Friday, June 19, 2009

The problem of invasive species and beauty

An invasive species is an invasive species, a commentary at, asks, “What's the difference (between a mute swan and a nutria)? The only significant one is human aesthetics. People love to look at swans with their white feathers and elegant long necks. Not so much with nutria, which might generously be described as a cross between a beaver and a rat.” The difficulty inherent in trying to reconcile human aesthetics with natural selection is at the root of the problem. I call this wicked inconvenience the conundrum of dangerous beauty.

When it comes to landscape and garden design, stakeholders are divided between those for whom beauty has equal weight with fundamental ecosystem services and those for whom regulating services are paramount. The concept of ecosystem services includes basic regulation services such as CO2 exchange and provisioning services such as genetic diversity. And ecosystems include services such as providing food and informing cultural references such as aesthetics. In other words the actual debate is about which service is more important.

The problem is in the question and the assumption that one side of ecosystem services or the other should be more heavily weighed. There is a third way that says all services are equally important, and that the task before us is to find balance within the dynamics of a system that tends to oscillate wildly between extremes. We should not be choosing between clean water and our individual sense of beauty, but rather selecting a mix that brings the extremes back into balance. Those who seek beauty want clean water as much as those who seek a pristine environment with little measurable impact from human activities.

The disagreement cannot be a matter of what looks good for there is no disputing taste so aptly spoken by the Romans (non est disputandum gustibus). Beauty is the relationship between form and sentiment in nature. Invasive species confound the relationship at many levels. The fragrance of the rose provides the sentiment based upon a cultural tradition rooted in the writings and stories of the past, but what of form in this relation? The form is the general human capacity to link to this rose the mysteries and feelings of the fragrance identifying among many traits color, setting and experiences. An alternative relationship could be the observance of the form of interactions with the sentiment based upon the implications of sustainability.
Paraphrasing a General Lee: It is good that invasive species are so destructive lest we grow too fond of them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Request for Nominations for the Invasive Species Advisory Committee - ISAC

Copied from the Federal Register Notice

Request for Nominations for the Invasive Species Advisory Committee
AGENCY: Office of the Secretary, National Invasive Species Council.
ACTION: Request for Nominations for the Invasive Species Advisory Committee.

SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of the Interior, on behalf of the interdepartmental National Invasive Species Council, proposes to appoint new members to the Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC). The Secretary of the Interior, acting as administrative lead, is requesting nominations for qualified persons to serve as members of the ISAC.

DATES: Nominations must be postmarked by July 23, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Nominations should be sent to
Dr. Christopher Dionigi, Acting Executive Director,
National Invasive Species Council (OS/NISC),
Regular Mail:
1849 C Street, NW.,
Washington, DC 20240;
Express Mail:
1201 Eye
Street, NW., 5th Floor,
Washington, DC 20005.

Kelsey Brantley, Program Analyst and
ISAC Coordinator, at (202) 513–7243,
fax: (202) 371–1751, or by e-mail at

Advisory Committee Scope and Objectives

The purpose and role of the ISAC areto provide advice to the National Invasive Species Council (NISC), as authorized by Executive Order 13112,on a broad array of issues including preventing the introduction of invasive species, providing for their control, and minimizing the economic, ecological, and human health impacts that invasive species cause. NISC is Co-chaired by the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce, and is charged with providing coordination, planning and leadership regarding invasive species issues.

Pursuant to the Executive Order, NISC developed a 2008–2012 NationalInvasive Species Management Plan (Plan), which is available on the Web at .
NISC is responsiblefor effective implementation of the Plan including any revisions of the Plan, and also coordinates Federal agency activities concerning invasive species; encourages planning and action at local, tribal, State, regional and ecosystembased levels; develops recommendations for international cooperation in addressing invasive species; facilitates the development of a coordinated network to document, evaluate, and monitor impacts from invasive species; and facilitates establishment of an information-sharing system on invasive species that utilizes, to the greatest extent practicable, the Internet.

The role of ISAC is to maintain an intensive and regular dialogue regarding the aforementioned issues. ISAC provides advice in cooperation with stakeholders and existing organizations addressing invasive species. The ISAC meets up to three (3) times per year. Terms for five of the current members of the ISAC will expire in October 2009.

After consultation with the other members of NISC, the Secretary of the Interior will actively solicit new nominees and appoint members to ISAC. Prospective members of ISAC should be knowledgeable in and represent one or more of the following communities of interests:
Weed science,
fisheries science,
rangeland management,
forest science,
plant pathology,
veterinary medicine,
the broad range of farming or agricultural practices, biodiversity issues, applicable laws and regulations relevant toinvasive species policy,
risk assessment,
biological control of invasive species,
public health/epidemiology,
industry activities,
international affairs or trade,
tribal or State government interests,
environmental education,
ecosystem monitoring,
natural resource database design and integration,
and Internet based management of conservation issues.

Prospective nominees should also have practical experience in one or more of the following areas:
Representing sectors of the national economy that are significantly threatened by biological invasions (e.g., agriculture, fisheries, public utilities, recreational users, tourism, etc.);
representing sectors of the national economy whose routine operations may pose risks of new or expanded biological invasions (e.g., shipping, forestry, horticulture, aquaculture, pet trade, etc.); developing natural resource management plans on regional or ecosystem-level scales; addressing invasive species issues, including prevention, control and monitoring, in multiple ecosystems and on multiple scales; integrating science and the human dimension in order to create effective solutions to complex conservation issues including education, outreach, and public relations experts; coordinating diverse groups of stakeholders to resolve complex environmental issues and conflicts; and complying with NEPA and other Federal requirements for public involvement in major conservation plans.

Members will be selected in order to achieve a balanced representation of viewpoints, so to effectively address invasive species issues under consideration. No member may serve on the ISAC for more than two (2) consecutive terms. All terms will be limited to three (3) years in length. Members of the ISAC and its subcommittees serve without pay. However, while away from their homes or regular places of business in the performance of services of the ISAC, members shall be allowed travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of subsistence, in the same manner as persons employed intermittently in the government service, as authorized by
section 5703 of Title 5, United StatesCode.

Note: Employees of the Federal Government are not eligible for nomination or appointment to ISAC.

Submitting Nominations
Nominations should be typed and must include each of the following:
1. A brief summary of no more than two (2) pages explaining the nominee’s suitability to serve on the ISAC.
2. A resumeor curriculum vitae.
3. At least two (2) letters of reference.

All required documents must be compiled and submitted in one complete nomination package. This office will not assemble nomination packages from documentation sent piecemeal.

Incomplete submissions (missing one or more of the items described above) will not be considered.

Nominations should be postmarked no later than July 23, 2009, to Dr. Christopher Dionigi, Acting Executive
Director, National Invasive Species
Council (OS/NISC), Regular Mail: 1849
C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20240;
Express Mail: 1201 Eye Street, NW., 5th
Floor, Washington, DC 20005.

The Secretary of the Interior, on behalf of the other members of NISC, is actively soliciting nominations of qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities and members of low income populations to ensure that recommendations of the ISAC take into account the needs of the diverse groups served.

Dated: June 3, 2009.
Christopher P. Dionigi,
Acting Executive Director, National Invasive
Species Council.
[FR Doc. E9–13312 Filed

Monday, June 01, 2009

Should Invasive Species be used for Food?

“U.S. supermarkets sold $2 million of dandelion greens in the year that ended in March, a 9% increase over the year earlier” report the Wall Street Journal. Eating the dandelion instead of spraying it would be sustainable solution with many eco-system benefits. As dandelions are not on the list of destructive invasive species of natural areas preferring the already disturbed suburban lawn and the crack in the concrete in our cities, the immediate problem of unintended consequences is probably minimal.

The alarms go off when we consider deep double battered fried kudzu. Now comes the rule of unintended consequences daring us to create a value and a market opportunity. Why would we want to fall in love with a culinary delicacy such as fried kudzu only to find that the intent is to remove it all from North America? Who thinks that kudzu will not be planted to supply the cravings of our desires and our fads.

Should we harvest kudzu for bio-fuel, nutria for pelts (and state bounties), and European green crabs for menus? The idea is compelling at first. Perhaps by adding value we can clean up and remove invasive species with program of harvesting. Invasive species create pressures on ecosystem services creating scarcities and therefore costs to society in whole and in part. These costs are known as opportunity costs. Doing nothing about invasive species creates an opportunity cost that consists of for example the loss of genetic diversity through habitat destruction. Allocating finite resources to clean up invasive species may result in the reduction of contributions to education or public safety.

So we create demand and find value for the ecosystem disruptive invasive species; the greater the demand, the higher the price, the quicker the elimination through harvesting. And perhaps the sooner an enterprising person creates a commercialization of the crop or herd and begins to farm the very species we intended to rid our natural areas of,