Native or Not?

A few times now the subject of native species vs. ‘invasive species’ has come up – and I’ve been pondering writing about this for a long time. My thoughts and opinions are probably vastly different than most naturalists, but that’s just the way it is for me.

First, let me say up front that yeah, there are probably some species of plants and animals that are ‘invasive’ and harmful to Native species, that contribute little to the ecosystem, and maybe should be controlled (fire ants – kill ’em all!). But I’m certain there are others that are beneficial in one way or another, and shouldn’t be labeled as noxious or ‘shot on sight’ so to speak.

I suppose my outlook on things comes largely from my background – spending many, many years with American Indians (most who don’t care for the term “native Americans”) and being married to a Cherokee for many years. Don’t get them started about “non-native, invasive species!” From the American Indian perspective, the USA was built from non-native, invasive species.

I look at everything on the Earth as being related to everything else – as part of the ecosystem, part of the way things work (whether it’s to our liking or not) and ultimately, part of myself. I see the Earth as a living being. Science is beginning to understand this concept, albeit a bit too late perhaps.

Who am I to say that one plant or animal has a right to live, and another doesn’t? Especially when my race has created the “problem.” We destroy habitat by altering water courses and vegetation – then complain when ‘scrub’ species invade. We create Canada goose habitat with manicured lawns and ponds, then complain about goose poop. We harvest or destroy millions of acres of forest, heap up our garbage by the tons, and then complain when bear and deer and cougars concentrate in populated areas. We cut down dead trees, then complain about raccoons in the attic. We put up street lights and floodlights, then wonder why the hatching turtles run to the parking lot instead of the ocean. We process our foods with chemicals, then wonder why so many people have deadly diseases. You get the idea..

There was a discussion among bird banders recently concerning cowbirds, and whether it was legal to destroy them (No!). Everybody hates a cowbird because they are allegedly causing decline in songbird populations. For those that don’t know – cowbirds are parasitic nesters – they lay their eggs in the nests of smaller birds, which raise the young as their own, usually at the peril of their own offspring, which are smaller and seldom survive.

My question is, are they really causing that much harm, or are we just paying more attention because with the destruction of habitats and rain forests, there are fewer neotropical songbirds and more cowbirds, which are more adaptive to different habitats? Have the cowbirds altered their behavior over the decades, or have we caused massive songbird habitat destruction, and now need a scapegoat?

Autumn olive, also called Autumnberry – another ‘invasive’ species. Question is, is it doing more good than harm? Yes, it prevents some other ‘native’ species from growing. But again, we have destroyed and continue to destroy wildlife food sources at an alarming rate. That’s one of the reasons it was introduced in the first place. Autumn olive is a good source of food for wildlife, and the edible berries are rich in vitamins A, C and E, flavonoids, essential fatty acids, and the big one – lycopenes (yep, this ‘invasive’ species just might help fight prostate, cervical, gastrointestinal cancer, and heart disease). Maybe we can learn something from the animals, who eat this stuff like crazy.

Blogger won’t upload photos today. I am so very tired of this….

Posted in Plants. 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Native or Not?”

  1. LauraHinNJ Says:

    I guess noxious is a subjective term that can be applied to native and non-native species, think cowbirds and loosestrife.

    I like your point about us not being native (and certainly invasive!)

  2. Ioannis Petrus Says:

    I am intrigued by your thoughts. I too have found a certain definition challenge. I have written briefly trying to describe the semantic problem of invasive/native and ecogical change. Stay the course and keep musing.

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