TED Conversations

Lucy Irons


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Are you concerned about the spread of invasive species?

Invasive species are non-native species that have a negative impact on their introduced environment. Invasive species are a huge issue not only due to their environmental impacts, but their economic ones as well. According to the National Invasive Species Information Center, there are currently about 50,000 invasive species in the United States alone that cost over $138 billion annually to manage. invasive species have a number of distinctive traits, including A general diet, large amounts of genetic variation, the ability to survive in a wide range of climates, a continuous breeding season, and the production of many offspring every year. What role do these versatile organisms have in a world where many species and ecosystems potentially lack the diversity required to survive rapid changes in their environment? Is it possible that, in the face of global climate change and biodiversity loss, invasive species can contribute something positive to biological systems?


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  • Mar 15 2012: We are suffering, and I do not use the term lightly, under the invasion of stink bugs. They are doing enormous amounts of damage to our crops and our house. On a global scale however, aren't all species invasive at one point or another? Don't invasions drive evolution?
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      Mar 15 2012: This is a good point. What defines a native species? They have always been moving and migrating around the globe both with and without the help of humans. This spread of genetic information is incredibly useful and has been in the past. A question to think about is, are humans causing this phenomenon to occur too quickly? Are we moving species around faster than the ecosystems can adapt and recover? It's definitely interesting to consider.
      • Mar 16 2012: Lucy I think these are great questions! On some level I do agree with Sharon, all species are invasive at one point or another. I mean this is really a fundamental idea behind immigration, emigration, and migrations. A species will move around until they find an environment that is suitable and where they can be successful. However, they move around on their own time by their own means in a natural way. With the industrial revolution and other large developments in the world wide trade industry species are more easily moved from their original habitats to entirely different ones. By these means they could conceivably be moved whole new sides of the plant, and are forced to adjust and thus compete with the native species of that new environment. Is this avoidable at all? Is there any way to ensure that no species will hitch a ride on products that are sent around the world and land in a non native habitat?
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        Mar 16 2012: Defining a native species is certainly hard since it depends on when one sets the starting point. such as a plant is native to the Willamette Valley if it grew here prior early settlers bringing with them several European plants. But if we think before that, it is true that native species have been moving around and migrating but never as far as humans have been able to take them through boats and airplanes. Plants and animals do disperse but at a much slower rate, therefore altering ecosystems slowly and progressively, not like species that are considered invasive now.
        • Mar 16 2012: Most of the iconic plants associated with Hawaii, are not native to those islands.

          Humans have been moving plants around for centuries. Just ask Australians about the issues related to introducing a species to handle another problem with another human introduced species....

          Is it happening faster? Is it happening with more deleterious effect? Good questions. With climate change throwing all species a curve ball I suspect we'll be seeing many species moving pretty rapidly to locate more hospitable locales. I think the issue of invasives will be overwhelmed by species attempting to survive.
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      Mar 16 2012: There was a lady on one of our talkback shows years ago that was promoting earth worm revival and she stated that when you add fertilizer you are effectively adding cream to the pie, somewhat as farmers are growing maize for cows but if you promote more worms in the fields you will find less predation than the current system.

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