Non-Native Species

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Re: Non-Native Species

Postby anon » Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:47 pm

Xunzian wrote:This touches on a huge question within environmentalism -- what is the end goal? All too often, it appears that the end goal is to create a museum out of the natural world. Not to mitigate changes brought about by human contact but rather to eliminate human interference all together.

Is that what we want? To create an inseparable barrier between human beings and the natural world? Because all too often, that approach backfires. Look at the American prairie. The prairie developed because of fire. For a long time, it was thought that these fires were caused by lightening and the like and, sure, that plays a role but the prairie really started burning back-in-the-day when humans were introduced to it. An early attempt to save prairies was to stop the regular fires caused by humans but rather than preserve the prairie ecosystem, it just caused the prairies to transition towards forests. So to maintain the condition that paleolithic humans created, modern humans need to practice controlled burns to maintain prairies.

Seems kind of silly.

At the same time, invasive species outcompeting and destroying native ones decreases biodiversity and that is bad too.

But the real question is whether humans are stewards outside of nature or whether we are engaged with nature. If we are stewards, the museum approach seems the most reasonable but such a museum seems destined to fail. On the other hand, if we are engaged with nature and let nature take its course, well, there is ecological catastrophe (which is very bad for humans). So how to dance between these elements . . . well, that is tricky. I err on the side of the museum curators even if I find it to be distasteful because erring too far on that side results in a better end than erring too far on the other. Plus, capitalism is driving us to err on the side of the other, so museumification can be seen as a corrective (albeit an imperfect one).

Well said. Thanks for your input, Xunzian.
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Re: Non-Native Species

Postby anon » Fri Mar 16, 2012 2:06 pm

Mowk wrote:As human we have the disadvantage of striving toward persistence. A beaver builds a damn and "appears" (observational opinion) content each spring in repairing the damage done by seasonal runoff. In turn it is thought that this flooding is critical to the distribution of nutrients over a wider flood plane. We build a damn with it's permanence in mind without recourse to respect for the natural variations in water supply. We build our communities too close to our supplies of water, and then require protecting them from devastating floods. We can use water for our purposes but there could be more respect for climatic cycles that are naturally recurrent.

The beaver may think: that if a job is worth doing it is worth doing as many times as need be, while humans seem to prefer doing a thing once, as best as they can get by with, then fall down and tremble at its consequence, vowing not to make the same mistake again.

Just one example of a perspective.

We are a "young" species and our understanding of the mechanisms and interrelationships of the environment that supports us is as best limited. It would seem prudent of an intelligent species to look both ways before "crossing" a street, but for some reason we still find it necessary to remind ourselves. How intelligent is that? Scratching the surface, I'd say.

It stems in part from the argument that nature can't take care of itself, and human somehow have to manage it. No humans could figure a way to live within its means.

Good points, Mowk. I'm not sure if beavers are less oriented towards permanence than we are, or if we're just better at making things that last longer. I suspect the development of the ability to make things last longer co-evolves with the need for things that last longer. What we are able to accomplish, we develop a reliance on, and vice versa.

The question I have is aren't we somewhat stuck with the stewardship model (see Xunzian's initial post here), given the advanced state of our civilization? Not that it's an all or nothing choice. Even with a stewardship model, we can still take the view that some things are best left alone.
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Re: Non-Native Species

Postby Mowk » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:53 pm

Our current "stewardship" model seems flawed.

My brother has some land on a lake that has Eurasian Millfoil. The lake association owners are concerned that their "recreational use" of the lake will be impacted, the lake will fill in, and become a swamp, and land values will plummet. They really aren't making choices based on what is actually a benefit or detriment to the ecosystem, they are basing choices on the invasive species impact on property value and recreational capability. Are they really being stewards of the environment or are they being stewards of their own interest?

In the long run having more wetland could very well be advantageous to the local environmental ecology. It would provide habitat for all sorts of species that are currently loosing their habitat due to our activity. The problem I see with the stewardship model is we aren't really being stewards out of consideration for the long term impact on the environment, we are basing our choices on the short term impacts on our economics practices. The lake association members aren't really concerned with diversity and breadth in an ecosystem, (true stewardship) they are concerned with the monetary impact in will have on their investment and using the term steward to access funds from the state to pay for the eradication efforts of Milfoil in "their" lake. The lake, by the way, does meet the minimum requirements for being a public waterway, there is one parking spot and a 'path' 200 yards through the woods to a cove where a stretch of shore is accessible to someone interested in dragging a canoe through the woods, and this we call stewardship. The lake association didn't provide this access out of stewardship, they provided it as requirement of accessing public funds to combat their invasive species problem. The lake has been a target of management practices for a while. It's been drained, poisoned, sterilized, refilled, restocked in the past all under the ruse of stewardship when in fact the practices had one goal, to maximize the pleasure the lake afforded to its association members, and that has very little to do with an interest in environmental preservation.

As the lake is nearly private, the only way millfoil would have gotten into the lake in the first place is if someone who owned land on the lake accidentally transferred it. Now under the banner of invasive species control and 'stewardship' the state is helping fund the eradication efforts.

The notion of management/stewardship has little to do with the benefit to the environment or ecology but rather, is focused on maximizing it's benefit to human collectives. The farmer is concerned with the damage a dear population does to their investment in a crop, while the hunter is concerned with the dear population and his ability to bag a buck. If an invasive species were introduced that competed with the dear population farmers could be thrilled while dear hunters would be up in arms, seeking to control the invasive species. It doesn't belong, it's affecting my usefulness, it is affecting my convenience.

I don't see the case for stewardship as being one that is really looking at the capacity of the environment to adapt, or considering in the longer run the adaptation may provide greater benefit to the ecosystem then the existing circumstance. Our "stewardship" does not appear focused on what is best for the environment, it is focused on what can be done to maximize our investments.

True 'stewardship' to me at least, seems to require that it is in the best interest of the environment that should be the focus, and not what is best for our human utilization that is maximized. Lets face it, our knowledge and understanding of the ecosystems in play and the mechanisms of their interactions are fairly poorly understood, and how does one practice true stewardship under condition of such ignorance?
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Re: Non-Native Species

Postby anon » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:14 pm

Mowk wrote:Lets face it, our knowledge and understanding of the ecosystems in play and the mechanisms of their interactions are fairly poorly understood, and how does one practice true stewardship under condition of such ignorance?

That's a powerful argument against the stewardship model. But you just wrote a long and eloquent post describing differences between stewardship as often practiced and "true" stewardship. And I'm not even sure that the degraded version of stewardship you've described is anything other than conscious deception - using the word for political reasons. Finally, I'm left with the question of to what extent "true stewardship" excludes human benefit.
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Re: Non-Native Species

Postby Mowk » Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:15 pm

In the long run stewardship could not exclude human benefit if a success. Stewardship will likely inconvenience some, but in the long run, it would benefit all. It will be a bumpy road as the genuine and disingenuous politically wrangle the use of such terms. Perhaps I just haven't seen many examples of the problems invasive species actually cause other then the fear of loosing some commercial resources. The lampray eel, the zebra mussel, and the rusty crayfish just don't seem to have impacted the environment as harshly as thought. There is a period of explosive growth, usually followed by a die-off as nature and the available resources and the competition for them come back into balance. It is a new balance, a different balance, and a balance that may have grave economic impacts for some, but any harm to the environment is what I would consider questionable. Seems as if most cases of invasive species have some groups vested interests behind them, some industry or another is canvasing out of concerned for its investment, jobs will be lost, property values will crumble, we must preserve the cultural heritage and traditions of the people that started this community, if this industry goes out of business all will be lost .. yadda yadda yadda.

There are places where there is a greater concern for stewardship then invasive species management. We're contaminating our water supply for one thing and as result a good degree of our food supply. Some theories are being presented regarding the destabilizing of the earths crust with our deep drilling and mining for resources as well as our building larger and larger water reservoirs behind massive hydro-electric dams. It is suspected of affecting plate tectonics and increasing the likelihood of earthquakes in highly populated regions of the planet.

SC Johnson Wax advertises itself as a green company. One of it's manufacturing facilities uses solar panels to provide electricity to produce its rather environmentally toxic cleaning product. Now there's a great example of stewardship for you. We're going to continue to market this toxic product but hey we've invested in solar panels so we are manufacturing it environmentally responsibly?

I to question what is a legitimate application of the "green" conceptualization and how it gets used deceptively in marketing.
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Re: Non-Native Species

Postby anon » Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:44 pm

Hmm, perhaps invasive species don't actually cause any substantial problems? I admit I simply assume they do. For instance, an introduced lionfish in a Carribbean reef has no predators (I think). And they feed on the young of other species who lay their eggs in the reefs and don't recognize the lionfish as a predator. And since the reefs themselves are endangered due to rising ocean temperatures and other problems... But I haven't seen any studies regarding the effects of any particular invasive species. I haven't tried though. Have you?
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Re: Non-Native Species

Postby Mowk » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:57 pm

Difficult to study as there is so little potential for any controls in experimentation. We only have data on the single course of action taken, and once that action had been taken it becomes the only course of data available. It's not like we can jump into our way back machine and replay the last 100 years to see what outcome would be if the circumstance of our involvement were different.

There is a lot of data on the efforts regarding lampray control. I suppose there are computer models somewhere that could predict what might have happened had we not become involved in the management but the question remains how accurate was the model, and, as we don't have access to a second great lakes basin to use as a control, we are sort of stuck with the limitation to the data we have.
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Re: Non-Native Species

Postby Moreno » Sat Mar 17, 2012 1:47 am

anon wrote:Hmm, perhaps invasive species don't actually cause any substantial problems? I admit I simply assume they do. For instance, an introduced lionfish in a Carribbean reef has no predators (I think). And they feed on the young of other species who lay their eggs in the reefs and don't recognize the lionfish as a predator. And since the reefs themselves are endangered due to rising ocean temperatures and other problems... But I haven't seen any studies regarding the effects of any particular invasive species. I haven't tried though. Have you?
Some do a lot of damage, some do not. And then some damage can be called into philosophical question.
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Re: Non-Native Species

Postby anon » Mon Mar 19, 2012 1:46 pm

Mowk wrote:Difficult to study as there is so little potential for any controls in experimentation. We only have data on the single course of action taken, and once that action had been taken it becomes the only course of data available. It's not like we can jump into our way back machine and replay the last 100 years to see what outcome would be if the circumstance of our involvement were different.

There is a lot of data on the efforts regarding lampray control. I suppose there are computer models somewhere that could predict what might have happened had we not become involved in the management but the question remains how accurate was the model, and, as we don't have access to a second great lakes basin to use as a control, we are sort of stuck with the limitation to the data we have.

Here's one study - it was the first to come up with my quick Google search. I read a little bit of the intro, and the conclusion, which reads (in part), "Research has shown that no generalizations can be made about the characteristics of invasive non-native species that hold for all cases. Thus future research needs to address specific cases. Identification of potential problem species will be possible only following reviews of the ecology of species, assessment of potential effects on biodiversity, and population studies to determine processes of dispersal and spread and to aid in the development of effective control measures before they are needed."

Again, does "true stewardship" exclude human benefit? We don't value biodiversity for abstract reasons. I think we're trying to make a better world for ourselves. It's just a different model than the economic growth at all costs model.
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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