Saturday, September 26, 2009

Invasive species issues & the danger of being controlled by dogmatic ecological paradigms

Invasive species issues are wickedly inconvenient. Martha Proctor, a UC Master Gardener, writes that “[n]on-native invasive species crowd out native species by abundant seed production, rapid growth, efficient use of resources and better access to moisture during the dry summers. Invasives outcompete natives, displacing the native habitats of fish, insects, birds, plants, butterflies and other wildlife.” (Copyright © 2008 - Marin Independent Journal Posted: 09/25/2009) The rapid introduction into an ecosystem and establishment of invasive species therein create a raging uncontrollable biological wildfire.

The impacts of invasive species on an ecosystem are measured by the changes in ecological interactions. Thinking of ecological interactions in terms of competition, predation, parasitism, mutualism, commensalism and symbiosis helps to demonstrate the possible negative impacts of non native or exotic species of ecosystem services. Competition – two species share a requirement for a limited resource reduces fitness of one or both species; predation – one species feeds on another enhancing the fitness of a predator but reducing the fitness of prey; parasitism – one species feeds on another enhancing fitness of parasite but reducing fitness of host; mutualism – two species provide resources or services to each other enhancing fitness of both species; commensalism – one species receives a benefit from another species enhancing fitness of one species with no effect on the fitness of the other species; symbiosis – two species live together can include parasitism, mutualism, and commensalism.[1] The disruption of any of these creates cascade of change in the effects of multiple interactions throughout the system. If the effects are large enough, the original system is stressed and its traditional expected resource services reduced and perhaps even eliminated. So, if one wants to play baseball with a traditional wooden bat, native ash trees are selected and shaped for the native sport. The introduction and reproduction of the emerald ash borer dynamically limits access to the resource by killing the ash trees that are needed to make baseball bats.

However, the wicked inconvenience of invasive species is not the introduction of exotic aliens to ecosystems, but rather the danger of being controlled by dogmatic ecological paradigms based upon dichotomous assumptions superimposed upon the systems of nature that do not have goals and expectations per se. Writing in his new book, a courtesy copy of which was send to me without charge, “Invasion Biology”, Mark Davis notes the tendency of ecological professionals to categorize invasive species issues in a series of yes or no, in or out, with us or against us matrices or frameworks for discussion. The result is that we think in terms of “…two types of species: native vs non native, native vs exotic, indigenous vs non-indigenous, invasive vs non invasive.”[2] The human artifice of a dualistic interpretation leads us down the path of unexpected and unintended consequences or as I now call it on Twitter (@InvasiveNotes) – Collision of Desires. We are propelled towards a management course that suspects the intentions of novel ecosystems even though that means placing a human qualitative measurement upon the system. Thus we are predisposed at a high policy making level to think that every introduced species is intrinsically bad or evil. But the status of being non native is a “…position in evolutionary history [that] does not quality as an ecological category with distinct and consistent properties.”[3] And further, we are compelled unwittingly to consider every altered system to be dysfunctional and in need of mitigation in order to return it to a past state.

Ecosystems are not static and when new species are introduced a new, novel system is created. Some of the interactions, relationships or functions of the novel system will provide desired resources as well as numerous negative impacts. For example, tamarisk, has become a poster child for a new species introduction whose removal may now negatively impact a desired species, southwestern willow flycatcher. (Agriculture Department Forced to Re-examine Tamarisk Leaf-eating Beetle Program That Hurts Endangered Songbird) It is important to bear in mind that the introduction of tamarisk was for its ability to provide ecosystem resources and services such as “…ornamental values (e.g., T. chinensis and T. ramosissima), others for planting in wind breaks (e.g., T. aphylla) or to stabilize eroding stream banks. (Neill, 1985)” [4]

Conservation and preservation are tinged by dualistic thinking with a patina of nationalistic nostalgia for, what I call, a desire to return to a “Leave it to Beaver” time and place, a Golden Age of and for a select few. The nostalgia on the part of a few stakeholders causes among other things the reaction and rise of the environmental justice movement. The wicked inconvenience arises because there is no easily accessed set of right or wrong choices when it comes to invasive species. The German Shakespeare, JW von Goethe, said that there is “… no past that we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternally new now that builds and creates itself.” On the other hand, doing nothing, either from paralysis of analysis or waiting until there is nothing to be done is an invitation to extinction. If the world’s farmers took a position of hopelessness in the face of nature we would all starve.

With invasive species issues, looking for final, absolute solutions results in a chronic series of hapless unintended consequences. The choices should be based on adaptation to change with the knowledge that we need and are partners with our ecosystems; and as a gardeners in the landscapes we must work daily to ameliorate impacts while allowing resources to be used and encourage systems that are self sustaining with minimal hyper-extra-eco-system input from humanity.

[1] (
[2] Mark A. Davis. Invasion Biology. Oxford University Press. 2009. p.163 (
[3] Mark A. Davis. Invasion Biology. Oxford University Press. 2009. p.164 (
[4] Roland C. de Gouvenain. Origin, History and Current Range
of Saltcedar in the U.S. Saltcedar Management Workshop, June 12, 1996.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sea berry: To invade or not to invade - an invasive species question

A recent spate of news articles is introducing a new miracle ornamental plant, sea berry, Hippophae rhamnoides L, for desert and dry ecosystem landscapes. The plant is not new to horticulture or agriculture and has been researched for its production value in Russia and China as well as Canada and the United States since the 1940’s. A Nevada Cooperative Extension facty sheet notes that “[s]eaberry or sea buckthorn is called “Siberian pineapple” in Russia, because of the juice that is produced from the berries. It has been produced for centuries in Europe and Asia as a food and medicine source. The first commercial factory processing seaberry was established in Russia in 1940. Since then China has become a leading producer with over two million acres in production, with about 200 processing factories producing more than 200 products. Canada, Germany, Japan, and several northern European countries are working with seaberries as a potential crop.”[1]

As land use demands and population expectations change, horticulture tries to address the demands through research and study that is aimed at traditional gardening needs and wants. The landscape and nursery trade continues to find plants that use less water and therefore meet the consumer surface definition of eco-friendly. Just as the gardening industry looks for plants that are pest and disease resistant so the public can use less pesticides and be “greener”, so when appropriate the nursery professionals look for plants that need less water or irrigation while providing major informing services of the local ecosystem such as color, form, and texture.

In fact, the gardening industry also touts the providing service benefit of the new introduction. The fruit of seaberry is rich in vitamin C and A. The plant produces “…high-quality medicinal oil that is made from the fruit and used in the treatment of cardiac disorders, it is also said to be particularly effective when applied to the skin to heal burns, eczema and radiation injury, and is taken internally in the treatment of stomach and intestinal diseases.”[2] Other uses include charcoal, cosmetic, dye, fuel, oil; pioneer, soil stabilization, and wood.[3] Web site can be found that note that “…it can be used as a pioneer species to help the re-establishment of woodland in difficult areas.”

However this blog is not called invasive notes for nothing. In spite of the assurances, a few nagging issues lurk in the article by Melanie Dabovich of the Associated Press. First there is the quote at the end: "It can only propagate through suckering, which can be controlled.” The implication is that unlike other troublesome plants this one does not spread by seed. However, the first part of the article talks all about the fruit bearing capacity and use of the plant: "They actually drink the berry juice in Europe, China, Russia. The (seed) oil is used in cosmetics and creams, and it's very popular - so popular that China is starting to export." Something is wrong here, but of course desire trumps caution every time; market preference wins out over public value.

A friend of mine observed that the species “…suckers like crazy, forms dense thickets, tolerates a wide range of soils, is cold/heat tolerant, and fixes nitrogen.” None of these things are necessarily a problem and none are a sure sign of an invasive species, but many invasive species share these attributes. Invasive species decisions and policies are a challenge because the most cost effective action is to prevent their introduction. But how do you know what is invasive and what is not for your particular ecosystem? And given all the benefits of this species what economic harm would be done if we prohibited its introduction into the dramatically changing landscape of the desert southwest? Who is financially responsible if the species turns out to be yet another invasive problem?

Invasive species are shown to significantly impact natural resources and other ecosystem services. The impact is translated into economic, aesthetic and human well being assessments. Increased population pressures as well as the accompanying increase in global trade has create new pathways for introduction and greatly increased the incidents of repeated introductions of harmful species. A major pathway, but far from the only one, for pathogens and pests (diseases and insects) as well as new invasive species is the increase international in ornamental species for landscape and garden use. The majority of introduced plants are not harmful (thought they may not contribute to the local ecosystem entirely they are contributing some positive services) to the economy but provide enhancements to the quality of life.

So we need to ask two deceptively simple questions about Hippophae rhamnoides L. – seaberry: How much chance of harm is acceptable; and, how much harm are we willing to allow?

[1] Jason Davison, Area Plant and Soil Specialist, Central/Northeast Area & Willie Riggs, Eureka County Extension Educator. Testing Seaberry as an Alternative Crop in Nevada. Nevada Cooperative Extension.
[2] Matthews. V. The New Plantsman. Volume 1, 1994. Royal Horticultural Society 1994 ISBN 1352-4186 A quarterly magazine, it has articles on Himalayacalamus hookerianus, hardy Euphorbias and an excellent article on Hippophae spp.
[3] Copyright (C) Plants For A Future, 1996-2008.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why do we resist sustainable ideas?

We humans have some internalized dynamics that tend to influence our reactions to events. We tend to blame each other first because it makes us feel better. We cling to those who share our desired outcomes because there is safety in numbers. We default to an automatic opposition with those we do not agree with or understand because doing so facilitates short term decision making. We tend to dismiss out-of-hand information that is not supported by our desire-motivation for preconceived outcomes. In the end, our reactions are about the enormous amount of information that we must process here and now, and the mechanisms that we use to do so.

One tool used to sort through the enormity of information that comes to us each moment of every day, is homogenization. We create structures of identity and similarity to channel useful information so that we can react without delay and without contemplation. We expect our Starbucks and our McDonald’s, as well as our definition of organic and how we access the Internet to be predictable, even as we seek creative differences in our lives. This collision of desires creates a dynamic tension of ambiguity in our decision making processes. We oscillate rapidly between short and long term information acquisition.

The expectation that all McDonald’s will operate fundamentally the same whether in New York or Moscow, that every home shall have a lawn whether in the desert or the eastern hardwood forest, propel us towards a monaural information system design. From the system monoculture we get rapid decisive information that allows us to react quickly and efficiently. We plant great expanses of one species to increase yield (information); we develop great swathes of identical shopping malls that facilitate our immediate needs. An unintended consequence is the proportional decline in creativity that comes from reliance upon the homogenized information stream. But more crucially, the very nature of the monoculture opens it to effective and repeated attack from external information streams enabling critical disruption and loss of the information. In other words, a corn field of one cultivated variety or genetically modified cultivar is subject to increasing attack and increasing odds of catastrophic failure through disease, pestilence or climate change. The uniform shopping malls, built to provide selection and price options, are because of their similarities subject to the same market forces and unable to react quickly to changing demographics or land use conditions. Both systems sacrifice creativity and novelty to increase short term information yields.

The other possibility for information flow is found in diversity rich information streams which require much thought, research and planning to navigate. They are costly and novelty rich, but while they are resilient to disruption, they are thick with informational noise. Going to a market place in Uganda, with expectation of an American strip mall experience will bring a user up short for the information will not be packaged as expected but will require time to assimilate and understand so that the planned useful information (product/yield) can be acquired. The dynamic ebb and flow of the traditional market will be a hub of creativity delivered in small discrete packages of information.

There is a ornamental landscape analogy. We look for similarities in design and species choices to reduce the noise of novelty. When we step out of our caves in to the light of dangerous day, we do not want to be distracted by un-useful information; if it moves we want to know we can shoot it - now. So we learn a landscape grammar that can be applied anywhere; we acquire a common landscape literacy. In doing so, our gardens and landscapes become prey to disruptive forces such as invasive species, diseases pathogens and pests as well as an inability to adapt quickly to external ecosystem forces. We trade the short term comfort for the long term options in the hope that technology will find away to rescue us as it has done in the past.

A critical part of sustainability’s de-homogenization is sacrifice; to have sustainable systems some information becomes “sacred” and out of bounds. The wide array of start-up green offerings offer no short term information references; we have sacrificed some basic knowledge for alternative creativity. Interestingly, the market demand for product and service certification - itself a type of informational homogenization – is a redirected use of information in order to save the time lost by de-homogenization. In sacrificing one short term information flow, we are creating another. Of even more consequence, is the sacrifice of boundless expectations and the unintended consequences of even considering that path. Many would consider living to the highest possible standards available, a basic right of humanity. In addition, environmental justice issues are raised by sustainable policy implications. Sacrifices are considered by those who least can afford to make them by those who have discretionary resources at the moment. It is well and good to choose a Prius, but for those who real choice is between paying for dinner or the heating bill, such conversations are off the mark.

The channeling of information through homogenization provides value to the end user. The definition of value offers up a problem for sustainable policies. A good case can be made that pleasure is the root of value. [Hedonism As The Explanation Of Value ScienceDaily (Sep. 13, 2009)] Pleasure is a form of short term information. We are then driven to find ways of delaying thinking about long term options in favor of short term pleasure. Thus we pave our way to prosperity, we send our manufacturing off shore to reduce present costs, we choose hydrocarbons now for the quick information feed (pleasure) rather then deal with their impact on our ecosystems let alone their finite availability.

This information conflict is the collision of desires that underlies the antipathy and reaction to questions and ideas of sustainability. We develop structures to constrict a selected flow of information to deliver pleasure faster; the unplanned consequences will be dealt with later on an ongoing basis. We have preconceived supporting concepts of ecosystem services that are free and infinite, that will sustain us no matter what. So we can spend now ignoring the science of consequences and dismiss the theologians who have always caled for sacrifice. Here is the intersection of faith and research, of science and religion. And here is where we dare not go. The immediate pleasures of many are threatened by unspoken sacrifices implied by ecologically motivated desires and policies.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Landscapes, literacy, ecosystems services & sustainability

The way we approach our understanding of landscapes influences the policies we support and the attitudes we keep. How we “see” a flower, field or forest has consequences for how we “use” them. Our fragmented, parochial, limited time horizon, decision making matrix is a reflection of why our social systems are stressed. Our collective challenges, our great social causes, are all filtered through the fuzzy goal of immediate self interest versus long term social or public value. If a memory of childhood includes recollections English Ivy lined garden pathways, then there should be no denying this ornamental addition to the current garden desire. And more importantly, the cost of managing it in parks and natural areas should be born by someone else, or better just ignored. It is the immediacy of a strong interaction that attracts self interested actions, not the outcomes of weak interactions barely noticed in the present.

Ecological and environmental issues that swirl around ecosystems and biomes are hampered because of the growing lack of landscape literacy possessed by policy makers and their constituencies. Literacy is the ability to read, write, listen and comprehend, and speak a language. I think that there is an analogous set of abilities and skills that I call landscape literacy; the ability to read, work with knowledgeably, design, use and comprehend the intricate relationships of both natural and ornamental landscapes. Landscape literacy refers then to reading and working at a level adequate for communicating ideas about ecosystem services at a level that lets one understand the complex interactions of the system. These ideas at high level of literacy would include regulating, providing, provisioning and informing ecosystem services.

Most of the traditional problems and challenges of landscape management focus on the two higher level eco-system services, providing and informing. From aesthetics to resources that can provide material for personal and commercial use, our land use planning is concerned with enhancing an supporting these high level ecosystem services with understanding of the implications of additional stress onto the ecosystem in question. The assumption that natural resources are infinite permeates local land use and development policies in urban and suburban metropolitan areas. When we add the needs of those stakeholders who are either in economic challenged communities or historically under-served areas, we compound the problems of creating sound land use consensus. We have neither a common grammar for our ornamental landscape nor a well comprehended syntax for our natural areas.

The call for sustainable landscapes has been heard but not understood. Sustainable designs do not intentionally include invasive species, and may require some measure of certification that the flora and fauna is not itself a vector for invasive pathogens or insects. The idea that beauty may be more than color combinations and texture, is met with some resistance as is the reverse that there is a need for some order in landscapes that are functional in close proximity to human activities. Sustainability looks at the entirety of nature through asymmetrical temporal lenses communicating the past to the future through the present. (adapted from Crutchfield. 2009. The collision of desires between our near-term aesthetic and economic sensibilities and the long-term requirements of the ecosystem and its ability to support out short term needs is in perpetual conflicted opposition.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Invasive Species: Reflections of how we treat the world

Invasive species cause harm to humans directly as pathways for disease, indirectly as pathways for species that harm quality of life such as food resources. Invasive species also harm the environment, or ecosystems, that provide support for human activities such as atmospheric gas regulation, storm water management and erosion control, and habitat for biodiversity that in turn supplies the genetic material we need for the Big Six “F’s”: Food, Feed, Fuel, Fibers, Flowers and Forests (also known as agriculture). And on top of this, invasive species harm human aesthetic well being damaging recreational activities such as hunting, birding, boating or swimming. Invasive species also drain resources needed to maintain open space for human activities such as hiking and running. The problem is expansive and complex; as an example, invasive species damage will eliminate the wood used to make baseball bats with the death of ash trees which are being destroyed by the emerald ash borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis. Another example is the alteration of the natural resource regime of the southwest US that will allow for more intense and more frequent wild fires which will claim more building as buffelgrass, Pennisetum ciliare, changes the desert to an African grassland.

So how much damage can we allow or do we want? The cost of prevention is expensive and immediate, but it is hard to measure effectiveness. For how do you measure and convince economically society to incur the cost of the possibility of something that has not actually occurred? Meanwhile the monetary and resource outlay of control and management follows after the damage is apparent and out of control. The costs of this after the fact control and management most often exceeds available resources and elimination is usually impossible. Zebra, Dreissena polymorpha, and quagga, Dreissena rostiformis bugensis, mussels as well as kudzu, Pueraria montana var. lobata, come to mind of examples of invasive species that are severely impacting ecosystems and the resources they provide to humanity - that is us.

Do we or should we therefore seek a 100 percent interdiction rate for the importation and denial of commerce and distribution of invasive species at our borders? Is there a rational tolerance for invasive species themselves or some acceptable level of tolerance for invasive species contaminants which hitch-hike in on trade goods and human traffic, that is achievable and affordable by the industry? If a pest species is regulated because of standards, observations, research or past experience that strongly predict negative environmental impacts and damage to ecosystem services, should there be any leeway in the zero risk metric? If we let a few invasive species enter in order to lessen the economic burden or benefit for the business and to the end user, who then should pay to control and manage the ecosystem damage at a later date?

The wickedly inconvenient answer is in part a function of how you ask the question. Do you want to know how little harm is possible? Or is your focus on how much harm is allowable? These two questions divide us in two large philosophic camps at war with one another, even while we agree that we must protect our resources. And then to this muddled, murky mess we mix in individual rights versus the common good and public value. We, the end users cherish to various degrees the right to do what we want in that little area we call our own. We want to have lythrum and lionfish with our homes under our care and in our control so that we can enjoy the beauty no matter how dangerous to the general good. We claim the right to decide without the obligation to understand the potential or real harm that certain few invasive species may bring to the ecosystem that our gardens and homes are part. It is the failure to recognize that all our activities, both individual and communal are linked.

So we look for goods and services from those who can supply us with our wants of the moment with little consideration of the impact in space and time that these demands may have. And because we want, businesses supply and seek to do so at a profit that is measured in the present, accounted for in the past and debited against the future.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Invasive Species: Simple at First Glance

Invasive species issues seem simple at first glance. A species is introduced, establishes reproduces and begins to alter the new ecosystem, or negatively impacting human health and well being. Direct, strong adverse interactions that effect human health rise to the forefront of community awareness and efforts to reduce or eliminate the threat. Much is spent to prevent or ameliorate the introduction or control of invasive species such as:

Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis)
Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus)
Brown citrus aphid (Toxoptera citricola)
Codling moth (Cydia pomonella)
Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata)
Cotton aphid (Aphis gossypii)
Diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella)
Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis)
European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis)
Formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus)
Glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca coagulata)
Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar)
Hemlock wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae)
Insect Biocontrol
Japanese beetle (Papillia japonica)
Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata)
Mexican fruit fly (Anastrepha ludens)
Oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis)
Pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella)
Pink hibiscus mealybug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus)
Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta)
Russian wheat aphid (Diuraphis noxia)
Silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia argentifolii)
Wheat stem sawfly (Cephus cinctus)

Things get more complicated when the invasive species threat is not direct. The difficulties of the science, and the lack of absolutes, lead to statements of concern and even desperation as desired outcomes collide. Nan Wishner, Chair Emeritus of the City of Albany Integrated Pest Management Task Force and a member of the Stop the Spray East Bay Steering Committee writes that the total elimination “.. LBAM(light brown apple moth) is not feasible, the state plans to carry out a multi-year eradication program involving mass pesticide applications; that program’s first year cost an estimated $97 million.”

As the level of complication and complexities rise, the wicked inconvenience of invasive species issues seems to compel stakeholders to define their perceived problem in terms of their own unique a priori outcome desires. This means that each group of stakeholders has a slightly different working definition of invasive species making it very hard to reach consensus. The end game then becomes one of my way or the highway.

Any farmer or gardener will tell you that pests such as pathogens, insects and weeds are eternal; they do the best they can to control and eliminate the daily invasion that reduce monetary or aesthetic yield, knowing full well that the task is akin to sticking a finger in a dike. If farmers were to decide that weeds cannot be eliminated and gave up, we all would starve. Why then is it different when we set out to protect a natural area? Some would say we should just allow the invasion to create a new balance in time in a new, novel ecosystem and learn to live with it. In deed that is one option. It is the option of the property owner who chooses not to landscape, and cuts the brush around the buildings only to prevent fire and rodent damage. The neighbor who chooses to install and maintain an ornamental work landscape that requires endless removal of invaders is no less wrong in his choice than the former. So too our natural areas are like garden, rich in complexity and under constant and it would seem permanent attack. The issue at this level is one of limited resources as well as competing goals. Don’t use chemicals to control invaders in natural areas, and therefore allow a dramatically altered ecosystem, and deal with the unintended unexpected consequence later. Use chemical and reduce the impact, but suffer the affects of chemical pollution of air, earth or water.

So far we are speaking about the easy side of invasive species management and politics. Mark A. Davis writes in his new book, Invasion Biology, Oxford University Press, 2009, that ” …it is usually much easier to assess impact than it is to determine the series of ecological causes for it.” (White et a. 2006) Because current science has focused on the assessment of impact and not upon the mechanisms of ecological cause, certain stakeholders can reasonably claim that there is either no science or not enough science to support the dedication of resources. The present reliance on science as religion with the concurrent expectation that scientist-priests will rule on great issues ex cathedra and never ever change their minds fails to recognize that science is a tool for use in public discourse and public valuation exercises; science is not the end of the conversation but the beginning.

As Davis point out on page 151 of “Invasion Biology”, the ever-changing dynamic relationship between an ecosystem (itself ever-changing) and social systems (also in a constant state of flux) provides an overwhelming set of choices for environmental decision makers, land managers, and public policy deciders. Solutions and recommendations for invasive species will never be static and the casual observer will be endlessly confused. The tendency to throw up one’s hands in surrender will be powerful and the call to do nothing will be loud.

Controlling an invasive species or even eradicating it is most cost effective before it has actually done anything harmful. The idea that the LBAM should be allowed to spread because it has not yet wiped out a crop demonstrates the difficulty of getting people to care about something that has not actually happened yet. USDA has asked for more funding but because the problem is not pandemic begging is the order of the day. We as a society are loathe to spend money on something that has not happened yet. Better to wait til someone turns to crime and then incarcerate them than to pay less up front in education and work force development is our motto and so it is with invasive species

“Light brown apple moth is a recognized agricultural pest. Moths, such as light brown apple moth (LBAM) (Epiphyas postvittana), banana moth (Opogona sacchari), and nettle caterpillar (Darna pallivitta), are [known] pests of various tropical /subtropical crops, limiting production, and may severely disrupt trade if not detected and allowed to become established in primary growing areas. LBAM also attacks temperate crops and has recently been identified in California as a new invasive species. Because LBAM threatens a multibillion dollar industry in California, alone, CDFA and APHIS, have asked ARS scientists to help develop methods for LBAM control. Research Gaps including effective management of moth pests of tropical /subtropical crops requires the development of: 1) user-friendly, economical, and environmentally acceptable technologies; 2) area-wide integrated pest management (IPM) systems for moth suppression; and 3) systems approaches to prevent pest movement on export commodities.” (

If gardeners waited until the weeds crowded out the tomatoes we would never have spaghetti sauce. Gardeners know that early detection and rapid response is the key to a a successful harvest and react without waiting to see if the scientist can publish; invasion of the garden are dealt with summarily. But on an ecosystem level we sometimes choose to wait until the kudzu covers the telephone poles of a million acres before buying the special machinery needed to keep the roads clear. We will carefully not try to reduce the level of the apple moth so that we have a reduction in chemical impact, as we loose the harvest of the fields, hoping that when the moth is finished it does not adapt to our natural areas and begin to be a factor in the wild fires of California as other invasive species already are. The call is to find consensus and to work together towards a common management goal using the tools of science and the techniques of IPM to reduce the toxicity of the solution and the level of the pest simultaneously.

Somehow we need to find away between do nothing at all and waiting until there is nothing to be done. But I digress…until another species catches my attention.