Blog — June 10, 2011

In an article in the journal Nature, ecologist Mark Davis and 18 other colleagues argue that conservationists should assess organisms on their environmental impact rather than on whether or not thet are native. Conservationists already pick out the most destructive of invasive species for management action, so the conclusions of this article are nothing particularly new. However, I am concerned that many will interpret this article as saying that invasive species are o.k.  They are not! Many introductions, perhaps even most, have been deleterious to native organisms and/or their habitats. Many threatened and endangered species in North America and around the world are in trouble because of invasive species.  In addition, the negative impacts of such invasions are nearly impossible to predict until after the invasion has occurred. Sure, the authors are technically correct–it’s possible to point out a few individual cases where introductions have been beneficial, but such open-armed tolerance of invasives by ecologists will only give fuel to animal rights activists who do not want to manage invasives at all–to the deteriment of our native wildlife and their habitats. Times are certainly changing. Suddenly ecologists seem to be losing touch with the fact that in ecology context means everything. The faster humans move species around, the faster we will be headed toward mass extinctions and major ecological disaster.

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Michael Hutchins