Invasive Species: No Big Deal?

As a contrarian by nature, and restorationist by vocation, my eye was caught by this article in Scientific American. It reports the heretical claim (in ecological circles at least) of a Harvard trained plant biologist, Dr. Mark Davis, who contends that invasive species may not be the problem they are often depicted to be.

This hits close to home. Restoration Systems spends a good deal of time and money removing invasive plants; Kudzu, Privet, Multiflora rose, Canada Thistle, etc, on our properties and managed easements.  Controlling invasives is (excuse the pun) a perennial subject in the mitigation field, and of deep concern to regulatory authorities and environmental interests who are worried a mitigation site might entertain a plant from beyond, and thus be cheapened and undermined in its value as wetland or stream mitigation.

I generally have not questioned our eradication efforts, since it seems to make common sense for someone restoring an ecosystem to remove the plants that historically do not occur there.  And, just as importantly, doing so is required by regulatory agencies on all our properties if the site is to be debited as mitigation. So, unlike our competitors — or the state Ecosystem Enhancement Program for that matter — RS employs persistent and continuous in-house species monitoring, control and eradication at each of out sites.  This sweaty, tedious and somewhat dangerous work is performed by RS professionals Dave Schiller, Bryan Robbins and Johnathan Anders.  Dave and Bryan are state licensed applicators of the hazardous chemicals required.

Dr. Davis seems to think this all may be largely a waste of time.  Read the article, and perhaps his papers, and lets me know what you think.  Is controlling non-naturally occurring plant species a wise use of time and dollars in the field of mitigation and ecosystem services?  I hope to hear from someone.

6 replies
  1. Randy Turner
    Randy Turner says:

    Davis espouses a controversial point of view. His claim that invasives are not likely to gain a foothold in their adopted ecosystems is laughable when applied to the southeastern U.S. among other places (i.e., Australia and Hawaii).

    Try to convince a botanist/ecologist/naturalist in the S.E. that Chinese privet, Japanese honeysuckle, kudzu and Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium) have not established a foothold in the southeastern ecoregion.

    While I obviously have major problems with Davis’ generalizations, I am of the opinion that eradication efforts are doomed for failure and unnecessarily introduce some persistent organic pesticides to the environment. Anyone who thinks they can eradicate privet, kudzu or even Phragmites is dreaming. These species can be controlled within very local geographic areas, but will always re-occupy the same habitats when control measures are discontinued. Financial resources should be used in other ways.

  2. Brassgrill
    Brassgrill says:

    Randall could not be more wrong in opining that ‘eradication efforts are doomed to failure”.

    Ha! What a bunch of defeatist non-sense! Come and see the dead wysteria in my backyard, not to mention the non-exsistant kudzu behind Piper’s Automotive all thanks to The Davinator and his spray rig.

    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

  3. Swamp Merchant
    Swamp Merchant says:

    I just carefully read your well worded comments, RT. Very, very interesting. You kinda agree with Mark Davis, don’t ya? Unexpected for me to some extent. It is one of those subjects, invasives. Squirrely.

    John Preyer, btw, has no idea what he is talking about. He manages his land in Chapel Hill like a theatrical background\chemical sink. Sad, really.

  4. Brassgrill
    Brassgrill says:

    Even more sad is the inane opining of the above who would not know the correct end of the spray nozzle, much less its effectivesness, if it hit him in the head.

  5. Davinator
    Davinator says:

    Mark Davis is a defeatist. Give up? Never. Maybe he’d like to throw in the towel on eradication or control of a few other invasives like Ebola, yellow fever, and HIV viruses, the malaria protozoa, and a long list of other unwanted critters. And I bet his lawn is free of crabgrass and dandelions.

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