Sometimes Invasive Species Are Good

By Brandon Keim

Invasive species are the stock villains of conservation biology, disrupting ecosystems and throwing native populations into disarray. But in certain cases, they’re actually quite beneficial, and perhaps it’s time to recognize that.

In California, for example, native butterflies feed on non-native plants. In Puerto Rico, alien trees help restore abandoned pastures to a condition suitable for native plants. Even the much-maligned zebra mussel helps filter toxins from lakes.

“We predict the proportion of non-native species that are viewed as benign or even desirable will slowly increase over time,” write ecologist Martin Schlaepfer of the State University of New York and colleagues in a paper published Feb. 22 in Conservation Biology.

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