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.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Weeds: Defining Inconvenience, Wickedly

Invasive species definition confusion; a wicked inconvenience for sure. Weeds, posted at: cleverly describes a fundamental challenge found when working with the issues of invasive species: Every party, no matter how remotely involved, has a slightly problematic version of what seems should be a simple definition. But, because each group has a preconceived solution, the opportunities for misdirected conversation towards a working consensus, is obscured.

I actually subscribe to the wrong organism (species) in the wrong place at the wrong time idea, which is paraphrased in the posting as :” I always thought that a weed was simply a plant growing were it was unwanted.” So far we seem to be on terra firma. So comes the obligatory legalese obfuscation, which allows us to meander over to surface definition conundrums. “Non-native invasive species displace or compete with crops and native plants, usurp water otherwise used by desirable plants, and reproduce profusely in the absence of their natural predators.” This abstraction from a county code allows for the following hammer blow: “Non-native invasive species displace or compete with crops. Aren’t crops non-native species?”

This is an acceptable semantic sleight of hand, because the writer has seemingly found a paradox, and while at it, introduces a question of time horizon choice., the famous dead white male north western protestant European tripped over the new world date. All of this is possible under a solution (nothing needs be done) implied by: “Since ecosystems constantly change and new species move, invade, and displace, who picked the freeze point in time where a plant is considered non-native?

It seems to me far better, for those holding the nothing needs be done solution, to start with that premise, and debate the nothing before dead occidental stakeholders. To this mix of differing solutions, should be added the party which holds that certain species can cause greater ecological, aesthetic or economic harm and should be prevented from introduction or, at least, controlled as far as resources permit. This third position’s offering allows that some adaptive new comers, whatever the date, have a economic impact far exceeding the damage, at least in a short event horizon. In other words, we need to eat, dress and build homes, so those species stay, controlled, not spreading without human intervention and plan.

Unfortunately, this is not how we find ourselves engaged. The “there is no problem” group will nod at the surface word game, and the “American species for America” group will point with stunned fingers at the perceived nattering nay bobs of negativism, and the opportunity for finding consensus will continue to be still-born. Too bad.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Записки о инвазийных видах.

Как секретарь Государственного Консультативного Совета США (USA) по инвазийным биологическим видам, по просьбе заинтересованных организаций, я говорю по всей территории США на тему «инвазийные виды » (местные или чужеродные).Экономическое воздействие инвазийных видов стоит американским людям биллионы долларов каждый год. Я недавно начал писать о инвазийных видах на сайте, ищи:

Я бы хотел узнать о инвазийных видах (местных или чужеродных) на территории Российской Федерации. Какие виды являются проблемами и почему. И я обещаю пытаться перевести на английский язык ваши наблюдения и идеи для моих англо-говорящих слушателей-читателей и время от времени информировать о наших существующих проблемах и их решениях.

Invasive species buzz

Invasive bees collide with shifting definitions held by stakeholders whose solutions hold quite dissimilar goals. If the solution for a particular invasive species group is the total elimination of all species not indigenous or alien prior to European colonization, then, there will be a miscommunication and a lack of cooperation with those groups who perhaps hold a wider solution such as the removal of those species causing economic harm or aesthetic harm. Both bodies are struggling with the same issue, invasive species, but since possible mediation of their differences in respect to proposed solutions are not under discussion each spends much time hammering the other in ad hominem, group labeling attacks.

For the particular bee stakeholder, whose solution is to return to a native only pollination regime, the expectation would be an outline of the total effect on the quality of life in the short term, and the cost of re-engineering society in a fashion that would not cause greater harm to those who do not have the financial resources to survive an abrupt change. The constant tension between short and long term economic horizons demands that we think in terms of dynamic change to public awareness, buy-in and policy. The discussion must deal with economics and must have room for solution change and growth.

An absolute statement of a goal which tolerates no middle ground will surely engender unforeseen problems. It is the nature of the invasive species issue that every iteration of an attempt to actively changes the paradigm will create a new matrix for consideration. In other words, allowing the alien bee to disappear, while certainly a positive step forward for the back-to-before-the-European solution, will certainly change the dynamics and quality of the ecological system under consideration. So you can’t go back., and that is a wicked inconvenice

This is not to say that we should do nothing, which is the other side of the extreme solution set. The demise of self-sustaining ecosystems will demand the expenditure of resources at some time in the future. We will have to filter the air and water somehow, whether we use the “free” system of conservation, sustainable eco-landscapes or a system of high-tech depended filtration factories.

It would seem that productive European honey bees are, like cattle and wheat, a beneficial, ay some level, resource, which we need to manage. It follows that native bees must be protected in order to foster the growth and vitality of our “natural” systems.

Here is the posting which prompted my remarks:

Honey bees in US facing extinction!
Somehow these media scare stories on the honeybees always fail to mention that, technically, Apis mellifera is an invasive species in the Americas.
The honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) is not native to the Western Hemisphere. Stingless bees (Meliponids and Trigonids) are native to the West Indies, as well as Central and South America. Wax and small amounts of honey were obtained from stingless bee nests by the early Indians of these areas.
Information available indicates that colonies of honey bees were shipped from England and landed in the Colony of Virginia early in 1622. One or more shipments were made to Massachusetts between 1630 and 1633, others probably between 1633 and 1638.
So, though the effects of Colony Collapse Disorder may be very bad for some parts of the commercial agriculture industry, the idea that we're suddenly going to run out of pollinators is ridiculous. Indeed, when it comes to
native bee populations, CCD could have a positive impact.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Asian Longhorned Beetle Alludes Quarentine


WASHINGTON, March 12, 2007--The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service today announced evidence of Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) infestation in hardwood trees on Prall’s Island, N.Y., an 80-acre, uninhabited island lying between Staten Island, N.Y., and northern New Jersey.

Inspectors from APHIS’ New York ALB eradication program in cooperation with New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Agriculture and Markets, surveyed the island on March 1 for signs of the ALB and discovered several heavily infested red maple trees and infested gray birch trees. They found a total of 15 infested trees upon their first inspections of the northern sector of the island.

Several of the infested trees had the perfectly round ALB exit holes that indicate beetles have emerged from the trees; healed-over exit holes were also present, indicating the infestation is more than a year old. All of the infested trees will be cut down and the wood chipped to destroy all beetle larvae. Surveys will continue at Prall’s Island, weather permitting, to determine the full scope of ALB infestation.

The property is owned by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and maintained as a bird sanctuary. Prall’s Island lies outside of the established boundaries of the Middlesex-Union County, N.J., ALB quarantine zone. As a result of this find, quarantines will be placed on Prall’s Island and on Staten Island due to its proximity to Prall’s Island. Surveys on Staten Island will also take place to determine if any infestations occur in that area. Quarantines are put in place to regulate movement of firewood, lumber, nursery stock, tree limbs and other woody materials that serve as hosts for the invasive beetle.

In New York, quarantines currently exist on Long Island in an area bordering the Nassau County and Suffolk County boundary line and also in the Islip area of Long Island. Portions of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan are also quarantined. A total of 132 square-miles are in quarantine in that state. The ALB was first discovered in New York in 1996.

In New Jersey, two separate ALB infestations have been detected, one in the Middlesex and Union County area in 2004 and the other in Hudson County in 2002. With the Hudson County, N.J., quarantine lifted in 2005, only 25 square-miles remain in quarantine in that state. Hudson County, N.J., could be declared free of ALB in 2008.

Chicago, Ill., where ALB was discovered in 1998, had the final nine-mile quarantine lifted in 2006. Chicago could be declared free of ALB by early 2008.

A mature ALB is about 1 to 1.5 inches long, has a shiny, jet black body with distinctive white spots and long antennae that are banded in black and white. The adult beetles are most evident between June and October. As developing larvae during the winter months, ALB tunnel through the heartwood of various tree species, damaging the pathways that move water and nutrients throughout the tree and ultimately killing the tree.

APHIS and its cooperators eradicate the ALB by imposing quarantines, conducting visual inspections around confirmed sites to determine the scope of infestations, removing infested and high-risk exposed trees and chemically treating host trees as part of an area-wide integrated pest eradication strategy.

The goal is to eliminate this destructive insect from the United States before it can establish itself elsewhere.

APHIS’ partners in the New York ALB cooperative eradication program are the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets; New York City Department of Parks and Recreation; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and USDA’s Forest Service.

Also, Canadian officials told members of the NAPPO Forestry Panel in late February that ALB had been detected again in Toronto; the eradication program there must continue.

from the MA-EPPC list serve

Beautiful Invasive Species: Mute Swan

Just as I think I could never get a posting ahead of Jenn (gottcha!) at her great site (Invasive Species Weblog) I hear this report printed below on the news this morning. The interface between the greater public’s definition of beauty and the havoc wreaked by invaders on natural areas is brought into stark focus. Many garden ornamentals are seen to be beautiful, and any attempt to take them away pricks at the public’s heart strings causing the message of harm to become obscured. How we define beauty is an underlining fundamental challenge in the on going conversation about invasive species.

Copied from: Copyright 2007 Post-Newsweek Media, Inc./Gazette.Net, (Wednesday, March 14, 2007)
Beloved mute swan is killed by motorist
Cremation and memorial service are planned after the loss of ‘the most beautiful thing at the lake’
by Sebastian Montes Staff Writer

It arrived unexpectedly on Montgomery Village’s Lake Whetstone some four years ago. Now, just as suddenly, the Village’s only swan is gone, killed Friday morning by a motorist heading south on Montgomery Village Avenue
No one knows exactly when the mute swan came to the Village. Or why it — the gender is unknown — decided to stay, living alone among the lake’s thousands of Canada geese.
But one thing is sure, say residents who frequent the lake: The swan will be sorely missed.
‘‘He was exquisitely beautiful. He was the most beautiful thing at the lake,” said longtime Village resident and naturalist Jane Wilder.
It was a sickening sight for Whetstone resident Scott Crews shortly after he left for work at 7:45 a.m. Friday. Amid the usual rush of cars on Montgomery Village Avenue, he came to a bus stopped in the right lane near the curve before Walker House apartments. He pulled around the bus, then passed another vehicle, its blinkers on.
‘‘I saw the swan basically in convulsions... It was flailing about, the wings were flapping hysterically,” Crews said Monday. ‘‘It was trying to right itself, its wings were spread as though it was trying to take flight.”
He called his wife, police, animal rescue, his neighbors. Then he had to tell his three children, 10, 7 and 4 years old. ‘‘It’s one of my kids’ favorite things, and they cried hysterically,” he said.
Word of the swan’s death spread fast on Friday. By mid-afternoon, e-mails were streaming into The Gazette with photos of the swan.
One resident crafted an impromptu monument Friday: three white silk flowers taped to a street sign near where the swan was killed.
‘‘To our friend the Swan,” reads the attached note, ‘‘Thank you for your beauty, grace and life — For sharing it all with us. Que dios te bendiga [in Spanish, ‘May God bless you’]. With love, Your Friends.”
Amid the mourning and commiseration, the Crews family learned that several other families played the same game with their children as they drove by the lake or walked along its shore: Who can spot the swan first?
But its graceful form will no longer glide across the water, nor tower over the throngs of geese any more.
‘‘It’s hard to believe [it] is gone,” Martha Crews, Scott’s wife, said. ‘‘It’s a huge loss.”
For several days last week, Wilder spotted the swan crossing Montgomery Village Avenue to feed with geese on an out-of-season bounty of acorns. She is sure the accident was caused by a speeding motorist, long a complaint by nearby residents.
Wilder and others hope to find out who was responsible. But on Friday, all she could do was take the swan to a pet crematory in Rockville. She and the volunteer group Friends of Whetstone Lake will cover the $160 fee to cremate the swan, as early as today.
There is talk of a memorial service next week where the swan’s ashes could be scattered on to the lake — which FOWL co-founder Joe Pizzonia finds a fitting tribute.
‘‘We would look out our window at the lake and there’d be the swan,” he said. ‘‘It was like a sense of freedom.”

About mute swans
Mute swans can grow up to 30 pounds and 5 feet or more in height.
They are an exotic species brought to North America from Europe in the 1800s. Maryland’s population — now numbering 3,600 — derives from five swans that escaped their owners in 1962.
Mute swans are one of the few birds known to keep one mate for life, sometimes not taking another mate after it dies.
The state kills mute swans around the Chesapeake Bay because of their ‘‘adverse ecological effects” — namely, for eating too much aquatic vegetation and for overwhelming other bird species.
Because Montgomery Village had only one mute swan, the state let it be.
Source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Invasive species: One Defintion of "Natural"

In the world of invasive species definition discussion, I find no lack of interesting concepts and conclusions. I received an e-mail (author’s name withheld) excerpt which, though hard for me to follow, and, which is quoted in full at the end of this posting, contained an insights worth consideration.

That said, the built environment, anywhere it dominates (that's everywhere, if you consider global warming an aspect of the built environment), at least disturbs and ordinarily damages natural systems that coexist with the unnatural newcomer the best they can.”

The idea of a pristine natural area, undisturbed, outside the influence of Homo sapiens and his constructs, as a theoretical ideal may have validity, but the actual realization falls short as there are no areas untouched by mankind. In first contact conversations between or among stakeholders, the assumption of the abstract idealization of a “natural” area immediately sets up a debate on definition, partially or fully contextualized by the abstract ideal. In other words, since in a wicked problem, a stakeholder’s solution defines the problem itself, the probability of miscommunication is the probable outcome.

A stakeholder whose solution is to conserve or preserve an untouched natural area sets up a definition which excludes “all” exotics. In turn other stakeholders will react to a perceived proscriptive solution. Perhaps a better solution might be to mitigate damage to natural areas which may lead to the exclusion of some species that may cause harm. This solution has the effect of not being perceived as all or nothing.

Of course a stakeholder, who has not bought into a mitigated natural area solution ,can arrive at the author’s suggestion: “It can be next to impossible to find an ecosystem that is whole, so why insist on native plants? During a time of extinctions, why not celebrate anything and everything that is viable?” Naturally this would set up a wall of cross-purposed debate involving a great deal of time and little forward movement, as, under linear problem solving paradigms, each side would think the other wrong instead of good or better solutions.

copy from the e-mail:
"...suited for this area because this is the ecosystem for which they are adapted, which means, among other things,
1) other beings "expect" them to be present, and will duly serve them or help themselves to what they offer, thus remaining relevant (the plants do more than pose);
2) except in extreme, unusual conditions they are likely to be both thriving, individually and collectively, and regulated (what the plants need, including limits, comes to them);
3) when they're present, the place retains/regains some of its distinction, which can have cultural ramifications (the plants help make the place unique, and arts of that place are echoes of that).

That said, the built environment, anywhere it dominates (that's everywhere, if you consider global warming an aspect of the built environment), at least disturbs and ordinarily damages natural systems that coexist with the unnatural newcomer the best they can. Construction is hard on plants and soils, then impermeable surfaces shed water in goofy ways. It can be next to impossible to find an ecosystem that is whole, so why insist on native plants? During a time of extinctions, why not celebrate anything and everything that is viable?

My own considerations of all this ... lead to a primary emphasis on plants that provide nourishment, useful substances and useful materials, and methods that honor and strive to mimic the ways of nature. Lots of learning ahead!"

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Invasive species, weeds and education

Invasive species issues are a subset of the greater conversation about our environment and, therefore, our quality of life. Long term solutions which can have the greatest impact are those that change our ingrained cultural imperatives. Education is key to changing current perceptions and future actions. This is from the NISC e-mailing:

Weed Curriculum for Grades K-12 Available On-line: February 21, 2007, "Alien Invasions - Plants on the Move" weed curriculum for grades K-12 became available on-line. It was developed by BLM staff and other experts. This curriculum has been tested in schools in Oregon. All lessons fit within existing mandated National Science Education Standards (NSES). Many activities integrate social studies, art, language arts, and math components. They combine invasive plant information within regularly scheduled NSES curriculum topics. To view the curriculums see: For more information, contact Janet K. Clark at the Center for Invasive Plant Management at (Staff Contact Chris Dionigi).