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Invasive plants can create positive ecological change
Date:2/11/2011

Carlo explained that in the honeysuckle-rich area, birds were present in abundance. These birds allowed the nightshades to receive more seed-dispersal services -- an ecological process known as facilitation. "The newly introduced plants piggybacked on the success of the honeysuckle, which is a common phenomenon because fruit-eating birds usually feed on a variety of fruit -- whatever happens to be available to them," Carlo explained. "The same birds that ate the honeysuckle also ate the American nightshade, dispersing the seeds of both plants. It's a win-win-win for all three: the birds, the honeysuckle, and the nightshades."

Carlo also explained that in Pennsylvania there are now three to four times more fruit-eating birds such as robins and catbirds than there were just 30 years ago, especially in landscapes of high human presence. So scientists should conclude that, while some invasive, human-introduced plants are definitely problematic, others could serve to restore ecological balance by providing essential food resources to native migratory birds that populate areas affected by humans. "Invasive species could fill niches in degraded ecosystems and help restore native biodiversity in an inexpensive and self-organized way that requires little or no human intervention," Carlo said.

In addition, Carlo explained, while eliminating an invasive species could result in harm to the newly formed balance of an ecosystem, large-scale attempts to remove species also could be a waste of time and tax dollars. He explained that when managers and agencies attempt to eradicate an invasive plant from a particular ecosystem, the species often ends up growing back anyway. "Nature is in a constant state of flux, always shifting and readjusting as new relationships form between species, and not all of these relationships are bad just because they are novel or created by humans," Carlo said. "We need to be more careful about shooting first and asking questions late
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Contact: Barbara Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3 4

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