We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Invasive species & human exceptionalism

Gene Expression
By Razib Khan
Aug 14, 2009 12:26 AMNov 5, 2019 9:40 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

A helpful invasive species?:

Introduced species can wreak havoc on the ecosystems they invade. But what happens after they've been established for centuries? A new study in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society suggests that, in one case, an introduced species has actually become an important part of the native ecosystem -- and helps protect native species from another invader [$-a]. ... Recently a news article in Nature discussed ragamuffin earth [$-a] -- the idea that human interference in nature has so dramatically changed natural systems that it may often be impossible to restore "pristine" ecological communities. In these cases, some ecologists say, conservation efforts might be better focused on how to maintain and improve the diversity and productivity of the novel ecosystems we've inadvertently created. It looks as though the dingo could be a poster child for exactly this approach.

The havoc that introduced species have caused in some areas is well known, such as Australia (most prominently, but limited to, rabbits). But the term "invasive" seems more a normative than a scientific one, after all,

at some point endemic species were invasive.

For example, the "pristine" ecosystems of North American before Europeans arrived were certainly reshaped in the last 10,000 years by the migration of Old World species such as bison and the gray wolf, combined with human predation and utilization of fire. In fact recent research hints that the "virgin" Amazon rainforest may actually have taken up its present form after the die-off of native populations within the last 300-400 years.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.