Nineteen ecologists argue in an article in the recent issue of Nature that too many in the field of “invasion biology” have an unjustified bias against non-native speices. The group of nineteen contends that this bias against non-native species is based in ideology rather than science. Science Daily has a good summary of the piece.
My question regarding the Nature article is this: Why is bias against non-native species bad? One concrete example on everyone’s minds here in Minnesota involves the native ash tree. We have
Emerald Ash Borer
more ash trees here than anywhere else in the country – nearly one billion. The emerald ash borer, an invasive species, threatens them. I was just walking down a street lined with ash trees a couple days ago when the temperature topped 100 F. I want those ash trees to live. The effects on ecosystems will be devastating. University of Minnesota forest ecologist Lee Frelich in an article in Minnesota Conservation Volunteer cites the impending loss of the hundreds of millions of black ash trees that line wetlands in our northern forests. According to Frelich, if the beetles destroy those trees, habitat for wildflowers, butterflies, songbirds, herons, owls, woodpeckers, moose will be changed forever.
Now our state and others are spending millions of dollars to prevent the spread of the ash borer. Three points: First, wouldn’t it have been wonderful if an even stronger bias had prevented the ash borer from ever coming to this continent in the first place? Second, now that it is here, doesn’t it make sense to spend the money to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the ash borer? Third, the debate in this state has rarely been ideological. In fact, I have not heard criticism from those in the invasion biology field or the general public of Minnesota’s decision to introduce – after thorough scientific testing – another non-native species, the stingless wasp, to combat the spread of the emerald ash borer.