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Invasive Species in a Story

Posts: 23
Location: Perth, Australia
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I doubt the creator of this video knows about permaculture, but he sure nails the point about plants turning up and being vilified while doing important work.

Enjoy the tale!

Posts: 1757
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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The story is more one of resigned fate, rather than purposeful design (permaculture).  "Well, what can you do about it?  Might as well make the best of a bad situation."  Kind of like grazing sheep on kudzu or eating asian carp out of the Mississippi watershed.  Once these things have established themselves, they are with us forever.

I have a colleague at the school where I teach who has invested a great deal of time, effort and money into trying to restore a creekside back to "California natives".  The problem is that it's no longer a California native eco-system.  It's a novel ecosystem.  The ecosystem he is trying to recreate has long since left the building, along with Elvis.  One either side of the creek are asphalt roads that complete change the hydrology and ambient temperature of the immediate land he's trying to replant with native shrubs and such.  There are no beavers here anymore.  The macro environment is Los Angeles country.  Yet he seems to think that planting a dozen of this plant and two dozen of that plant will somehow restore this space back to the way it was when the white man first came to this area 200+ years ago.  His attempts to root out the "bad" plants and establish the "good" ones is, in my humble opinion, a fools errand.  

There is a whole set of naive assumptions being made by the native purists.  First, that prior to 200 years ago, the land would have been static and unchanged for all time prior to that.  Uh, nope.  Go back to the last ice age, or any other age prior.  All ecosystems are dynamic and in a state of change.  Second, that these plants that may have once grown here just need to be established and then they will be self sustaining.  Again, nope.  He's going to heroic measures to try to get something to grow that may never thrive, while he's going to fight the plants that do want to grow well in that space.  The final assumption is that if he ever were successful in re-establishing these native plants, it would somehow be better for everyone involved.  Based on what criteria?  

A novel ecosystem approach recognizes that things change -- the includes the introduction and proliferation of the reed that is discussed in the video.  And that change is just that: change.  Not evil.  Not good.  It just is.  Ecosystems change.  They always have.  Globalization isn't a new thing, but the acceleration and intensification of it certainly has increased.  With globalization comes the movement of seeds and plants from one context to the next.  It's been that way since the Greeks and the Romans.  

It's a bummer when native wildlife is pushed out due to the invasive introduction of new plants and animals.  We call that evolution.  Survival of the fittest.  Lest we paint all such events as being terrible, understand that the ring-neck pheasant that is hunted by the millions across the great planes is native to China, and has only been here for about 150 years.  The smelt that I grew up catching out of Lake Superior every spring is also a non-native species.  Minnesotans eat them by the millions.  Corn, cattle, apple trees . . . there are thousands of agricultural plants and animals that have no business growing here.  But they do, and that's not going to change any time soon.

Thanks for sharing this video.
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Yeah, great quote.

I agree that there's a certain amount of naiveté to Nativism and the restoration philosophy that follows it. It has also been subverted by corporate interests, as noted in other threads, to sell more chemical products to eradicate the invaders, so motives cannot be taken at face-value.

Your point, Marco, about whether a native ecosystem would be better, if it could indeed be recreated, than a novel one designed for our purposes, is a valid one, with a caveat. There are many invasive plants that are a problem ecologically because nothing, or comparatively few, organisms at any level recognise them as food. If decompositional bacteria have a hard time with an invasive, how is anything supposed to decompose it, never mind keep it in check through grazing/browsing or disease?

It brings to mind the issue New Zealand, I think, had with its livestock manure. There were no dung beetles to take care of the mountains of sheep manure that were being produced, so they ended up importing some from Australia. Otherwise, the feces were breaking down too slowly to avoid groundwater contamination.

Ultimately, though, I agree. If we are reimagining our environment again, and recreating biospheres, why wouldn't we engineer them (design, plant, whatever your desired creative term) with our specific needs in mind? We need to keep the needs of diverse animal and plant life and existant ecologies and climactic processes in mind when we do, but there's nothing saying we can't increase the diversity of less-diverse systems by adding, say, more soil-building or food-bearing elements to our systems, and making them more resilient as a result.

Do we curse Johnny Appleseed for spreading such an invasive pest, or do we condemn him for not planting a supportive guild and shade-loving, fruit-bearing understory with it?

Rodger Pilkington
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Location: Perth, Australia
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I really do love that quote...  Thanks for the feedback!

I will add that the dung beetles Australia had were imported themselves.  Before they were introduced, there were laws preventing outside food service due to the massive quantities of flies.  Flies like dung, Who knew?

As far as Native vs Introduced, I personally side with careful land management.  If we relied on "native" plants to eat in Australia, we'd not be doing so well.  I say "we", meaning the human imports.  The Aboriginals had worked out how to cultivate the land, water and animals to abundant food surplus (even if they did in some areas deforest the continent - it took eons, not decades).  If anyone is curious, "Dark Emu" by Bruce Pascoe details this nicely.
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