Arboretum Scientist joins call for reassessment of non-native species in Nature

June 9, 2011

Arboretum Scientist joins call for reassessment of non-native species in Nature

Arboretum Scientist joins call for reassessment of non-native species

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Arnold Arboretum Senior Research Scientist Peter Del Tredici and 18 other ecologists from around the world signed an article in the journal Nature which argues against the pervasive bias promulgated against non-native species in ecology. The note in the comments section of Nature 474 (June 9, 2011) urges a reconsideration of non-native organisms based on outcomes and impacts on an environment rather than on their place of origin.

Non-native species—often referred to as alien or invasive species—mainly become established in environments due to human activity, including agriculture and other forms of land development. The authors of the Nature commentary contend that assumptions that non-natives are patently detrimental to environments 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.”

The article proposes that perceptions of introduced species too often rely on ideology rather than scientific research. Studies suggest that while the success of non-natives have resulted in the extinction of some species, not all native species are necessarily beneficial to their environments. Native pine bark beetles, for example, are responsible for decimating large swaths of North American pine forest. The authors believe that the ecosystem services rendered by many introduced species—some of which thrive in degraded or otherwise compromised environments that are often inhospitable to native organisms—have been largely undervalued by both scientists and the public. While they do not suggest that conservationists or governments abandon their efforts to mitigate serious problems caused by some introduced species, they urge a more pragmatic and science-based approach in determining whether or not species are producing benefits or harm to biodiversity, human health, ecological services, and economies.

Davis, M. A., M. K. Chew, R. J. Hobbs, A. E. Lugo, J. J. Ewel, G. J. Vermeij, J. H. Brown, M. L. Rosenzweig, M. R. Gardener, S. P. Carroll, K. Thompson, S. T. A. Pickett, J. C. Stromberg, P. Del Tredici, K. N. Suding, J. G. Ehrenfeld, J. P. Grime, J. Mascaro, and J. C. Briggs. 2011. Don’t judge species on their origins. Nature 474: 153-154. [pdf]

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