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 They point to outmoded perspectives and continued deference to outdated science as playing strong roles in negative perceptions of the species and intensive investment in eradication efforts.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!
Scientists on the road to discovering impact of urban road dust
18.01.2018 | University of Alberta
Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk
17.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine
19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy