A good example of the dangers of assuming the worst of nonnative spe- cies is illustrated by Gleditsch and Carlo (2011), who described the effects of nonnative honeysuckles on native bird species.They found that birds were eating large amounts of the non-native honeysuckle berries, but they were also eating more native berries than were eaten in areas without the "invasive" honeysuckle. Davis relates this to the car dealer effect. Car dealers often locate next to one another because they enjoy higher overall customers than if they were located in separate locations. The same is true of artist studios and art galleries. The ones grouped together generally have more visitors for open studio events and first Fridays. The often repeated line on invasive species is that they outcompete native species. This paper shows that when studied it turns out that non-native berry producers are actually encouraging birds to distribute native berries as well. This is our new evolving landscape, and it's working just fine.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The reason robins left the north was never the cold, but lack of food. The changing landscape over the past several decades has included many more berry producing shrubs like honeysuckles and buckthorn. Mark Davis from Macalaster College in St. Paul authored an interesting paper "Do Native Birds Care Whether Their Berries Are Native or Exotic? No." Now the true indicators of the arrival of spring are grackles the iridescent blue/black birds with yellow eyes. This spring in Minnesota has been VERY slow to emerge and while I've seen plenty of robins we're still waiting for the grackles.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
The EPA has released its River and Stream Assessment and it shows widespread nutrient pollution. The nutrient pollution leads to algal blooms and the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.
Our rivers and streams are under significant stress. Reducing nutrient pollution and improving habitat will significantly improve the biological health of rivers and streams and support important uses such as swimming and fishing. This survey suggests that, although many actions are underway to protect our rivers and streams, we need to address the many sources of pollution — including runoff from urban areas, agricultural practices, and wastewater — in order to ensure healthier waters for future generations.Asian Carp were first imported to this country by catfish farmers to clean the algae out of their catfish ponds. The great Mississippi flood of 1993 allowed them to escape in the River. Our farming and lifestyle practices have led to a better habitat for the carp, and are probably a main reason they have thrived in the Mississippi River system. I think it's a fair question to ask if this river system would be even worse off without the Asian Carp. It seems like the best way to address the carp issue if to reduce the nutrient pollution of our rivers. Switch to organic farming, and stop using fertilizers on our suburban lawns. We've created an ideal environment for the carp, and they are currently part of the solution not the problem.
Friday, December 7, 2012
The Great Lake States had sued the Army Corps of Engineers to have them erect a permanent barrier in the Chicago River to prevent the spread of Asian Carp into the Great Lakes. Here is some audio from Minnesota Public Radio. They repeat the invasive species mantra, voracious eaters, invaders, taking over, causing extinctions etc. They even refer to them as "demon fish" at the end, come on MPR.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I have been thinking about passports for non-human animals and plants. Here is a real world application of animal passports with real consequences for the animals involved. Wolves on the border of Norway and Sweden.
But what I am about to relate cuts to the heart of Norway's image as a broadminded, liberal, green nation. It repudiates those advertisements emphasising the country's natural beauty and astonishing wildlife and suggests that the sensibilities of Norway's current political class are no more sophisticated than those of the frontiersmen of the wild west in the late 19th century. On Wednesday there will be a meeting between the Norwegian and Swedish governments, at which Norway intends to lay claim to some of the wolves which live on the border between the two nations. This may sound like a good thing. The government's purpose is anything but. If it can classify these wolves as Norwegian, even though most of them breed in Sweden, it can go ahead with the extermination of wolves elsewhere in the country. It can claim that, due to the newly nationalised border population, it is still meeting its international obligations to maintain the species.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
An interesting study about bird evolution has been getting press as much for its beautiful info graphic as what the study found.
The team’s exhaustive work has already yielded some surprising insights. Whereas it was generally thought that biodiversity, in recent history, was slowing down across the board, speciation in birds is actually speeding up. Dr. Arne Mooers, a biologist from Simon Fraser University in Canada and one of the paper’s co-authors, speculated about the phenomenon in a statement. "Perhaps birds are special," he says. "Maybe they’re so good at getting around they can escape local competition from relatives and start anew elsewhere, producing bursts of new species at different times and in different parts of the globe."The same could be said for plants that are good at using humans and other means of "getting around." Will buckthorn , Ailanthus altissima or Japanese knotweed develop into new species in this country? This is interesting because one of the arguments always used against invasive species is that they reduce biodiversity, when in fact they may be increasing biodiversity.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Britain is attempting to combat bovine TB that is spread by badgers by killing badgers. Sir David Attenborough and others convincingly point out that scientific studies have shown this to be ineffective, but the government wants to go ahead with the badger killing anyway. It is very likely that it will just aid in the spread of the disease when scared badgers run away and infect other badger populations. Only if you exterminate all the badgers can you be sure that they won't spread bovine TB. This sounds a lot like attempts to eradicate the snakehead fish by killing all the fish in a lake.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Interesting research by a grad student at Ohio State.
Calinger’s initial data set contains a study of 141 species but she aims to analyze a total of 207 species for the final data set. She estimates that her work represents an analysis of an average of 40 specimens per wildflower type. Her research is one of the six largest worldwide in tracking the history of wildflowers’ life cycle changes brought about by a response to climate change. Callinger analyzed the wildflowers at their maximum flowering point or at the time when half or more of the flowers’ buds are open. Her research shows that 46% of the 141 species studied bloomed earlier than usual due to the warming. Majority of the plants that exhibited advancement in flowering in response to the temperature increase were non-natives. This unexpected majority presents both benefits and challenges. On the positive side, the adaptability of hardy non-native plant species is an advantage in coping with climate change and its effects. This characteristic of non-native plants can be studied more and perhaps used in sustaining landscapes and ecosystems that might otherwise be vulnerable to climate change. However, potentially invasive plant species may also have a greater chance of pushing native species out of their natural habitat. In addition, factors like pollination and response to false weather cues can adversely affect the plants’ reproduction and livelihood. The wildflowers might bloom at an earlier time than usual in response to warmer temperatures while their insect pollinators are still hibernating because of lower, cooler ground temperatures. Calinger said in an interview that a lot of these effects could potentially cascade upwards the food chain and affect birds and insects. She presented her analyses at the international conference EcoSummit 2012 held in Columbus.