Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Embracing Invasives

Embracing Invasives is the title of a recent article in Science.  So, it seems the pro-invasive band-wagon is growing!  In this article, Science take the case of the Galapagos - viewed by many as the world's most pristine environment - and highlight that scientists trying to eradicate invasives on these islands are now admitting defeat, ready to 'embrace' the presence of alien species.  Given the damage invasives such as Guava and Blackberries are known to do to this environment, I do wonder what the real reasons might be for giving up the fight? I think there is more to this story than given in this article.  Maybe I am cynical, but I would suspect budget cuts from struggling world economies that support such initiatives are to blame, rather than a scientific turnaround, which they are now trying to justify.  I'm afraid I am yet to be convinced that unquestioningly 'embracing invasives' is a well thought-out strategy, in the Galapagos or anywhere.  Not enough research has been done to really understand what the implications of allowing non-natives free-reign might be and until that is the case in a region then it would seem best to err on the side of caution.  However, I am getting an increasing feeling that there is a growing movement that suggests we err the other way - to allow non-natives free-reign until proven guilty.  I tend to think this is driven by economics and the needs of growing human populations, rather than science.  Without doubt, there is mounting and explosive controversy as general philosophy and practice in this area is undergoing dramatic changes at this time.

 Blackberries: Overwhelming ecosystems in the Galapagos.  Also a big problem in Australia.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that this trend of embracing invasives is gaining its popularity lately and it is not driven by science. In my opinion, it cannot and should not be driven by science only anyway.

    It cannot be solely driven by science because scientists don't know much about long term and large scale impacts of invasive species. Facing this scientific uncertainty, whether to embrace invasives is a policy issue rather than a science issue. In other words, there have to be value judgment involved. As scientists, we tend to be precautionary, but that might not be the view of the locals...