TED Conversations

Lucy Irons


This conversation is closed.

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?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Mar 16 2012: Invasive species is a subject that I have come across a lot. Invasive species are localized to one area. what is invasive in one area may not in another. We think of rabbits as cute and cuddly, but in Australia, they are considered a vermin. This is because we have to negative effects from them, so it comes down to definition. to be invasive, you must be non-native and have negative effects. That being said, I find that invasives are a huge problem, but the only thing we can really do is destroy what they live in, unless preventative measures are used. But even preventative measures are hard to put in place. Thus, we need to just educate the whole population on the ramifications of invasives, so they won't track native species to non-native areas where they could become invasive.
    • thumb
      Mar 16 2012: Why must we take preventative measures or destroy these invasive species? Isn't there a way to be passive or embrace these invasive species. Sure Cane Toads and Zebra Mussles are invading habitats right now, but this has happened over and over again throughout history, one species dominating another. The chances of another species invading Austrailia and killing all the cane toads is bound to happen, be it a virus/bacteria/bird etc. What would happen if we actively transported a bunch of species, wouldn't the ones that were most suitable for that particular environment thrive and those that weren't just die out. Perhaps its time we figure out how to utilize invasive species instead of holding on to the ones existing now.

      I found this site with some myth debunking:

      So we lose old Austrailian Toads and now we have cane toads. We lost mammoths and sabre tooth tigers and dinosaurs and Dodo birds, we're bound to lose more.
      • thumb
        Mar 16 2012: We are bound to have loss, this is true, but within the last century it as been measured that the rate of extinction is much greater than that of the background or natural extinction rate. That is why some scientist are referring to this as the holocene, which is the next great extinction. And yes some species dominate others, but these cases of dominating species are not natural. they are human cause, and that is why they need to be fixed by humans, if at all possible. And ass for the utilization of invasives, that already happens just see the link below for that.


        There are many more articles and papers on this throughout the web.

        Also, I find that it is not the invasives that we hate, but moreover we hate the fact that we allow them to hitchhike via us humans. We try to eliminate them, because as i have said, it is our fault that the invasives are there.
        • Mar 17 2012: Clinton brings up a great point, that since we have become the dominant species of the planet, we have brought with us an unprecedented level of extinction. I agree with Rishi, that it is not that different from the extinction of many species, such as the mammoth and sabre tooth tiger, but that will soon include us if we are not careful. The distinction needs to be made when dealing with human-induced invasion.

          The Zebra Mussels will cause a change in the aquatic environment, as they have for the Great Lakes and associated rivers, which on its own (without putting human needs on the table) is not good or bad for the environment. The effect on the human environment, however, is potentially devastating. Since we are attempting to prolong our existence as a species indefinitely, we must understand that invasions like this one work against that.
      • Mar 17 2012: This sort of debate reminds me a lot of a movie by Kiyoshi Kurosawa entitled Charisma (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charisma_(film)), which portrays the conflicting views that humans tend to have toward nature. In it, the protagonist encounters a mysterious and toxic tree over which different parties are quarreling over. One man wants to preserve it, even if it means the death of all the rest of the trees. He wants to step back and let nature take its course. Another woman, a biologist, wants to remove the toxic tree as soon as possible before the rest of the trees become dead from it. She wants to protect the current forest.
        I think that both of these conflicting views equally value nature, but their differences stem from a difference in definition of nature. One view defines nature as this on-going and continuously changing process, while the other view defines it more as a certain point along the timeline of evolutionary history. In a sense these two perspectives are the same thing, only in different dimensions.
        Do you choose to define yourself as who you are this very instant, or as the culmination of all your experiences- past, present, and future?
        • thumb
          Mar 17 2012: Zane,
          I have seen Charisma and I think you make a valid point. There are always conflicting views, especially in issues incorporating invasive species.
          In this situation, I would consider myself as someone who has accumulated my past experiences. It is difficult to predict the future, but I like to think that I am openminded enough to be prepared for what could happen.
          For Charisma, I believe the I would have wanted the tree removed as well. Even though it may have cultural and personal meaning to the main character. If it is hurting more than helping, I would want it gone. Cultural significance is important and I respect that, but from a biology perspective, there was nothing but hazard for that invasive tree.
        • Mar 17 2012: What a great example Zane! I think this such a good way to frame the two sides of the debate. Not only do we have different ways to define nature, but different perspectives as well. Of course we are going to naturally take the human perspective, but doesn't that tree have a right to be there also? Maybe the other trees in the forest would die initially, but perhaps those with some kind of resistance to the toxin would survive and repopulate that area of the forest. We fear the unknown consequences of our actions, but nature can also be surprisingly resilient, and is in constant flux - I think we need to have a little faith in mother nature!
      • Mar 17 2012: One argument for taking preventative measures is that certain invasive species have harsh economic ramifications. When the tansy ragwort was rampant in Oregon during the 1970s and 80s, farmers incurred annual losses of $ 4-5 million due to dead cattle, horses, and lost crops and pasture. This is just one example, there have been many other instances of invasive species causing economic hardship. Clearly, preventative measures need to be taken to prevent financial losses.

        But if we are not affected by an invasive species taking root in an environment and it only affects other species, should we spend the time and financial effort to solve this problem? This is an ethical issue - we have to decide whether we are morally responsible for the survival of endangered species.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.