New thinking on the old problem of new species

Finding a middle ground in a hot debate

There has been a lot of debate recently in the field of invasion biology, often quite polarized, surrounding the focus on non-native species in conservation and management. To an outsider, and this would include most of the general public, the heat in this debate might come as a bit of a surprise. What’s the problem with how we define a ‘non-native species’ anyway? Aren’t we simply talking about ‘pests’ and ‘weeds’? Why the sensitivity?

Perhaps no issue in conservation spawns as much emotional debate as the issue of managing non-native species. Depending on the context and perspective, non-native species may be villains, heroes, victims, or organisms just trying to survive. Calling them pests and weeds, however, is too simplistic because many non-natives never create any problems to agriculture or conservation whereas some natives do go on to become serious problems. However, this issue of a species origin – native vs non-native – and how we prioritise our management of them has always stirred up emotions…

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