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Ecology biased against non-native species?
Date:6/8/2011

The recent field of invasion biology faces a new challenge as 19 eminent ecologists issue a call to "end the bias against non-native species" in the journal Nature.

Often called aliens, hitchhikers or invasives, some scientists say that non-native species could just as easily be coined "abductees" whose transport links to activities by humans.

The authors of the Nature comments section note that assumptions that "introduced species" offer only deleterious impacts are misguided and "that human-induced impacts, such as climate change, nitrogen eutrophication, urbanization and land use change are making the native-versus-alien species dichotomy in conservation increasingly meaningless."

Mark Davis, lead author and professor with Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, says that a nativism perspective native species equals good, non-native species equals bad has dominated conservation efforts over the past few decades. He points to a number of ecologists, "including those who rightly could be called legendary for their contributions to the field over the past decades, who believe there has been way too much ideology and not enough good science associated with the anti-non-native species perspective."

The authors believe that a shift in the field is needed to consider outcomes and impacts of an organism on an environment rather than focus on native origins.

"Scientists who malign introduced plants and animals for thriving under favorable conditions seem to be disregarding basic ecological and evolutionary principles," say Matthew Chew, an ecologist and historian of invasion biology, and Julie Stromberg, a plant ecologist, with Arizona State University. "Evaluating whether a species 'belongs' in a particular place is more complicated than just finding out how and when it arrived."

Scientific studies show that while some introduced species have resulted in extinctions, not all natives are benefic
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Contact: Margaret Coulombe
margaret.coulombe@asu.edu
480-727-8934
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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