Friendly Invaders

Carl Zimmer in The New York Times:

Invaders New Zealand is home to 2,065 native plants found nowhere else on Earth. They range from magnificent towering kauri trees to tiny flowers that form tightly packed mounds called vegetable sheep. When Europeans began arriving in New Zealand, they brought with them alien plants — crops, garden plants and stowaway weeds. Today, 22,000 non-native plants grow in New Zealand. Most of them can survive only with the loving care of gardeners and farmers. But 2,069 have become naturalized: they have spread out across the islands on their own. There are more naturalized invasive plant species in New Zealand than native species.

It sounds like the makings of an ecological disaster: an epidemic of invasive species that wipes out the delicate native species in its path. But in a paper published in August in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dov Sax, an ecologist at Brown University, and Steven D. Gaines, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, point out that the invasion has not led to a mass extinction of native plants. The number of documented extinctions of native New Zealand plant species is a grand total of three. Exotic species receive lots of attention and create lots of worry. Some scientists consider biological invasions among the top two or three forces driving species into extinction. But Dr. Sax, Dr. Gaines and several other researchers argue that attitudes about exotic species are too simplistic. While some invasions are indeed devastating, they often do not set off extinctions. They can even spur the evolution of new diversity.

More here.

Like what you're reading? Don't keep it to yourself!
Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Share on Reddit
Reddit
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin
Email this to someone
email