Exercise in futility

Gainesville, FL

Here in Florida, many misguided souls spend countless hours (and expend much carbon) in a vain attempt at eradicating so called "exotic/invasive" species. Air potatos, kudzu, pythons, etc. will not vanish, and I for one am glad they are here. This peninsula is now more biodiverse than it has ever been in its entire evolutionary history, one of the few beneficial actions of H. sapiens has been the distribution and introduction of species to new lands. How is it that the only truly "invasive" and damaging species (our own) suffers from such myopia? Should we all dissapear tommorrow, Florida, and the rest of this planet would be far better off thanks to all those introduced evolutionary lineages that have enriched & enhanced communities and will continue to do so well into the future.

Aurora, ON(Zone 5a)

Don't agree with some of above, but accept the view of Homo sapiens as an invasive species or at least the major sponsor of invasive species.
Mind you, will come down and stay in Florida this winter. Don't think of myself as personally invasive!

Cynthia (N. Kansas C, MO(Zone 5b)

Florida's safe on my behalf. We're trying to move back to northern Minnesota.

Citra, FL(Zone 9a)

I agree, the loss of homo sapiens, especially many in my new state of FL (no, this was not a destination I'd always wanted to come to, but was where I could afford), would be of no great loss. It's polluted here.

How long do you project the biodiversity to remain so diverse if introduced species replace those that were here?

Gainesville, FL

Introduced species are enhancing the flora/fauna, not replacing. Biodiversity is increasing because of introductions. These introduced species may naturalize, and over time may radiate, speciate, or go extinct. I do not think there is an upper limit to biodiversity, more species is always an improvement.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

How is endless acres of kudzu creating biodiversity when it excludes everything else? How about in more northerly states where massive expanses of once-diverse wetlands are completelt taken over by purple loosestrife at the expense of entire communities of fauna and flora?

Gainesville, FL

Which species have gone extinct as a direct result of the introduction of kudzu or purple loosestrife?

Citra, FL(Zone 9a)

so your criteria is extinction?

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

What about the flying carp?

Gainesville, FL

Yes, if kudzu or purple loosestrife are as damaging and destructive as claimed, then they must have surely caused the extinction of many organisms, although no one can name one.

~Carp can fly?

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

They had on the national news about 6 weeks ago how the conservation agents were trying to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes. When the boaters go down the Mississippi River the carp literally jump out of the water and land in the boat sometimes hitting the people. It's awful. They call it flying carp.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

I imagine you might have a different attitude if YOUR property was rendered useless and devalued by some highly invasive plant. As for:
" if kudzu or purple loosestrife are as damaging and destructive as claimed, then they must have surely caused the extinction of many organisms, although no one can name one."

you need to get around more and see some of the large areas completely taken over by one or the other of the above mentioned plants. You seem to have the idea that these problems are trivial and blown out of proportion by some "tree hugger". Also, I don't know if either of these two plants has caused any extinctions yet, but neither do you. You think everyone in the country competent to speak on the matter has read this obscure thread and failed to respond?

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

Here's a partial list list of National Wildlife Refuges threatened by invasive species, compiled by biologists for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other scientists.


Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Florida, where Wood Storks and Snail Kites are threatened by invasive Melaleuca and Old World Climbing Fern

Willapa NWR in Washington, where Short-billed Dowitchers are threatened by invasive cordgrass

Wertheim NWR in New York, where American Black Ducks are threatened by invasive Phragmites

Aransas NWR in Texas, where Short-eared Owls are threatened by invasive Chinese tallow

San Luis NWR in California, where Long-billed Curlews are threatened by invasive yellow starthistle

Browns Park NWR in Colorado, where Northern Harriers are threatened by invasive perennial pepperweed

Waubay NWR in South Dakota, where Dickcissels are threatened by invasive Canada thistle

Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico, where Southwestern Willow Flycatchers and Yellow-billed Cuckoos are threatened by invasive Saltcedar

Blackwater NWR in Maryland, where Black Rails are threatened by invasive Nutria

Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR in Mississippi, where Sandhill Cranes are threatened by invasive cogon grass and fire ants

Gainesville, FL

Plants and animals do not destroy, damage, harm, or despoil environments. None of those areas or organisms are "threatened" by introduced species, and "invasive" is a term only used by those lacking an understanding of biological dispersal and the natural movement of species around this planet. Species move, always have, always will.

The real threat to Wood Storks, Snail Kites, etc. are the actions of our species. Compare the acreage of Melaleuca to Citrus in Florida, or the number of Nutria to cows. National Wildlife Refuges only exist because humans have completely dominated and altered all the other areas that Wood storks et al. used to enjoy.

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

Now you're just being absurd. All the biologists at the US Fish and Wildlife Service lack understanding? Yes, people are responsible for invasive species problems. That doesn't mean it's not a problem. To say the Nutria are contributing to biodiversity in Maryland is utter nonsense.

I've been to Blackwater NWR many times and have never once seen a cow wading in the marshes there. The Nutria are destroying the birds' habitat. People are responsible. It's a problem.

Citra, FL(Zone 9a)

Thank you, claypa.
I am not expert enough to answer so clearly as you, and I appreciate it. It's also good to "see" you again.

Gainesville, FL

What people (including many biologists) seem to not grasp is that organisms have been moving around this planet for the last three billion years or so, and will continue to disperse/migrate/colonize into new areas as long as there is life on this planet. This global movement of evolutionary lineages is natural, inevitable, and unstoppable, it would be absurd to think otherwise.

There is no difference in the dispersal of organisms, whether it is by wind or wave, bird or bat, monkey or man. Species do not "belong" to some particular area of this earth, there is no such thing as a "native" species, likewise the terms "non-native", "exotic", "alien", and "invasive" have absolutely NO biological meaning whatsoever.

Nutria do in fact contribute to the biodiversity of Maryland; please look up the meaning of the word: biodiversity.
Black Rails are threatened by habitat loss, so yes, people are responsible, its a problem.

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

So please tell us why biodiversity is a valid term to you, but "native","non-native", "exotic", "alien", and "invasive" are not.

Obviously, since we're here in the Invasive Plants forum, someone must think it's a valid term, besides all those scientists who use it.

This forum is about human-caused invasive plant problems, not evolution or geological and other processes that move life forms around the planet. There's a big difference.

This message was edited Apr 8, 2010 1:58 PM

Portland, OR

Hi flabotany~

While I appreciate your viewpoint, and definitely respect that you are coming from a different direction and introducing a different line of thought, I think you're using terms interchangably that just don't apply.

The term biodiversity applies to an environment with a community of plants, animals and other organisms. As you say, biodiversity is in constant flux for one reason or another, due to natural causes. A native plant that spreads as it normally would throughout its natural environment is not considered invasive in any way. An animal in a state of population explosion (take the lemming for example, whose population flux is legendary) isn't invasive either and contributes to the ever changing populations of its food source and predators.

And again, as you say, the effect man has had on biodiverse environments has been immeasurably, incredibly amazing in many ways. In our profound ignorance, greed and lack of forethought, we have caused irreversable damage to the biosphere. We continue to do so, even though we're overall more aware and more laws are in place to slow our damage down.

To say though, that we have contributed to biodiversity and we should appreciate that is really a faulty view. The introduction of the European starling, English sparrow, and countless other species of plants, insects and so forth have contributed to the REDUCTION of biodiversity in North America. While many species that have been compromised may not be extinct, their numbers are reduced or simply gone from many areas. Man removed nearly every single wolf from the United States; now programs exist to bring them back, but a balance was nearly lost.

In any natural environment, there is a degree of biodiversity, whether it's small and sparse, or lush and profuse. In Florida, the area in which you use as an example, the biodiversity has been compromised for several decades. Yes, some areas are still beautiful and as you say, it's due to the introduced species and actions by people.

BUT...this is not an environment in balance, and cannot truly be seen as a naturally biodiverse environment. If everyone in Florida left today, it would take a very long time for a natural balance to occur. Even then, some of the invasive species would win out, changing what Florida's original, natural environment was into something new. Perhaps some species would become extinct, perhaps some would rebound and thrive, but there's no way to know for sure.

This was my long-winded way of encouraging you not to misuse a term in biology to describe the flourishing flora and fauna in Florida -- yes, I'm sure it's beautiful down there, but you must step back and realize the ultimate changes made by man, no matter how beautiful, are far from a balanced, biodiverse environment.

Citra, FL(Zone 9a)

Oh yes, Ketta, it's beautiful down here, where the wisteria and kudzu run free, and every roadside is blanketed with hot pink dianthus...

Gainesville, FL


Biodiversity can be measured. I reject the terms "native","non-native", "exotic", "alien" , because all attempts at defining what is or is not native are predicated on some arbitrary, nebulous, and therefore meaningless time scale. What defines a species as being "native" to North America? Is it pre-Columbian, pre-human, pre-Cambrian? The term "invasive" is just as poorly defined, and is applied to so-called "natives" as well.

Some scientists and others still cling to outdated and unfounded terminology, it can be difficult to have your beliefs and world view challanged, but real scientists will accept the evidence, not the prevailing orthodoxy.

A little education never hurt anyone. Evolutionary history, biogeography, and geology are all fascinating subjects, too bad, they are rarely taught or appreciated.

Gainesville, FL


By any measurement the biodiversity of North America is greater today than it was 500 years ago, as a direct result of the introduction of species by humans.

Your confusion arises because of the acceptance of terminology like: "natural", "environment in balance", "natural environment", "native", "normal" etc. Please discard these, they have no meaning.

Gainesville, FL


I think you mean Phlox drummondii

Bardstown, KY(Zone 6a)

So "native" has no meaning? Then why can't I go out in the woods here and find Hosta's, Japanese Maples, or any of a few million other plants growing locally?


West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

Before European settlement is the commonly used time frame for defining native plants in North America.

These are the definitions used by the USDA and all federal agencies in the US

Native Plant
A plant that is a part of the balance of nature that has developed over hundreds or thousands of years in a particular region or ecosystem. Note: The word native should always be used with a geographic qualifier (that is, native to New England [for example]). Only plants found in this country before European settlement are considered to be native to the United States.

Invasive Plant
A plant that is both non-native and able to establish on many sites, grow quickly, and spread to the point of disrupting plant communities or ecosystems. Note: From the Presidential Executive Order 13112 (February 1999): 'An invasive species is defined as a species that is 1) non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and 2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.' In contrast to item 2) of the Executive Order, which includes plants invasive in agricultural settings, the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group lists non-native plants as invasive only if they invade minimally managed (natural) areas.

Non-Native Plant
A plant introduced with human help (intentionally or accidentally) to a new place or new type of habitat where it was not previously found. Note: Not all non-native plants are invasive. In fact, when many non-native plants are introduced to new places, they cannot reproduce or spread readily without continued human help (for example, many ornamental plants).

Naturalized Plant
A non-native plant that does not need human help to reproduce and maintain itself over time in an area where it is not native. Notes: Even though their offspring reproduce and spread naturally (without human help), naturalized plants do not, over time, become native members of the local plant community. Many naturalized plants are found primarily near human-dominated areas; and, sometimes, naturalized is used (confusingly) to refer specifically to naturally reproducing, non-native plants that do not invade areas dominated by native vegetation. However, since invasive plants also reproduce and spread without human help, they also are naturalized invasives are a small, but troublesome, sub-category of naturalized plants.

Exotic Plant
A plant not native to the continent on which it is now found. (Plants from Europe are exotic in North America; plants from North America are exotic in Japan.)

Translocated Plant
A plant not native to the portion of the continent where it is now found. (California Poppies in New England are an example of a translocated species.)

Opportunistic Native Plant
A native plant that is able to take advantage of disturbance to the soil or existing vegetation to spread quickly and out-compete the other plants on the disturbed site.

Common Usage - A weed is a plant (native or non-native) that is not valued in the place where it is growing (USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)). Definition - Any plant that poses a major threat to agriculture and/or natural ecosystems within the United States.

Noxious Weed
Common Usage - A plant that is particularly troublesome. Legal Context (Federal Plant Protection Act) - Any plant or plant product that can directly or indirectly injure or cause damage to crops (including nursery stock or plant products), livestock, poultry or other interests of agriculture, irrigation, navigation, the natural resources of the United States, the public health, or the environment. Note: USDA APHIS maintains a list of federally-recognized noxious weeds. It is illegal to import Federally listed noxious weeds or transport them across state lines. Some states or counties maintain lists and have passed laws regarding responsibilities for their control (not applicable in Connecticut). Connecticut laws ban the sale or transport of noxious weed seeds.

Citra, FL(Zone 9a)

phlox, not dianthus...corrected.

Gainesville, FL

Before European settlement is still an arbitrary demarcation, Amerindians surely moved species around as well, many of them were agricultural societies. If one were to use the pre-European settlement argument for the definition of "native", then my banana trees are "native" (Manchester & Kress 1993). Ginkgo is "native" (Mustoe 2002, Scott et al. 1962).

Palm trees are "native" to Alaska, elephants, camels, horses, and cheetahs are also "native" to North America as all of them occured on this continent before the arrival of Europeans.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

This thread could not be more aptly titled.

Bardstown, KY(Zone 6a)

Amen to that greenthumb...

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

Pre-European settlement may be arbitrary but it makes sense, to most people anyway.

The extinct Pleistocene mammals referred to aren't the same species (or genera, or even family in the "elephant" example) that exist today. So if an African cheetah were to be introduced into North America, it wouldn't fit the definition of native.

This message was edited Apr 9, 2010 9:56 AM

Gainesville, FL

So "native" species are only those that were found in North America after the Pleistocene, but before European settlement? Your definition is becoming even more nebulous.

Cheetahs woud be re-introduced, as they evolved in North America, just as horses were re-introduced to their place of origin by the Spanish in the sixteenth century.

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

Read the definition again. It hasn't changed. And it's not my definition.

Native plants.....developed over hundreds or thousands of years in a particular region or ecosystem. Note: The word native should always be used with a geographic qualifier...

What makes you think African cheetahs and the Spaniard's Arabian horses evolved the way their extinct North American counterparts might have? It's like your elephant example; Asian and African elephants already existed at the time mammoths and mastodons roamed parts of North America. They share common ancestry but they're not the same animals.

Gainesville, FL

I read the definition again, and it is still meaningless..............

Yes, the extant cheetahs, elephants, & horses are not the same species that roamed North America. My point was that evolutionary lineages do not "belong" to, or are limited to any one geographic region. Organisms are constantly moving about this planet and will continue to do so regardless of where we think they "belong", or all the futile attempts at stopping such migration. What amazing arrogance humans have, we show up to the party three billion years late and now all other life forms must conform to our idea of what the world is "supposed" to look like.

Citra, FL(Zone 9a)

at least there is agreement that humans are arrogant.

Walkerton, VA(Zone 7a)

Among those of us who occupy the top of the food chain, showing up to the party three billion years late is called being "fashionably late".

Lake Park, GA

Of course, flabotany is merely trying to pull chain -- thanks to all you reasoned, sensible folks who presented serious responses

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Fluid beliefs, macroscopic mixed with microscopic, chuckle

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

I was also assuming that flabotany's comments and thoughts were given tongue in cheek, so to speak.

Coushatta, LA

Louisiana is being overran by none native plants to.Kudzu,nandina,bahia grass,crab gass,burmuda grass,tallow tree,mimosa tree,chamberbitters,wisteria,privet,chinaberry,cogon grass,callery pear,nut sedge just to name a few.English sparrows,starlings and nutria are the worst animals.

Gainesville, FL

Louisiana is overrun by H. sapiens.

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