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
Wildlife Killing Contests – The Movie
The polite and restrained movie appearing below is not anti-hunting. In fact, it should be mandatory viewing for all hunters and wildlife lovers. While most of the contests target predators, each shot fired damages […]
One Creature Changed the Countryside and Our Lives More Than Any Other. Meet the Horses That Built Britain
As discussed in the article below, horses evolved in the Americas, and crossed to Europe and Asia during previous ice ages. Domestic horses are central to human civilizations – including those of North America. […]
Wildfire continues to devastate the American West at increasing rates. According to some, the plan that could combat the danger of forest fire lies in the complicated history and present role of the wild horse. […]
Everybody Knew the Invasive Grass of Maui Posed a Deadly Fire Threat, but Few Acted
As discussed below, the Lahaina fires were caused by excessive dry fuel accumulated over many years. The only sustainable way to control this dangerous buildup is by grazing. But common sense is stopped by […]
PG&E Scraps Tree-Trimming Program Once Seen as Key to Fire Prevention
As discussed below, California’s big electric company says it can’t control wildfires with chainsaws. As discussed for years on this blog, the ONLY cost effective and sustainable way to reduce wildfires is with animal […]
Markets for Conservation: Reining in the Wild Horse Crisis
There are more wild horses and burros on the public landscape allotted to them than that range can sustain. Beautiful as they are, these animals are degrading the range and they compete for water and forage with […]
An excellent video from the Savory Center for Holistic Management, in Zimbabwe. The thinking described is largely missing from the management of our public ranges, forests, and national parks, even though ALL […]
The Late Pleistocene of the Mojave Desert, the Peopling of the Americas, and Terminal Pleistocene Extinctions
“As discussed in the paper below, recent discoveries indicate that humans arrived in North America thousands of years earlier than previously thought. If so, this earlier dating of the beginning of human hunting of […]
A Bird’s-eye view of the Dingambombwe Conservancy Cattle Herd
Here is a great aerial time lapse visual of Africa Center for Holistic Management (ACHM) herd moving through the conservancy regenerating as they go. Note: With many thanks to the ACHM newsletter, where this was […]
Coming home: As discussed below, “Horses evolved millions of years ago in North America and, after spreading to Eurasia and Africa, went extinct in their homeland at the end of the last ice age. Along […]
RESEARCH ARTICLE ON HORSES: Early Dispersal of Domestic Horses Into the Great Plains and Northern Rockies
Are horses native to, or so-called “invasive exotics“ in North America? As discussed below, “Horses were deeply integrated into Indigenous (American Indian) societies before the arrival of 18th-century (1700’s) European observers, as reflected in […]
After reading the signs, Johnny’s predictions of good rain come true after seven years of drought. Within weeks the veld is transformed in a great renewal as seeds that have lain dormant for years come […]
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 […]
Cost-effectively Wildfire Grazing Steep Ground With Lava Flows (Talus Field) by Wild Horses
“As discussed in this video, so-called ‘invasive’ horses – actually North America’s oldest native species, can reduce wildfire and restore habitat in areas unreachable by any other large grazer. Watch this 1-minute video and judge […]
“As discussed in the article below, “Beaver dams are why some ecologists insist that beavers may be able to help remedy the effects of climate change. Beavers build dams, which create ponds, which create ecosystems. […]