Saturday, September 29, 2007

Invasive Species Conundrum: A Wicked Inconvenience

“Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent (deeply involved, thus strongly motivated) and well informed just to be undecided about them.”-- Laurence J. Peter The wicked inconvenience of invasive species reaches its tendrils into equally complex issues such as global climate change. Some plants out compete resident species taking advantage of increases in CO2. My conversations with Dr. Lewis Ziska, USDA BARC, on invasiveness and climate change add to the list of information necessary to making an informed decision about invasive species. Invasive plants would seem to have at least one characteristic, defined as those species, which take advantage of increases in CO2, and, therefore, out perform other species.

A nasty by-product of this idea is that, perhaps, our attempts to forestall and reverse invasive species incursion damage to natural areas is most likely akin to sticking our finger into a levee which has already been breached. If native species are stressed by temperature change and at the same time do not process the increase in CO2 as efficiently as the exotic or alien, or native species; then the native-only solution is doomed. A secondary result will arise in that some natives will be able to take advantage of the increase in CO2 and begin to upset the natural current balance of the eco-system at hand. In theory, here on the east coast we could see native poison ivy begin to out compete and upset the balance in natural areas, and to add to the confusion or complications, begin to increase in its toxicity.
The researchers of The National Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville continue there work which helps us manage our world. From invasive species projects with kudzu to examinations of increased CO2 on the biota of our world, they continue there needed research From an article in (c) 2007 Cox Newspapers, Inc. - The Daily Reflector
Record Number: 2273923 , June 28th, 2007

“Not only did the elevated carbon dioxide boost poison ivy growth, but it also increased the most toxic form of urushiol, the plant chemical that causes the rash in humans, Mohan and her colleagues found.Meanwhile, scientists and naturalists already have seen an increase in vines throughout much of the world over the two decades, though so far there is no comprehensive documentation of that increase. Still, the anecdotal evidence suggests that increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have boosted growth of poison ivy and other vines.That suggestion is supported by another study led by Lewis H. Ziska at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, in which poison ivy was grown in a laboratory in Maryland in conditions simulating carbon dioxide levels of 50 years ago and those of today. Poison ivy in present-day conditions grew about 50 percent faster than plants grown in the atmospheric conditions of a half-century ago."Poison ivy loves CO2," Ziska said. Because deer are attracted to poison ivy, Ziska also looked at what happens when leaves were stripped from the plant. He found that they grow back faster when higher levels of CO2 are present.The new studies have significant implications for forests as well as people. Vines such as poison ivy can do extensive damage to forest trees, potentially altering the composition of forests in the long term.”

Thus, we fall into one possible path of action which states that introductions of successful plants are a necessary reaction and a needed component of our current environmental confusions and challenges; we need to encourage diversity by replacing those plants which cannot adapt with those showing adaptive promise. This is the “there is no bad plant” school of thought. It is off-set by the “do not let anything new into the system” school of thinking which operates on the idea that if we can just restrict “new” introductions and remove “old” introductions, we shall all be able to return to the golden age of a distant imagined era of benign self sustaining eco-systems. I some times refer to the former school as the “Manifest Destiny” and the latter as the “Return to ‘Leave it to Beaver”, a highly prized time of wonder and innocence.

Both lines of reasoning ignore a fundamental principle of a wicked problem as both try to force a linear solution plan on a complex system in an effort to simply the problem. I suspect that an underlying reason is that dealing with the complexities directly tend to leave many people paralyzed with the challenge of uncertainty. Better to do something than to sit and think doing nothing. But a collateral problem of the do something from either point of view is that neither side wants to work for a center, consensus series of unending ever changing solutions. We divide into two opposing camps; one wants to plant everything, one wants to restore everything. Neither is addressing the other’s linear solution.

Invasive Species – A Wicked Inconvenience
Invasive Species; Wicked Inconvenience: part two
Weeds: Defining Inconvenience, Wickedly
Invasive species: more inconveniences of a wicked nature
Inconvenient question: Invasive species

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