Saturday, March 24, 2007

Invasive complexities

The issues of invasive species are connected on multiple levels with the challenge of landscape ecology. The complexities are hierarchal encompassing most of the major disciplines of science. And, to add to the intricacies, both hard science and the social sciences are joined in the discussion of environmental management and preservation. The heterogeneous nature of a functioning eco-system is a weaving of many scales of time and place, as well as a binding of differing grades of diversity density. The organization of the complexities at each of the multiple levels provides for rich productivity whose end result is self sustainability.

The impact of invasive species is readily grasped when the impact is close at hand in a non species-rich environment such as an urban landscape. The lack of species differentiation and diversification highlights the immediate destruction. Further, since at this immediate level, temporal displacements happen on a human scale, damage is magnified, and consternation follows quickly. General agreement on the impact and need for near term solutions are proffered, which in turn may produice unintended consequences.

As an example, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, the red palm weevil, is living its way through southern Spain. The potential perceived loss of economic and aesthetic value to urban property propels the weevil to the front page of the Wall Street Journal, (March 24/25, 2007), and warrants a on line video. The insect becomes an obvious poster child for invader of the month.

Changes in speciation at the microbial level in a “natural” or reasonably undisturbed area, which may bring change over a greater time horizon, are more difficult to market. If the invasion is symbiotic or casual, the complexities rise quickly, perhaps even as the temporal horizon scale grows larger providing a difficult matrix for social policy decisions. A complex self-sustaining system which is, itself, depended on co-evolving complex systems, such as, in the case of invasive species, the question of global warming, begins to leave the sphere of co-equal, specific, scientific investigation. By this I mean, that as the system is complex and interwoven, so the scientific investigations must be inter, intra and trans disciplinary, mirroring the system itself.

No comments: