Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration
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Invasive species are everywhere, from forests and prairies to mountaintops and river mouths. Their rampant nature and sheer numbers appear to overtake fragile native species and forever change the ecosystems that they depend on. Concerns that invasive species represent significant threats to global biodiversity and ecological integrity permeate conversations from schoolrooms to board rooms, and concerned citizens grapple with how to rapidly and efficiently manage their populations. These worries have culminated in an ongoing “war on invasive species,” where the arsenal is stocked with bulldozers, chainsaws, and herbicides put to the task of their immediate eradication. In Hawaii, mangrove trees (Avicennia spp.) are sprayed with glyphosate and left to decompose on the sandy shorelines where they grow, and in Washington, helicopters apply the herbicide Imazapyr to smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) growing in estuaries. The “war on invasive species” is in full swing, but given the scope of such potentially dangerous and ecologically degrading eradication practices, it is necessary to question the very nature of the battle.
Beyond the War on Invasive Species offers a much-needed alternative perspective on invasive species and the best practices for their management based on a holistic, permaculture-inspired framework. Utilizing the latest research and thinking on the changing nature of ecological systems, Beyond the War on Invasive Species closely examines the factors that are largely missing from the common conceptions of invasive species, including how the colliding effects of climate change, habitat destruction, and changes in land use and management contribute to their proliferation. Beyond the War on Invasive Species demonstrates that there is more to the story of invasive species than is commonly conceived, and offers ways of understanding their presence and ecosystem effects in order to make more ecologically responsible choices in land restoration and biodiversity conservation that address the root of the invasion phenomenon. The choices we make on a daily basis―the ways we procure food, shelter, water, medicine, and transportation―are the major drivers of contemporary changes in ecosystem structure and function; therefore, deep and long-lasting ecological restoration outcomes will come not just from eliminating invasive species, but through conscientious redesign of these production systems.
2006. Yeomans, Percival Alfred. The City Forest: The Keyline Plan for the Human Environment Revolution. Sydney, Australia: Keyline Press, 1971. Zeedyk, Bill, and Van Clothier. Let the Water Do the Work: Induced Meandering, an Evolving Method for Restoring Incised Channels. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014. Websites Aprovecho http://www.aprovecho.net Beyond Pesticides http://www.beyondpesticides.org BONAP—Biota of North America Program http://www.bonap.org Eat the
Recombination,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, no. 6 (2013): 2205–2210. 7. Sorenson and Johannessen, World Trade and Biological Exchanges Before 1492, 77. 8. Ibid., 80. 9. Elsa Zardini, “Madia sativa Mol.(Asteraceae-Heliantheae-Madiinae): An Ethnobotanical and Geographical Disjunct,” Economic Botany 46, no. 1 (1992): 34–44. 10. Missouri Native Seed Association, “Definition of Terms,” accessed March 13, 2014, http://www.monativeseed.org/seedterminology.html. 11. Nancy
for an invasive organism, and move from an organism-centered to a systems-centered understanding of its spread. In the case of spartina in Willapa Bay, piecing together findings from available research on the marsh grass shows how patterns of ecological change surrounding the invasion of spartina intersect with the details of its particular characteristics. Spartina alterniflora is more salt-tolerant than the spartina species that are native to the West Coast. A systems-based approach could
ways ecological systems work, the ways they change, and how our constant and inevitable interaction with them shapes their nature. It may seem more straightforward to mow, burn, bulldoze, or spray herbicide on a plant like spartina until it disappears (for a time) than to address upstream logging or agricultural practices that may contribute increased sediment loads into wetlands or to work to mitigate increasing estuarine salinity by tackling hydrological transformations related to the
native plants, native to the planet Earth. I am using indigenous plants; they are indigenous to this part of the Universe.”8 This doesn’t mean that permaculture-based restoration entails a laissez-faire approach to land management. Instead, the solution-oriented practice of permaculture promotes the creative utilization of invasive species as a by-product of holistic landscape planning. Invasive species have stories to tell and information to offer, and permaculture design strategies offer