A drawback to the attention garnered by high-profile invasive species is the tendency to infer that every non-native species is bad news, the inverse assumption being that all native species must be ‘good’. While this storyline works well for Hollywood films and faerie tales, in ecology the truth is rarely that simple. A new review article in the September issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, describes the challenges and heartbreaks when native species run amok in the sense of having negative ecological impacts we typically associate with non-native species.
These “native invaders” usually rear their ugly heads in response to some kind of human-mediated environmental change. The public message of “Yes, they are native, but aren’t doing any good here and in these numbers” is complex to convey, and may (i.e., will) become garbled after passing through a few media outlets. And yet, our practice of categorising ‘native = good’ and ‘non-native = bad’, as opposed to
understanding and managing ecological impacts, means we might (literally) be missing the sagebrush forest for the juniper trees.
Appreciating the importance of societal values, and anticipating that they may not always be aligned with conservation needs, will go a long way to developing a more comprehensive view and better management approaches for native invaders.
- River Thames invaded with foreign species (terradaily.com)
- United Kingdom: Invasive Species In The River Thames Are Major Drivers Of Biodiversity Loss (redorbit.com)
- Invasive Species Showdown in New Zealand (ecology.com)
- 11 Invasive Species Wreaking Havoc Around the World (mentalfloss.com)