BiodiversityGeneral

Are We Using Invasive Species? (Kyrgyzstan)


The rabbit has been an invasive species all across the globe for over 2000 years, but is
most commonly known as a pest in Australia. Image courtesy of J.J. Harrison (creative commons)

In agriculture we often have to ask ourselves a very serious question. Are we planting invasive species? This question deals with some incredibly important scenarios. Over the past few centuries humans have unintentionally done some pretty serious damage by introducing a new plant, animal, or fungus in a new area. Before we can answer the question though, we need to learn more about what an invasive species is, and what makes it that way. Lets look at a few examples taken from the website of Invasive Species Specialist Group.(1)

Oryctolagus cuniculus (English Rabbit): Originally domesticated in the year 600 in French monasteries, the rabbit was introduced to Australia in 1788 as a food source for the new colonists. The rabbit population grew rapidly, and in 1920 the population had soared to over 10 billion. This invasive pest is a problem because in such high numbers they completely destroy native vegetative lands. Not only does this endanger the survival of native plants, but it also leaves little or no food for native herbivorous mammals such as the Bilby or the Burrowing Bettong.(2)

Opuntia stricta (Common Prickly Pear): The native range of Optunia stricata is the Eastern coastline of North, Central, and South America, in all tropical and subtropical areas. It was intentionally introduced to Australia with the first colonists in order to create two-meter high hedges that cattle would not pass through. This species of cactus very rapidly got out of hand and took over the rangeland intended for cattle, rendering it a dangerous wasteland. Only with the introduction of a moth that is known to feed on the cactus in its native habitat was the population growth able to be curbed.(1)

Acridotheres tristis (Indian Myna): The Indian Myna is a bird that was originally confined to Central and Southern Asia, most specifically India. In India the Myna is considered to be an important animal for pest control for farmers. However, outside of its native habitat the Myna itself becomes the pest. Mynas compete with native species for food, nesting sites, and other resources. In Hawaii they are know to destroy the eggs of other native birds. The Myna also is a carrier of many viruses that can infect humans.(1)

Achatina fulica (Giant African Snail): Originally found on the Eastern coastline of Africa from Mozambique North to Somalia, the Giant African Snail has been unintentionally introduced to tropical and subtropical countries around the world. This snail is a crop pest, destroys native vegetation, alters ecosystems, and carries diseases. Efforts to curb population growth have not been successful.(1)

Why are these organisms invasive?

So, why are some organisms such terrible pests in an introduced region, but sometimes have limited populations in their native ranges? It all has to do with the ecosystem as a whole. When an organism is introduced into another ecosystem, whether intentionally or not, it tries to carry on doing the exact same thing it did in its original ecosystem: obtain nutrition, grow, and reproduce. The potential food sources, the physical environment, possible predators, weather variations, and other things about the new area may be quite different. These factors:

  1. can cause the organism to become extant (extinct in a certain region) in its introduced ecosystem,
  2. could provide no advantage or disadvantage at all to the organism, or
  3. could provide a more suitable habitat where the organism will thrive.

This last option is what happens in the case of an invasive species. Often, there is no control for the new organism (predators or pests) and the organism becomes a better competitor than other similar species in its new habitat because of this. The population begins to grow quickly, and native species start to get pushed out as a result.

Invasive agriculture?

Now, lets look at some agriculturally significant plants and animals that have been introduced around the world. As you read this section, ask yourself, have these plants out-competed the native species? Do they grow in areas that were once inhabited by different organisms? Does this make them “invasive”?

Triticum sp. (Wheat): Originally cultivated in the Middle Eastern area now comprising Syria, Jordan, and Turkey, wheat has become the most planted crop in the world. It wasn’t till 1602 that wheat was grown in the new world!

Oryza sativa (Rice): Rice is the second most grown crop in the world. Rice has its origins in South East Asia near the border of China and India.

Zea mays (Corn): First cultivated by Pre-Colombian Natives in Mexico, corn is now one of the most widely distributed agricultural plants in the world.

Solanum tuberosum (Potatoes): Potatoes are the 4th most important food crop in the world — originally farmed by the Inca Indians in the Andes Mountains in Peru. Over five centuries ago, potatoes were brought back to the old world where most civilized cultures initially felt that potatoes were morally wrong to eat since they had been the food of pagans in the New World. Eventually, following many campaigns by monarchs to encourage the eating of potatoes, it is now an essential part of the diet in many of the world’s cultures.

Gossypium sp. (Cotton): Most historians suggest that cotton originated in India. It has become a very important crop for textile industries.

Solanum lycopersicum (Tomato): First grown by the native Aztec people in Central America, the tomato was brought to Spain as early as 1493. At one point it was even considered a poison in England! The tomato did not make it to Asia until about 1825.

Cucumis sativus (Cucumber): Originally from Nepal, where it has been cultivated for about 3000 years, the cucumber spread to Europe through the Middle East. By the reign of Emperor Tiberius (42 BC-37 AD) the cucumber had become a staple food and was even grown in primitive greenhouses. Emperor Tiberius was known to eat these every day, summer and winter.

Apis mellifera (European Honeybee): Based on genetic research, all seven different species of honeybees are originally from South East Asia, more specifically from the Philippines. The honeybee only made it to the New World (North, Central, and South America) with the arrival of European colonists.

Bos premigenius (Cattle): The first evidence of domestic cattle are thought to be either in the area now known as Iraq or in Egypt. Cattle were domesticated from a wild animal called an Auroch.

Then use natives instead!

So what does this mean? Should we eschew the use of these plants and animals outside of their original habitats based on the evidence that they have displaced millions and millions of hectares of native species and surely been the cause of the extinction of many plants and animals? Well, some people might take the position of saying yes. Let’s take a look at what it would mean if we were only able to use native organisms for our daily needs. As an example I have used the nation (and surrounding connected ecosystems) of Kyrgyzstan, as this is where I live. Actually, Kyrgyzstan has enough native species to keep you pretty healthy, but in other locations you would have a much harder time just keeping your belly full.

Natives


Malus Sieversii is the ancestor of our domestic apple.
Image courtesy of Lukasz Szczurowski (creative commons)

Malus domestica (Apple): Apple trees are originally from Central Asia and we can still find the original species, Malus Sieversii, in Kyrgyzstan. Malus Sieversii is, however, quite endangered, with less than 1000 trees left in the wild in Kyrgyzstan.

Juglans sp. (Walnut): The town of Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan has the largest wild fruit and nut forest in the world, dominated by wild walnut trees. These nuts are generally smaller than domestic varieties and are usually considered to be more bitter.

Prunus cerasifera (Plum): Wild plums can be found in a few remote pockets in Kyrgyzstan, but the domesticated plum has nearly pushed this wild ancestor to extinction.

Prunus avium (Cherry): The wild cherry shares the same fate as the wild plum and is also at risk.

Mentha sp. (Mint): Wild Asian mint grows everywhere in the country but is not as useful as domesticated varieties of mint.

Allium cepa (Onion): There are many different species of wild onion in Kyrgyzstan, but few of them produce large enough tubers to make them viable for eating. In addition to that, most wild onion species in Kyrgyzstan grow in very specific elevation zones, which are often above 2000 meters.

Cannabis sp. (Hemp): Used in ancient China and the Central Asian region as a source for fibre to produce paper, clothing, and rope, it has also been used for thousands of years as a medicinal plant.

This list is by no means comprehensive, as there are many more native plants in Kyrgyzstan that are the ancestors to our modern day varieties. These wild ancestors are genetically important resources as they often exhibit tolerance to diseases, temperature fluctuations, limited water availability, and predators. However, the reason these wild varieties are not our “garden varieties” is because they generally do not taste as good.

The answer is control

So, are we planting invasive species? Most often the answer could be construed as yes. If left to its own devices, could wheat become an invasive species? Absolutely. Cattle? Definitely, and in many places cattle has become exactly that. Any organism has the potential to become an invasive species given the correct set of variables that allows it to have perfect growing conditions with no predators. But, this is where we come in. Do you water your garden? Pull up the weeds? Pick the fruits? Fence your animals? This is called control. Without control, many of the plants and animals we use could potentially become invasive. Control is what keeps this from happening. Of course you should be wise in what you plant. If a certain plant is already known to be quite invasive, even in its home habitat, it might be best to avoid using this species. The air potato comes to mind as an example.

Should our worries about causing ecological ruin on our planet stop us from planting new and exciting varieties of purple potatoes, or trying to see if the North American Pawpaw tree will grow in Europe, or maybe an American Persimmon in Kyrgyzstan? I should think not. If we impose limits on ourselves to despise all species that are non-native to our area, then in reality we need to backtrack and remove a lot of non-native plants from our agricultural playbook that we have become dependent on. To do this would be extremely unreasonable, if not impossible.

So next time you plant an apple tree on your farm, just remember, you aren’t in Kyrgyzstan anymore and technically this tree is a non-native with the potential to become invasive. But, as practitioners of Permaculture, we must be willing to pioneer new varieties of a plant, try new species that may have the potential to grow in a different continent, or bring in a new breed of animal that could be beneficial to our system. However, if you choose to do this, it is up to you to take responsibility for your actions. Be wise in what you plant or use. Do the research to see if there is the potential for things to get out of hand. But don’t forget that you’ve already been planting non-natives since day one!

Sources:

  1. https://www.issg.org/worst100_species.html
  2. https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2009/04/08/2538860.htm

Further Reading:

20 Comments

  1. A well thought out essay but here is an overlooked aspect though and one that is truly a threat. Moving plant material from one location to another can also transport viruses and pests. One need only look at Sharka or plum pox virus which appears to have been transported from its place of origin, Bulgaria, on infected propagation material – https://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/02-001.htm. Then there is emerald ash borer which is likely to make ash trees in North America extinct unless an effective control is found. It apparently arrived in North America on improperly treated wooden packing material from Asia. In its native habitat it does only minor damage to the native ash but outside it’s native habitat it decimates ash species. It has been found also in Moscow and there is concern for European ash species – https://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0033185.

    Moving North American Pawpaw, for example, outside its habitat may have unintended consequences way beyond one’s ability to research consequences. It may be a well behaved tree that coexists unaggressively, perhaps even beneficially, in its new European habitat. But what if it carries a virus or an insect that destroys an unrelated species, say European chestnut??? One need only look at the history of the American chestnut to see what an undetected passenger on plant material can do. A magnificent versatile tree was lost – https://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/forsite/paul/paul1.htm. When you lose a dominant species like American chestnut there is a trophic cascade effect. Whether it is good or bad is uncertain. What is certain is that it will be significant. We know what the benefits of re-introducing wolves into Yellowstone National Park have been. Unwinding those trophic cascade benefits by running the film backwards, so to speak, shows us the effect of losing a dominant species.

    So how does one safely move plant material outside its native habitat? The answer is not cheaply. It requires quarantining and testing which are beyond the resources of most of us.

    Seeing that we can never truly know Nature, perhaps we are better off leaving Nature alone or more specifically not moving her around. Perhaps we should ask the question: What would Fukuoka-sensei have done? Are we willing to assume a potentially huge risk for a relatively small gain? Perhaps we should be content with what we have and make the best use of it that we can.

  2. Ecosystem processes build in resilience and permaculture designs are built on the those processes and lead to an extension of human valued speciation, extending and increasing overall biodiversity at the same time.

    Agriculture and polluting industrial processes are not ecosystem processes and increase susceptibility to a trophic cascade effect that reduces overall total biodiversity.

    We need to make sure we are not confusing permaculture designed systems with agriculture and polluting industrial processes when making references to historic events. Permaculture is a new evolution of the global human thought process which leads to intentional action with ecosystem health and valuable productive biodiversity extension as a gauge of successful action. This cannot be referenced in history because it a new event in the positive evolution of humanity.
    Great article, thank you.

  3. The examples that I gave are without a doubt part of historical agriculture and polluting industrial processes. Nonetheless, we must still be very careful about what we are doing as permaculturalists. While ecosystems build in resilience, the unintended introduction of species while we are trying extend human valued speciation may have undesirable consequences. That is not to say that we should not do it but rather that we need to be aware that we could inadvertently and unintentionally repeat historical mistakes for all the right reasons of permaculture. We need to give thought to how we can move desirable species from one location to another without putting desirable species in the new location at risk. If anyone has ideas about how we might cheaply and effectively do this, I would love to hear them.

  4. Great article and you raise some important and difficult questions.

    Quote: ” Kyrgyzstan has the largest wild fruit and nut forest in the world, dominated by wild walnut trees.”

    The question that you need to ask yourself is whether your ancestors actually facilitated this forest. I would argue that they historically did create this forest environment through careful selection of species. This involves thinning less useful (to humans) species.

    There is a meme in our culture that says that forests are largely untouched by man and are somehow in some sort of natural and pure state. This is untrue.

    There is also another meme in our culture that we are smarter than our ancestors and thus assume that they couldn’t or wouldn’t have adjusted their natural environments to suit themselves. This is also untrue.

    There are rabbits in this area, but on the other hand there is also a large population of wedge tail eagles which happily sort out any problems with over population.

    Prickly pear actually has to be planted and fenced for it to be successfully grown at lower altitudes than here and it is usually grown on degraded soils. This indicates to me that it may indeed be a pioneering species. I’m aware that the fruit (which tastes like watermelon) is still eaten by some cultures here.

    Myna’s are also present near the township here. But, they are not present in the forested environment as I suspect they are prefer built up human environments and disturbed environments. This indicates to me that they suffer here in the forest from either a lack of habitat here or predation from other birds.

    These are complex issues and cannot be simplified down to invasive versus indigenous. I would suggest that anyone who has an ideological issue with invasives consider their own diet first. Even the Aboriginals used to move plant material all over the country and you can often see useful plants in all sorts of unusual locations.

  5. The are no weeds in a complete ecosystem because there are no empty niches for them to occupy. Therefor we need plant assemblies that are extremely dense with all niches occupied, this can be achieved by over stacking the support species. Thinning and mulching an over stacked system to gain extra production is much easier than trying to re-occupy niches already occupied with problem species.
    Do not plant trees, plant ecosystems.

  6. Hi Geoff,
    Quote: “Thinning and mulching an over stacked system to gain extra production is much easier than trying to re-occupy niches already occupied with problem species.”
    This statement exactly matches my experience here. Thanks.

  7. The author argues that we should not let “worries about causing ecological ruin on our planet stop us from planting new and exciting varieties” because if we had such concerns we would need “to backtrack and remove a lot of non-native plants from our agricultural playbook that we have become dependent on”.

    The majority of agricultural species on which the world has become dependent are not classed as highly invasive. Do you see potatoes or wheat growing out of control along the roadside or taking over native ecosystems? Of course not. Just because they are grown by humans on large areas across the world does not make them invasive.

    The author suggests that “[a]s practitioners of Permaculture, we must be willing to pioneer new varieties of a plant, try new species that may have the potential to grow in a different continent, or bring in a new breed of animal that could be beneficial to our system. However, if you choose to do this, it is up to you to take responsibility for your actions.”

    To suggest that the average permaculture practitioner has the ability to assess whether a species or variety is likely to become highly invasive, or to be able to implement the biosecurity measures necessary to prevent the spread of such species is simplistic. And watering the garden (?), pulling weeds, picking the fruit, or fencing animals do not constitute adequate precautions. Are you going to extend it to culling birds and other animals that might spread the seeds. Will you erect barriers that will stop the wind and water from doing the same? Will you ensure that when you are no longer there to exercise “control” that someone else will be there to do it?

    And no amount of “taking responsibility” for having released a highly invasive species into the environment is somehow going to undo the ongoing environmental harm or offset the public expense of implementing control measures.

    Being permaculture practitioners does not put us on any kind of moral high ground such that we are absolved from following scientifically based guidelines and classifications in relation to invasive species.

    By the way “extant” means “still existing”, not “extinct in a certain region”. And it’s not true to say that
    “Any organism has the potential to become an invasive species given the correct set of variables that allows it to have perfect growing conditions with no predators.” There are other ecological conditions that need to be met.

    Geoff Lawton’s warning that “We need to make sure we are not confusing permaculture designed systems with agriculture …” confuses me. Permaculture = “permanent agriculture”, wasn’t that what Bill Mollison said? Permaculture is agriculture. It may not be broad-scale agricultural agriculture, but we are growing crops and raising animals for food, and much of what we do is borrowed from the near-village agriculture of traditional societies’ food forests.

    I’m also having trouble how Geoff’s linking of “trophic cascade” (changes throughout the food web when there is disruption to predator populations) to agriculture and industrial pollution fits into the discussion.

    I also have to take issue with Geoff when he says “The are no weeds in a complete ecosystem because there are no empty niches for them to occupy. ” A new species can establish in a “complete ecosystem” (not a term I’ve ever encountered in ecology) if it can out-compete an existing species.

    Is it time for a movement toward more science-based permaculture, or at least for establishing stronger links with relevant fields of science.

    1. Hi Gordon,

      Quote: “Being permaculture practitioners does not put us on any kind of moral high ground such that we are absolved from following scientifically based guidelines and classifications in relation to invasive species.”

      Are you serious? Your statement does not fit the facts on the ground. Are you not aware that GM plants are spreading into surrounding fields and the environment? Is this somehow a good use of science? Why would “science” somehow have the high moral ground? This is clearly not the case.

      Most people consume a diet comprised of introduced plants. If you yourself consume a diet of indigenous and local plants then I commend you, other than that, your comment comes across as hypocrisy.

      Regards

      Chris

  8. DeepGreenGreenie: Thanks for your thoughtful responses. Emerald Ash Borer and Chestnut blight among other things are great examples of unintended consequences to our new model of globalisation. And you are right, the process of obtaining “clean” propagation material is a major obstacle. However, every time you buy potatoes for planting you run the risk of spreading disease into your soil, when you buy seeds from a private seller you have the same issue at hand, buying chickens from a newspaper classified? still stuck in the same situation. So it seems that unless you send everything through a sterilization chamber before it reaches your farm, and then back through the sterilizer on its way out, then keeping disease or hitchhiking invasives at bay is an impossible task.

    Geoff: Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Great to hear you enjoyed it.

    Chris: The Walnut forests here are quite unintentional. The location where they are is actually occupied by Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan. There is a road going in, and no road going out. Up until a few generations ago, the forest was nearly unmanaged albeit for gathering walnuts, wild apples, and mulberries. The forests are now being exploited to a level that is not sustainable and local experts have told the community that uses the forest (generally for firewood) that the forest will eventually die because as the people allow their animals to graze there, no new trees are able to reach adulthood. Its like watching a community of pensioners slowly disappear…Also, if the forest had been managed in the way you suggest, then I am stumped as to why the walnuts there are the most bitter of any I have tasted or why the apples are tiny and unsweet. I would assume that by choosing the best, that would have been avoided.

    Gordon: At no point did I say that crops such as potatoes or wheat WERE invasive species. I said that there has always been the potential that they could be (or could have been). But you are right about the average Permaculturist. Most of us don’t fully understand the long reaching consequences of our actions on the Ecosystem outside of our little paradise. Hopefully this article will be able to enlighten at least a few people to think twice about their designs though. ignorance is bliss, but ignorance can still cause problems. At least if more people realise what they are about to set in motion, then they won’t be quite so ignorant. Also, thank you for correcting me on the usage of the word “extant” I should have rather used the word “extirpated”. Apologies.

    For everyone reading this article: Hopefully you noticed that I tried very hard to be bipartisan about this difficult topic. This article was meant as a thought provoker, to get people to think more about what an invasive species could be, what it is, and what it isn’t.

    Thanks for reading the article and I would be more than happy to have some more friendly discourse on this subject with you all!

  9. The majority of agricultural species on which the world has become dependent may not classed as highly invasive but they’ve done many multiples the environmental damage of the so-called invasives. Moving plant species beneficial to man into new habitats is a risk but one worth taking if they can be incorporated into new regenerative life sustaining ecosystems. The alternative to not taking the risk is more of what we currently have to the point that we will have less of what we currently have as current systems collapse. We will make mistakes but not on the scale of current corporate agriculture.

  10. If the claim made in the book 1434 is correct and I for one can see little reason to doubt it the Chinese took many plants and animals from their lands to others.
    Before them the Romans did exactly the same and if the age of the Bosnian pyramid is correct is correct it is likely humanity has been moving species of flora and fauna around the globe for a long time.

    Despite this nature somehow manages to cope. Truth be known if humanity has been doing this for tens of thousands of years it will be impossible to work out what arrived where naturally.

  11. Gordon, in response to your comments, if a plant dominates vast tracts of land on its own or through human intervention, i.e. agriculture, is there a difference ecologically when the net effect is the same? Abstract human conventions, like a constructing plant systems with a predominance of annual plants in planet where all terrestrial ecosystems are comprised predominately of perennial plants is an ecological anomaly, so these plants are invading large areas of land as human assisted monocultures.

    Geoff is right, a ‘complete ecosystem’ is not easily ‘invaded’ by a new species very easily if all ecological niches are filled. A concept I’ve come across many times reading on the subject of ecology. A complete ecosystem is not meant to be a scientific concept, it’s very obviously a description of a whole ecosystem, one devoid of human disruption.

    Also consider that the idea of ‘invasive’ is a human concept, and has no basis other than as a value judgement in anthropocentric human mental constructs. Nature cannot invade itself any more than your fingernails can invade your hands. Species move around, and where disruption to ecosystems occurs, pioneer species can take hold and thrive. If there was ever an issue with ‘invasive plants’ outside of the human mind, Nature would have choked itself out with ‘weeds’, whatever that non-scientific term means, a very long time ago considering that plants have been on the planet for over 400 million years, and there wasn’t a single human with a can of glyphosate all that time!

    We just see plants as invasive because we only look at a small segment of the time scale in relation to our own short lives and forget that Nature balances itself slowly over time. We’re imposing our own impatience on the slow processes of Nature that maintain equilibrium. Ever wondered how Nature coped all that time before humans crawled out of wherever they came from just over 200,000 years ago, and considering they just hunted and foraged forests until 10,000 years ago when agriculture was invented. No, Nature does not invade itself, that’s an anthropomorphic concept that reflects agriculture’s relation to Nature, that of a WAR AGAINST NATURE. It’s quite arrogant and reeks of intellectual pride and vanity that our species should arrive so late on the planet and then boldly assume that we have some privileged perspective of the state of Nature and how ‘it should be’, that we know Nature better than Nature knows herself, and deem certain natural phenomena as ‘invasions’. The supposed discipline of invasion biology is being ridiculed by ecologists, and rightly so.

    In respect to permaculture vs agriculture, the latter part of the name simply refers to the act of growing food, that’s where the similarity ends. To put it into perspective, permaculture is similar to what our ancestors practised in the transition from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural one, where forests ecosystems were cultivated with edible plants. Permaculture is a modern applied science based on the principles of ecology and biology, so it is supported by sound science, whereas modern agriculture is a commercial system based on abstract human concepts of how plants should grow according to human whim.

    incidentally, in many cultures prickly pear is actually a desirable food plant, and rabbits are seen as decent meat, so what one person sees as ‘invasive species’ with no natural controls, to be destroyed, another culture sees as a free abundant food source, which they ‘control’ by eating! It’s all a matter of perspective – think of the permaculture design principle of “Attitudinal Principles” – and if that doesn’t ring a bell I recommend re-reading Bill Mollison’s books!

  12. A great deal of intellectual energy can be invested looking at the subject in a historical context. It’s useful to a point but it doesn’t deal specifically with the subject of building regenerative human sustaining ecosystems that minimally disturb Nature. There is nothing inherently good about not disturbing Nature (although there are many who would argue that dogmatically) but disturbing Nature ultimately puts our own survival at risk since we are part of and not above Nature.

    In fact, looking at history and saying that Nature moves species or that man has moved species from the moment he changed from being a hunter/gatherer to a farmer is a dangerous rationale for not being extremely careful about what we do today.

    The purchasing of chickens and potatoes from an unknown source may be a problem but it is not likely to be on the scale of the eastern North American chestnut blight which predates the current form of globalization. The potato blight in Ireland in the mid 1840s is a good example of the unintended consequences of moving plants globally. It appears that the blight was introduced into Ireland from the Americas. Yes, potatoes in Ireland were a monoculture but chestnuts were not although they were part of a European made ecosystem.

    While a complete ecosystem cannot easily be invaded by other plants, I’m not sure that applies to insects and viruses. Strong ecosystems including the soil may be resistant but we don’t know that for sure. The pre-1492 inhabitants of strong ecosystems of North American were not resistant to smallpox.

    Asimina triloba may not be a problem but what will be its affect on other members of the Annonaceae family? If any on these plants are key parts of a local human sustaining ecosystem, is it a good idea to introduce the Asimina triloba into the same geographical area? It may carry a virus that doesn’t bother it much, if at all, but that is lethal to a local relative.

    What I’m saying is that we have to do a great deal of thinking about what we are moving from one global location to another. Are plants probably more risky than seeds? Probably. Can seeds be made “safe”? Maybe.

  13. If you want to see an invasive species, look in the mirror.
    ” ask yourself, have these_____ out-competed the native species? Do they grow in areas that were once inhabited by different organisms? Does this make them “invasive”?

  14. Great comment Andy, humorous but true!

    Your comment reminds me of a line by Agent Smith in the film ‘The Matrix’ where he says: “I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops an equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet; you are a plague…”

    It may be a movie quote, but the underlying truth is confronting, and humans here are classified as something far worse then ‘weeds’!

    Maybe people should really look at themselves before they judge the natural behaviour of other species – it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black here, the difference is that the behaviour of the human species is conscious, wilful and by choice! Perhaps some deep self-reflection by humanity is in order here, but perhaps most of humanity isn’t psychologically evolved enough to engage in self-reflection, to see how much more of a problem they are compared to other species, and that itself may be the actual problem!

  15. Maybe people should really look at themselves before they judge the natural behaviour of other species

    Genesis 1:28 has that covered for us, or at least, for about 1/3 of us.

  16. In Genesis 1:28 I highly doubt that the advice to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” was actually suggesting that humanity should breed uncontrollably to ecologically unsustainable levels that would lead to a complete collapse!

    I get the feeling that the word ‘replenish’ which is more properly translated from Hebrew to ‘fill’ actually implied populating the planet – not overpopulating it! There is a subtle but significant difference there!

  17. I was thinking about the 2nd bit about subduing and ruling over. Whether we take our cue from these words doesn’t matter but we certainly see ourselves as above Nature or at least we behave that way. That being the case, that we judge other species is not surprising.

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