Posted by: Stochasticus Weber | January 21, 2010

What Can They Have Thought When Introducing Non-native Species, Indeed?

People have had clever ideas about “improving” the landscape we have been graced with here in North America ever since Europeans began coming with the intent of staying. Wanting a bit of back home, no doubt, they’ve brought plants, they’ve brought animals, they’ve brought bacteria and disease.

Well, those last two bits were not intentional (at least, not usually); and in most cases, such imports have not always brought improvement; indeed, they have not often been benign. The record might suggest, rather, that such introductions are likelier to be hurtful, if not downright destructive, than they are to be seen as neutral, let alone enhancement.

In this connection, the fact that introduction of Japanese oysters to the Chesapeake Bay was even considered as a corrective to the problem of declining native oyster populations was distressing, and was followed by a vast sigh of relief when that measure was ultimately rejected. What is more, mirabile dictu, it was done for the right reason: expert opinion feared it would be too risky for the native ecology.

We have had quite a variety of additions to our environs in recent decades. Of less overtly troubling character would be bamboo, which anyone can see when trolling around various sectors of our area ( interestingly and conspicuously in middle-class and upscale neighborhoods). Do these people have any notion of how this plant grows, how it spreads, and what it does, in the long run, to native growth?

But an animal species of especially disturbing and repellent type is the Northern Snakehead fish. It has been caught in the Potomac River, and if a report in The Washington Post is to be believed in some ponds as well. As an introduction to our waters, it has no natural enemies; indeed, it preys upon, and is destructive of native fish species. One wonders what the genius, or geniuses , who dumped these predators into our North American waterways could possibly have been thinking. They clearly weren’t.

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