Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Invasive Species (Kudzu) Meets Fox News

The complicated issues surrounding invasive species comprise a wicked inconvenience. From my posting on February 18th, 2007: “8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.” As we struggle to fend off the encroachment of monocultures, and protect the diveristy of our eco-systems, an inconvenient truth lurks in the from of an co-equally infinite wicked problem: Climate Change.

The lack of funding and support for research in invasive species and climate change in analogous to the general decline in infrastructure both physical and intellectual. I have written about the plight of the scientific work underway at the National Agricultural Research Center (BARC) [Thursday, April 12, 2007; BARC: Funding for Research Continues to Fall] to little or no avail. Sometimes it seems that by the time we shall realize the enormity of the problem; that is, when we find our grain crops no longer produce the yield they once did, or that our native ecology is no longer self sustaining, and our native flora no longer lives where we have come to expect it, we will wonder why we did not fund research into new varieties and strains of food crops, alternative energy sources, and environmental stability.

Sometimes, we can combine two seemingly disparate streams of work to at least provide another tool in our arsenal against invasives and for energy needs, if we would only take the time to compel our political leaders to fund the work before the crisis overwhelms us. Quoting from Dr. Lewis Ziska, USDA BARC,

“Although carbon dioxide (CO2) is the principle greenhouse gas, it also represents the sole source of carbon for plants, and hence for almost all terrestrial life. Because current levels of atmospheric CO2 are less than optimal for plant growth, recent and projected increases in this gas are expected to stimulate the growth of a number of plant species. Although this aspect of climate change can be viewed as beneficial, the rise in carbon dioxide is indiscriminate in stimulating the growth of both wanted and unwanted plants. Because international trade has increased the biotic mixing of flora across many parts of the globe, unwanted plant species are becoming widely established. The severity of damage induced by these species and their panoptic scale has produced a new class of unwanted plants: invasive, noxious weeds. To determine whether rising carbon dioxide has been a factor in the establishment and success of such plants, we have compared the potential response to recent and projected changes in carbon dioxide between invasive, noxious species and other plant groups, and assessed whether CO2 preferentially selects for such species within ecosystems. A synthesis of literature results indicates that invasive, noxious weeds on the whole have a larger than expected growth increase to both recent and projected increases in atmospheric CO2 relative to other plant species. There is also evidence from a majority of studies, than rising CO2 can, in fact, preferentially select for invasive, noxious species within plant communities. Furthermore, there is initial data suggesting that control of such weeds may be more difficult in the future. However, the small numbers of available experiments makes such conclusions problematic, and emphasize the urgent need for additional studies to address the biological and economic uncertainties associated with CO2-induced changes in the ecology of invasive, noxious weeds.”

Trying to get one million dollars seems to be shouting in the wind, but I was able to coax a local Fox Network affiliate to broadcast the following: http://www.myfoxdc.com/myfox/MyFox/pages/sidebar_video.jsp?contentId=3984577&version=1&locale=EN-US .

I could use your help in getting the word out in any way you think appropriate.

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