Time to End Invasive-Species Persecution

Brandon Keim

They’re treated as outsiders, as opportunity-stealing intruders who ought be greeted with government crackdowns rather than open arms.

They’re immigrants — immigrant species, that is. And some ecologists say it’s time to declare amnesty, demilitarize our environmental borders and accept the inevitable reality of non-native invasion.

“People like to have an enemy, and vilifying non-native species makes the world very simple,” said ecologist Mark Davis of Macalester University. “The public got sold this nativist paradigm: Native species are the good ones, and non-native species are bad. It’s a 20th century concept, like wilderness, that doesn’t make sense in the 21st century.”

Davis is one of 18 ecologists to sign a June 9 Nature essay entitled, “Don’t judge species on their origins.” They argue that while some non-natives are indeed destructive, such as Guam’s brown tree snakes and Great Lakes zebra mussels, they’re the exception.

Most are actually benign, relegated to a lower-class status that reflects prejudice rather than solid science, write the authors. Non-natives are assumed to be undesirable, and their benefits go ignored and unstudied.

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