stromberg consider its continued perception as a pest species, water consumer and invader overplayed, while research shows its ecological role and ecosystem services have been undervalued. They point to outmoded perspectives and continued deference to outdated science as playing strong roles in negative perceptions of the species and intensive investment in eradication efforts. Recent discoveries have found that tamarisk in fact provides nesting habitat for birds, including the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher, and that regional water management and climate change increasingly favor tamarisk over once-common cottonwoods and willows.
While the introduction of non-native species was noted as early as the 1620s, by Sir Francis Bacon, the field of invasion biology arose as an ecological approach as recently as the 1980s and 90s, inspired by Charles Elton's 1958 The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants. More recent appraisals of Elton's research and publications by prominent ecologists now prompt a call for a change, these authors believe: "Invasion implies so many values. We need to consider the impact of these terms and approaches and how they affect scientific perception, public perception, and in turn, decision-making in conservation and restoration management."
In addition to Davis, Chew and Stromberg, authors include Richard Hobbs, University of Western Australia, Perth; Ariel Lugo, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico; John Ewel, University of Florida, Gainesville; Geerat Vermeij and Scott Carroll, University of California, Davis; James Brown, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Michael Rosenzweig, University of Arizona, Tucson; Mark Gardener, Charles Darwin Foundation, Puerto Ayora, Galapagos, Ecuador; Ken Thompson and Philip Grime, University of Sheffield, UK; Steward Pickett, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York; Peter Del Tredici, Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts; Katharine Suding, University of California, Berkeley; Joan G. Ehrenfeld, Rutgers University, Rutgers; Joseph Mascaro, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Stanford, California; and John C. Briggs, University of South Florida, Tampa.
Margaret Coulombe | EurekAlert!
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy