Monday, March 6, 2017

Another point of view

Last week, I wrote a blog post about the dangers of invasive species and listed several species of plants that may be available at your local garden center but that you should steer clear of, never adding them to your own garden. Conventional wisdom among gardeners for a few years now has been that we should use native plants in our gardens and that we should be attempting to restore our ecosystems to their pristine state that existed before human interference. This is the view still held by most gardeners that I know.

But there is another point of view, one that holds that introduced species are not necessarily so bad and that sometimes the introduction of exotic species can actually benefit natives. That view is expounded in a book that was published in 2011 called Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World. The author, Emma Marris, argues that we live in a "post-wild" world where global warming and the ecological disturbance, as the world adapts to human domination, has created a situation that has turned the whole planet into a novel ecosystem. In this circumstance, she says, the exotic species of the world are moving, evolving, and forming new ecological relationships. Thus, the despised invaders of today may be the keystone species of tomorrow's ecosystems.

It's an intriguing theory, one that I need to know more about. I have not read the book. I read about it today in one of the blogs that I follow, "Garden Rant." If you are interested in gardening, you might want to follow it, too. The team of bloggers that write there always have something interesting to say.

I'm not planning to change my gardening practices tomorrow. I still intend to use native plants in my landscape, but there is food for thought here, and as Thomas Christopher, the writer of today's Garden Rant, says, "To be the best gardeners we can be we need to challenge our assumptions from time to time."

What is true in gardening is also true in life.

8 comments:

  1. It's an interesting theory - and I think there may be something to it. Maybe it's because of my long-standing love of science fiction, and the speculation from time to time of what would happen if alien plant species took hold on our Earth. Would it be a bad thing? Sometimes we do have to look at long standing beliefs - just becuase it's generally accepted doesn't mean something is right. Things change.

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    1. For example, there has been a 180 degree change from the attitude toward introducing exotic species into areas where they previously did not exist. Doing so was all the rage in the late 19th century, when species like the House Sparrow and European Starling were introduced to North America, with devastating consequences for many of our native birds. Today, we have these examples and many others to show us what the consequences can be, so we tend to be more adamant about not deliberately introducing potentially harmful species. Perhaps there is a happy medium at some point along the spectrum, but I'm not sure we are smart enough to recognize it!

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  2. Maybe invasive species don't harm all ecosystems. (?)

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    1. That's certainly the view of the author of the book, and I would agree that there are some species that have been highly invasive but have caused no damage that I am aware of. I'm thinking of things like crape myrtle and the old tawny orange daylilies that have completely naturalized across the southern United States. And there is the Eurasian Collared-dove that has now colonized most of the country. It's a beautiful bird and, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't displaced any native birds. So, one must admit that there is a basis for her argument. The problem is knowing which species will be benign or even beneficial and which will devastate the ecosystem.

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  3. I have mixed feelings about all of this. We need Darwin to come back and study it for us. Sometimes I think the world will survive only for those species who can adapt to change. Unfortunately I probably won't be around to see what happens.

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    1. Adaptability is certainly one of the qualities that determines a species' survivability. We need look no further than the bird world and compare the omnivorous and highly adaptable Blue Jay to the Golden-cheeked Warbler that requires a very specific niche for survival. One thrives while the other is endangered and seems to hover always on the brink of extinction.

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  4. This is certainly an intriguing subject. The earth's climate has undergone changes from ice ages to global warming over millions of years, with plant and animal species becoming extinct because of it. It is a natural process and new species are developing all the time. There are mixed reviews as far as introducing new species. Some introduced species have been very beneficial in controlling harmful insects for instance, while other species, such as loosestrife have threatened wetlands by crowding out species native to the area. The author of the book does make a good point that not all introduced species become a danger.

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    1. The problem is and has always been the law of unintended consequences. Exotic species may be introduced with the best of intentions, but too often in our history they have then become thugs and overrun an area pushing out native species, a consequence unforeseen by their champions. Caution is always called for when fiddling with Nature.

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