Since the beginning of time, species have spread and contracted their ranges.
A variety of factors including weather and climate influenced their spread and movement. Arguably, one of the most important modern factors is human influence.
As humans became more mobile, as our trade routes expanded, as our practices changed the landscape, we influenced and likely escalated species spread. For instance, the exploration of North America prompted the introduction of hogs and the reintroduction of horses.
With the passage of time and the improvement of transportation, the world has shrunk, at least metaphorically. More people criss-crossing a smaller planet for a variety of purposes created more opportunities for species to establish themselves outside their traditional ranges.
Sometimes, as with the case of rapidly spreading kudzu, someone deliberately introduced it. Kudzu, with its almost exponential growth rate, was originally touted as potential solution for erosion and a godsend for landscaping. Saltcedar choking desert waterways followed a similar path. Imported red fire ants hitched a ride on a ship and landed in Florida. The anaconda population in Florida Everglades, is thought to have originated at least in part by pet owners who tired of the big reptiles and released them into the wild.
As a whole, the species have done what successful species do—exploit and claim their niche in suitable habitat. In the absence of disease and predators, they are often unchecked.
People faced with an ecosystem that seems to be tipping out of balance have done what people do. They’ve labeled the problem, in this case “invasive species.” By its original definition, an invasive species also known as an introduced species, is a species that is not native to a specific location, and that has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health. The definition has expanded to include any species that has spread anywhere someone may not like it to be.
Faced with a system that appears to be out of balance, humans have identified introduced species as invasive enemies. Armed with poison, guns, traps and any other means necessary, humans have gone to war against the invaders.
In the course of waging war, the soldiers ignore the inherent difficulty in identifying what is native. For instance, the ancestors of Equus ferus (modern horses) evolved in North America and radiated to Eurasia before becoming locally extinct. In 1493, the horse returned to North America with the explorers. This equine globe hopping raises the question: Are horses native or exotic to the continent of their evolutionary ancestors?
But instead of recognizing inherent flaws in logic and approach, the soldiers, be they researchers, regulators, managers or owners, choose to apply a single, focused solution to a complicated problem. An all-out attempt to destroy the invaders only rewards big businesses that produce the “tools of war” and throws the system further out of balance.
As proponents of biodiversity, we believe that all species, even those that are new to an area, can play a role in a healthy ecosystem. The quest is discovering the benefits of the additions and managing them so they don’t overwhelm any other part of the local system.
Read more about holistic management practices
Burned, Beetle-ravaged Wyoming Forest Expected to Flourish
As demonstrated across the West, refusing to “manage” forests is a powerful management practice. While the practice of keeping human hands off of forest resources may be well-intentioned, it is detrimental and destructive. The “hands […]
Tasmanian Devils Return to Mainland Australia for First Time in 3000 Years
Here is an interesting article about how on the Australian mainland, Australian wildlife managers are reintroducing an animal wiped out thousands of years ago by human impact. Reintroducing a native animal thousands of years […]
Escaped Exotics Animals are Changing the Texas Landscape
Quoting the author of the article below, “There’s an idea that gets played with in progressive futurist circles sometimes: the notion of deliberately engineering landscapes to mimic our understanding of their past shape. Quietly, without […]
National Parks are Being Overrun By Invasive Species
As this article points out, people introduce the vast majority of so-called invasive species worldwide. What the article doesn’t mention is that we humans are the world’s most destructive invaders. Or, that of the […]
A Forb is a herbaceous, flowering plant other than grass. Unwanted forbs are generally dubbed “weeds.” Herbicides used for “weed” control almost always harm habitat and wildlife. On Pitchstone Waters, we manage our weeds unconventionally—to […]
Scientists Disagree on Bison Impacts to Yellowstone’s Northern Range
“According to Yellowstone’s senior bison biologist who is quoted below, Yellowstone is the only place in North America with a complete set of predators and herbivores – both of which shape their habitat in ways […]
Take ‘Charisma’ Into Account When Managing Invasive Species, Scientists Say
As Groucho Marx asked all those years ago, “Who are you going to believe: Me, or your lying eyes?” According to the doubtful premise underlying invasive species biology, any new creature entering a system […]
More often than not, “invasive” plants and animals are responding to human damage to ecosystems. So-called exotics are usually viewed as competitive to the systems where they have arrived, but on closer study, most turn […]
Pablo Escobar’s Hippos Fill a Hole Left Since Ice Age Extinctions
According to the article below—and the study on which it is based—humans have caused the extinction of many large animals over the past 100,000 years. This has changed ecosystems greatly, generally for the worse. […]
Mountain Goat Removal Temporarily Closes Areas Of Grand Teton National Park
According to the article below, the National Park Service (NPS) has decided to exterminate wild mountain goats in the Teton-Yellowstone Parks because they (1) are non-native, (2) “compete” with bighorn and (3) might infect them […]
Across the West as well as in Texas, agencies, universities, governmental and conservation organizations resist holistic wildlife and agricultural management practices. Most Western public grazing rules make holistic grazing very difficult if not impossible In this […]
Massive Juniper Tree-Cutting Project Aims to Aid Sage Grouse
According to the article below: “Overall, sage grouse numbers have dwindled from an estimated 16 million before European settlement of the West to no more than 500,000 today in 11 western states. The project that […]
Quoting from the article below, “But the scientific consensus today is that in North America, feral pigs are a growing threat to both ecosystems and the economy.” The author continues, “Interestingly, in their native […]
“How do we “rewild” areas where the native species are now extinct? In England, they use “exotic” species as substitutes. This common sense would collide with so-called “invasive species biology” in most of the US.
Quoting the authors below, “In reality, the problem is not herbicide resistant weeds; it is the perception that they are an enemy that must be destroyed at all costs. Military imagery – especially words like […]
Scorched Portugal Turns to the Goat as a Low-Cost Firefighter
In nature, different animals eat different kinds of plants and there are specific species for every such “ecological niche”. Where native animals have gone missing, domestic goats can be used to replace animals that once […]