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Chad Love: What's Your Favorite Invasive Species?

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November 11, 2009

Chad Love: What's Your Favorite Invasive Species?

By Chad Love

In the never-ending debate over the impact of non-native species, there are invaders many of us have come to accept and even revere (the ringneck pheasant, Huns, chukars) and there are invaders that are almost universally reviled (the snakehead, kudzu, zebra mussels, Texas Longhorn fans).
 
But according to this interesting piece in Slate maybe invasive species, both "good" and "bad" really aren't such a big deal, after all.

From the story:
Tamarisk, a Eurasian shrub, is your classic invasive species—designated one of America's "least wanted" plants by the National Parks Service. In recent decades, it has spread along Southwestern riverbanks, replacing native trees such as willows and cottonwoods...Measures to thwart them include burning, herbicides, and "tammy whacking" (physical removal sometimes done by freelance volunteers). A few years ago, the USDA let loose thousands of leaf-eating Asian beetles in order to sic them on tamarisks, which die from the defoliation...But these efforts to oust the intruder have encountered a glitch. It turns out that a charismatic endangered bird—the southwestern willow flycatcher—is known to nest in the offending shrubs. Last March, the Center for Biological Diversity sued the government, charging that indiscriminately killing tamarisks jeopardizes the flycatcher
 
These controversies highlight a broader debate within "invasion biology," a field that emerged in the 1980s. Some scientists—such as Matthew Chew, Dov Sax , and Mark Davis—are challenging what they consider old prejudices about "alien" species. They point out the inevitability of change and the positive roles that non-natives can play in ecosystems, while describing eradication projects as often wasteful and even counterproductive.

 
It's certainly a provocative point of view. At what point do "invaders" become so established that they're essentially native? Take pheasants for example. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more popular gamebird than the ringneck pheasant. Millions of hunters pursue it. Dozens of states spend millions more managing for it. It has its own conservation group. It literally supports an entire industry. Huns? Introduced. Chukars? Introduced. Brown trout? Introduced. And beloved, all of them. The list goes on and on. The argument could certainly be made that there really isn't such a thing as a completely "native" ecosystem at all any more and as such arguments for them are superfluous.
 
So is the potential loss of native species worth the potential gains of the newcomers? For example, would you support programs to boost dwindling native gamebird species like lesser prairie chickens even at the expense of more popular non-natives like pheasants? What are your favorite "invasive" species, and if given the chance would you trade them for a native?

Comments (27)

Top Rated
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from Bioboy wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

The first problem with this arguement is the lack of deinition between non-native species and invasive species. A species can be non-native and not cause any problems and yes, be positive for the local ecosystem. An invasive species comes in and takes over, killing off native species. When a species is invasive it does need attempts to remove it. Posing the question as to whether we should let native species go extinct for non-natives is absurd, we alredy lose too much biodiversity every day without knowing it, willingly letting this happen should be unthinkable.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from HogBlog wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Invasion Biology offers a simplistic answer to the tougher question.... Isn't the spread of invasive non-natives "natural"?

Honestly, there is a fine line there, but there aren't any such cut and dried answers. The ecosystem is so out of balance due to man's past efforts (or lack thereof) to manage it, that it is really going to take an educated and well-considered approach to determine what should stay and what should go. Simply weeding out a plant or animal because it's not a historic part of the landscape isn't always the best idea... and in some cases, such as wild hogs, it's not even possible. Better,in that case, to figure out what the damage is and how to mitigate it.

In some other cases, containment and eradication may be the best call if the native species at risk are, honestly, critical to the ecosystem... or if the invasive poses a real threat to the business interests of agriculture and other industry.

In other words, we need to study and learn before we simply cut and burn.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Lake Erie Steelhead.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Brown trout have arguably done more for fly fishing throughout the world (beyond their native range) than any single species. I prefer to call them "immigrants," and I am abundantly thankful that they somehow wound up in Michigan a hundred some-odd years ago, like my great-great-grandfather.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from chadlove wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

"Immigrants" huh? I like that...

Bioboy, I don't necessarily think the question is absurd because in the case of say, pheasants versus threatened native prairie grouse like the lesser prairie chicken that's in essence exactly what we're already doing, perhaps not intentionally but the end result is the same.

Different species, different life cycles, different habitat requirements, hence different management requirements. Now guess which one gets the lion's share of our resources and attention? It's not the grouse, it's the gaudy immigrant, while the prairie chicken is left to struggle and suck hind mammary...

Hogblog, it's a good point. The fact is with most of these species eradication is impossible. They're here to stay, for better or worse...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Being from Michigan I'd have to say my favorite is the recently confirmed cougar that has been here un-confirmed for at least 20 years. My least favorite is a tie between the zebra mussel and my ex-wife, I wish both were extinct.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from .88Mag wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I despise what the Himalayan blackberry does to my property here in Washington state. But man those berries are goooood!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

The fastest way to wipe out a quail and turkey population is allow Road Runners to take a hold of an area in the Spring! They eat the eggs and chicks! Back in 1970, a couple of hunters waged war on the Road Runners just East of Tucson Arizona and the Quail population exploded!

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from coho310 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Bass!Who doesn't love fishing for bass?they're not native west of the Rockies,where I live,and neither are catfish,sunfish,crappies,perch,and walleyes,not to mention that brown trout aren't native to the continent.Just because they're non-native doesn't mean they're not great fish.I don't know what I'd do without these fish!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from vtbluegrass wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I definitely know the worst invasive species possible to have in your area. The liberal carpetbaggin yankee.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

When I lived on Long Island Sound I was a huge fan of the invasive Asian Crab...they made for superb tog (blackfish) bait. Better than anything I could buy at the bait shop and they were as cheap as turning over a rock on the beach. Not sure what (if) they'll eventually do to the ecosystem but, man, the fish loved 'em...and so did I.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from country road wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I only have one favored invasive and that's Japanese Honeysuckle. It smells good, doesn't take over, is relatively easy to control and deer love to eat it year around. The invasive plant that scares me the worst is cogon grass which is truly "The Weed From Hell". It has a firm foothold where I live and I just hope it doesn't spread to the rest of the country. I don't feel qualified to pass judgement on pheasants, chukars and Huns since they don't live near me, but everybody seems to like them fine.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jordjohn44 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

As far as favorite, I don't know if you still count the brown trout but oh man. The zebra mussel though is a very useful one that has done so much to clean up lakes such as Lake Erie.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from salmonquest wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Salmon in michigan have to be my favorite invasive species. I've even warmed up to zebra mussels. They are clearing up the great lakes, they seem to have leveled off, and my personal unscientific opinion is that the game fish are starting to feed off the zebra larvae hence the healthy populations of walleye and perch in the saginaw bay area.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

The quest for the perfect environment is an elusive one. It eventually becomes a matter of opinion as to the value of one species over another. Apple trees and honey bees would be two of my favorites. Mallards in the East, (replacing black ducks), and carp would be two of my least favorites. Purple loosestrife is another big pain. The recovery of the bald eagle and the osprey indicates the super high quality of the present day habitat that we have. I am terrified of a government official, a leaf czar if you will, putting a one size fits all filter over the local environment. Change is the order of the day. Embrace the beaty of what we have. The environment of today is so much better than that of the 60's that it is almost unbelievable that we could have gotten her from there.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bigjake wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

In New Brunswick whitetail deer are the #1 invasive species.Whitetails only started showing up here in the early 1900's when their numbers started growing due to manmade habitat changes.Old growth forests were being turned into agricultural land and new growth forests by the rising human population in the eastern States.These changes highly benefited whitetail numbers, providing much better living conditions for the deer, and they spread northwards into the Maritime provinces.Unfortunately the areas where already inhabited by woodland caribou and moose.The whitetails carried a parastic worm(Huge latin name that Im not even gonna try to spell) that posed harm to the deer, but decimated the local woodland caribou population, completely wiping them out.Several attempts have been made in the Maritime Provinces to reintroduce the caribou(last in 1960's) but failed each time, with the test herds dieing of this disease within a few short years.The last remaining rements of the local woodland caribou population is in a High mountain park in the Gaspe Pennisula of Quebc.These animals survived because they live at a higher elevation than whitetail prefer and the two species have minimal contact with each other.
Would I like to see the whitetails removed and caribou reintroduced?No, but I love the idea of somehow removing this worm parasite from our deer population and trying to reintoduce the caribou to the northern half of the province where whitetail numbers are very low.This way we could eventually have 3 species of deer to hunt here,woodland caribou, moose and whitetails...

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Quahog wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

KUDZU !!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fischerman69 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

i love red fox there fun to hunt and they look like a cat dog mix

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Favorite non natives? The grey squirrel and the coyote (this is New England). Least favorite? Mormon missionaries, definately. Perhaps I could enjoy these particular annoying non-natives more if there was a season for legally hunting them, but I wouldn't want to eat 'em let alone gut 'em out in the field. I don't generally hunt for trophies, so I'd likely just do the monkey on the stick thing (pour encourage' les autres).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Asian Carp. They put a whole new perspective on snagging. Honestly, you can snag one of these fish on every cast and they are a blast to catch. They don't eat well but there are plenty of "ethnic" folks waiting behind you to gladly take them home to eat.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I'd also like to distinguish between non-native and invasive. For non-native, the best examples that come to mind are the brown trout and ringneck pheasant. There are so pervasive that most people don't realize that carp are invasive.

Some of this will gradually occur over time without human's help (birds, animals, wind, tides). We just make it happen a whole lot faster.

This article on invasives in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes came out on Nov. 2. 185 invasives and counting.

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/68119707.html

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Paul Wilke wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Favorite is nightcrawlers.
Least favorite is nonhunters and homos ( homos = home owners).
Think of forestry, a clear-cut brings about invasive grasses these are followed by invasive shrubs, followed by invasive fast growing trees, followed by invasive long lived trees, followed by another clear-cut or by invasive homos.
Each cycle has associates, rabbites and pheasant in the grass-land begin to be replaced by deer and turkeys as associates of the shrubs and fast growing trees.
The only invasive species that screws up the whole process is nonhunters and homos.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I'm good with more gamebirds. I wish we had a "problem" with invasinve pheasants in AZ. As it stands, I keep waiting for those droves of Eurasian Collared Doves to start showing up.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Big O wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I'm with country roads here. Honey Suckle would be my "favorite".

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Asian Carp by far. They live anywhere are great fun to bowfish for. I know there aren't a lot of bass fishermen that like them, but they are fun to shoot.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Oh, and don't forget the house sparrow and starling. Could definitely get by without them ... but their extirpation is not likely to happen. And no one has mentioned boas, pythons, and iguanas?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bassman3-15 wrote 4 years 21 weeks ago

illegal immigrants

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Topper wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

I'm awfully fond of brown trout, and you guys that like Asian carp are in fer a buncha trouble down the road, when Asian carp have run everything else out. And do y'all really like getting 'em in the face at 25mph in yer skiff? By the way, carp are only considered a trash fish in the USA; many foreign cooks can turn them into fine fare.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Walt Smith wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Being from Michigan I'd have to say my favorite is the recently confirmed cougar that has been here un-confirmed for at least 20 years. My least favorite is a tie between the zebra mussel and my ex-wife, I wish both were extinct.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bioboy wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

The first problem with this arguement is the lack of deinition between non-native species and invasive species. A species can be non-native and not cause any problems and yes, be positive for the local ecosystem. An invasive species comes in and takes over, killing off native species. When a species is invasive it does need attempts to remove it. Posing the question as to whether we should let native species go extinct for non-natives is absurd, we alredy lose too much biodiversity every day without knowing it, willingly letting this happen should be unthinkable.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Brown trout have arguably done more for fly fishing throughout the world (beyond their native range) than any single species. I prefer to call them "immigrants," and I am abundantly thankful that they somehow wound up in Michigan a hundred some-odd years ago, like my great-great-grandfather.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from bigjake wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

In New Brunswick whitetail deer are the #1 invasive species.Whitetails only started showing up here in the early 1900's when their numbers started growing due to manmade habitat changes.Old growth forests were being turned into agricultural land and new growth forests by the rising human population in the eastern States.These changes highly benefited whitetail numbers, providing much better living conditions for the deer, and they spread northwards into the Maritime provinces.Unfortunately the areas where already inhabited by woodland caribou and moose.The whitetails carried a parastic worm(Huge latin name that Im not even gonna try to spell) that posed harm to the deer, but decimated the local woodland caribou population, completely wiping them out.Several attempts have been made in the Maritime Provinces to reintroduce the caribou(last in 1960's) but failed each time, with the test herds dieing of this disease within a few short years.The last remaining rements of the local woodland caribou population is in a High mountain park in the Gaspe Pennisula of Quebc.These animals survived because they live at a higher elevation than whitetail prefer and the two species have minimal contact with each other.
Would I like to see the whitetails removed and caribou reintroduced?No, but I love the idea of somehow removing this worm parasite from our deer population and trying to reintoduce the caribou to the northern half of the province where whitetail numbers are very low.This way we could eventually have 3 species of deer to hunt here,woodland caribou, moose and whitetails...

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from HogBlog wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Invasion Biology offers a simplistic answer to the tougher question.... Isn't the spread of invasive non-natives "natural"?

Honestly, there is a fine line there, but there aren't any such cut and dried answers. The ecosystem is so out of balance due to man's past efforts (or lack thereof) to manage it, that it is really going to take an educated and well-considered approach to determine what should stay and what should go. Simply weeding out a plant or animal because it's not a historic part of the landscape isn't always the best idea... and in some cases, such as wild hogs, it's not even possible. Better,in that case, to figure out what the damage is and how to mitigate it.

In some other cases, containment and eradication may be the best call if the native species at risk are, honestly, critical to the ecosystem... or if the invasive poses a real threat to the business interests of agriculture and other industry.

In other words, we need to study and learn before we simply cut and burn.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jordjohn44 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

As far as favorite, I don't know if you still count the brown trout but oh man. The zebra mussel though is a very useful one that has done so much to clean up lakes such as Lake Erie.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Lake Erie Steelhead.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from chadlove wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

"Immigrants" huh? I like that...

Bioboy, I don't necessarily think the question is absurd because in the case of say, pheasants versus threatened native prairie grouse like the lesser prairie chicken that's in essence exactly what we're already doing, perhaps not intentionally but the end result is the same.

Different species, different life cycles, different habitat requirements, hence different management requirements. Now guess which one gets the lion's share of our resources and attention? It's not the grouse, it's the gaudy immigrant, while the prairie chicken is left to struggle and suck hind mammary...

Hogblog, it's a good point. The fact is with most of these species eradication is impossible. They're here to stay, for better or worse...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from .88Mag wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I despise what the Himalayan blackberry does to my property here in Washington state. But man those berries are goooood!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from coho310 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Bass!Who doesn't love fishing for bass?they're not native west of the Rockies,where I live,and neither are catfish,sunfish,crappies,perch,and walleyes,not to mention that brown trout aren't native to the continent.Just because they're non-native doesn't mean they're not great fish.I don't know what I'd do without these fish!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

When I lived on Long Island Sound I was a huge fan of the invasive Asian Crab...they made for superb tog (blackfish) bait. Better than anything I could buy at the bait shop and they were as cheap as turning over a rock on the beach. Not sure what (if) they'll eventually do to the ecosystem but, man, the fish loved 'em...and so did I.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from country road wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I only have one favored invasive and that's Japanese Honeysuckle. It smells good, doesn't take over, is relatively easy to control and deer love to eat it year around. The invasive plant that scares me the worst is cogon grass which is truly "The Weed From Hell". It has a firm foothold where I live and I just hope it doesn't spread to the rest of the country. I don't feel qualified to pass judgement on pheasants, chukars and Huns since they don't live near me, but everybody seems to like them fine.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from salmonquest wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Salmon in michigan have to be my favorite invasive species. I've even warmed up to zebra mussels. They are clearing up the great lakes, they seem to have leveled off, and my personal unscientific opinion is that the game fish are starting to feed off the zebra larvae hence the healthy populations of walleye and perch in the saginaw bay area.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

The quest for the perfect environment is an elusive one. It eventually becomes a matter of opinion as to the value of one species over another. Apple trees and honey bees would be two of my favorites. Mallards in the East, (replacing black ducks), and carp would be two of my least favorites. Purple loosestrife is another big pain. The recovery of the bald eagle and the osprey indicates the super high quality of the present day habitat that we have. I am terrified of a government official, a leaf czar if you will, putting a one size fits all filter over the local environment. Change is the order of the day. Embrace the beaty of what we have. The environment of today is so much better than that of the 60's that it is almost unbelievable that we could have gotten her from there.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Quahog wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

KUDZU !!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fischerman69 wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

i love red fox there fun to hunt and they look like a cat dog mix

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Favorite non natives? The grey squirrel and the coyote (this is New England). Least favorite? Mormon missionaries, definately. Perhaps I could enjoy these particular annoying non-natives more if there was a season for legally hunting them, but I wouldn't want to eat 'em let alone gut 'em out in the field. I don't generally hunt for trophies, so I'd likely just do the monkey on the stick thing (pour encourage' les autres).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Asian Carp. They put a whole new perspective on snagging. Honestly, you can snag one of these fish on every cast and they are a blast to catch. They don't eat well but there are plenty of "ethnic" folks waiting behind you to gladly take them home to eat.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I'd also like to distinguish between non-native and invasive. For non-native, the best examples that come to mind are the brown trout and ringneck pheasant. There are so pervasive that most people don't realize that carp are invasive.

Some of this will gradually occur over time without human's help (birds, animals, wind, tides). We just make it happen a whole lot faster.

This article on invasives in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes came out on Nov. 2. 185 invasives and counting.

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/68119707.html

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Paul Wilke wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Favorite is nightcrawlers.
Least favorite is nonhunters and homos ( homos = home owners).
Think of forestry, a clear-cut brings about invasive grasses these are followed by invasive shrubs, followed by invasive fast growing trees, followed by invasive long lived trees, followed by another clear-cut or by invasive homos.
Each cycle has associates, rabbites and pheasant in the grass-land begin to be replaced by deer and turkeys as associates of the shrubs and fast growing trees.
The only invasive species that screws up the whole process is nonhunters and homos.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I'm good with more gamebirds. I wish we had a "problem" with invasinve pheasants in AZ. As it stands, I keep waiting for those droves of Eurasian Collared Doves to start showing up.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Big O wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I'm with country roads here. Honey Suckle would be my "favorite".

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Asian Carp by far. They live anywhere are great fun to bowfish for. I know there aren't a lot of bass fishermen that like them, but they are fun to shoot.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from vtbluegrass wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

I definitely know the worst invasive species possible to have in your area. The liberal carpetbaggin yankee.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Oh, and don't forget the house sparrow and starling. Could definitely get by without them ... but their extirpation is not likely to happen. And no one has mentioned boas, pythons, and iguanas?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bassman3-15 wrote 4 years 21 weeks ago

illegal immigrants

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Topper wrote 4 years 20 weeks ago

I'm awfully fond of brown trout, and you guys that like Asian carp are in fer a buncha trouble down the road, when Asian carp have run everything else out. And do y'all really like getting 'em in the face at 25mph in yer skiff? By the way, carp are only considered a trash fish in the USA; many foreign cooks can turn them into fine fare.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

The fastest way to wipe out a quail and turkey population is allow Road Runners to take a hold of an area in the Spring! They eat the eggs and chicks! Back in 1970, a couple of hunters waged war on the Road Runners just East of Tucson Arizona and the Quail population exploded!

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

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