[Taxacom] Propagation of invasive species definitions

Kenneth Kinman kennethkinman at webtv.net
Sun Sep 12 14:07:14 CDT 2010

Hi All,
       I'm not sure I would advocate using the word "unwanted" in a
definition of invasive species.  The common Eurasian dandelion has
certainly successfully invaded North America far beyond where it was
introduced, spread into areas of disturbed soil (farmers plowing up the
continent as they move West).    
      However, the word "unwanted" is nebulous, especially in this case.
Humans have been using dandelions for thousands of years for food or
medicine.  It became "unwanted" by many in North America, especially in
the latter half of the 20th Century when it easily invaded suburban
lawns in particular.  But suburban lawns and mono-culture tracts of
crops are the real invaders and causes of biodiversity decline, and
anything else is now "unwanted" by the farmers and lawn-owners.  Some
people still use dandelions as food or even medicine, but they are now
in the minority.  I always thought dandelions were pretty flowers, but I
was taught to dislike them because I had to (in my mind) waste lots of
time digging them up as a kid.  I suppose they could crowd out native
species, but certainly not anything close to what lawns and modern
farming have done.  And the latter are now largely "wanted" in spite of
their impact on biodiversity. 
      Anyway, Homo sapiens wasn't very invasive (widely destroying
biodiversity) when it first spread to the Americas many, many thousands
of years ago, and even the first waves of European settlers weren't
particularly invasive compared to many of their present-day descendants.
There is something about the Industrial Revolution and Manifest Destiny
that turned into a massacre of biodiversity (not to mention indigenous
tribes), which became even more intense after the Civil War.       
       And of course, that Industrial Revolution is now affecting the
climate and biodiversity of the entire planet.  The only thing modern
humans seem unwilling to control is their own population growth.  Well,
the Chinese implemented a one child policy, but they've gotten a lot of
bad press for at least trying to solve a problem that most nations
largely ignore.  But I'm sure many Chinese think that the policies of
many religious organizations (such as the Catholic Church) are far more
absurd in an increasingly crowded world.  We now have the science to
easily control our population, but clearly not the will.  If
biodiversity were a democracy, it would almost certainly vote Homo
sapiens as the most invasive of all, especially after the Industrial
Revolution began.  All those other species would overwhelmingly brand us
as "unwanted".  
         ----------Ken Kinman  

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