In The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will be Nature’s Salvation, Fred Pearce argues that trying to keep out alien species looks increasingly flawed and that we should celebrate the dynamism of such species and the novel ecosystems they create. Further, in an era of climate change and widespread ecological damage, we should be finding ways to help nature regenerate. Pearce thinks that embracing the ‘new wild’ is our best chance of doing this.
In a similar vein, a recent article in the Economist, Invasive Species – day of the triffids argues for a measured and pragmatic approach to alien species. Not everyone is so relaxed. The database of such species, managed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, now lists 3,163 plants and 820 animals, and the EU is poised to approve a list of 37 plant and animal species that member-states must eradicate if possible.
But, as the Economist notes, Chris Thomas, a biologist at the University of York, has calculated that of the country’s 677 most widespread plant species, 68 were introduced by humans before 1500 and another 56 after that date – and not one of these introduced species ranks among the 50 most widespread plants in the country. Even Himalayan balsam, which is every purist’s hate plant is so rare that it only just makes the list.
“The wildlife we typically accept as being part of our “native” flora and fauna is moving, and new species are arriving as colonists, partly driven by climate change. The assemblage of species we consider “native” is therefore in a state of flux. We cannot arrest the changes, so to aid adaptation it will be important to enable species to colonise new areas via provision of sufficient, suitably-protected habitat, in areas that will become more climatically suitable over time …”
… although I do not expect everyone to agree.
The New Wild: Why Invasive Species will be Nature’s Salvation. Fred Pearce; ISBN: 978-1848318342; Icon Books, 2015; pp 288; £16.99.