my contrary view on native plants

bartzig(Zone 5, NY)May 26, 2010

Please check out my column I wrote for The Wall Street Journal about native plants. I know some people will disagree...

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Yes, there are some who will think you are not "saving the planet," but I know few people who are purists, i.e., wanting to have ONLY natives. However, we must be cautious about our introductions because many invasives took years to show their "bad" side, and the insects that have killed or are killing some of our native plants were brought over via horticultural adventures.

I have many non-natives, such as iris, which are very well behaved, but I am very sorry I planted liriope, spirea japonica, loosestrife, periwinkle, nandina, all recommended by an NC State graduate landscaper. (All planted before I was interested in natives.) I will never be able to eradicate these from my property! And now I am also worried about hellebores.

I think you have misintepreted/misread Tallamy, whose main purpose is to encourage people to INCLUDE natives in their gardens so as to create corridors for insects, birds, etc.

I have found in our area that those who want the newest and most exotic plants being introduced are the ones who are the most elitist. There are plant extemists on both sides.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 7:26PM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

Nothing wrong with growing non-native plants in the garden. However, natives are just as worthy of inclusion and there can be some benefits to doing so. A lot of people here are crazy about milkweeds because they want to provided habitat for monarchs. I like growing coneflowers and native sunflowers to attract yellow finches.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 7:49PM
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BART, BART, BART.... you've been posting here since 2004, have you learned nothing? I want you to click your heels together three times and repeat after me "Green is a color too".
You seem to be focusing on your property in New York. If you want it to look like a detergent box that's your business. It just might be that some of us are interested in plants for a variety of reasons. I happen to have an interest in botanical classification. Do you even have a vague notion of the remarkable diversity of flora native to North America? Can you believe my state has 30 native oak species? Tell me how many the continent of Europe has. What color is their flowers? I DON'T KNOW. I've never heard of a native plant enthusiast who is opposed to growing vegetables.
You've mentioned some of the invasive pests in your column. Our grievance is that these species spread to our parks, natural areas, public spaces, road banks, streams and wetlands. They take up permanent residence and create monocultures. What you failed to mention in your piece is that the threat to our natural areas is insidious, much like the oil which threatens the Gulf Coast.
Native flora is about so much more than the pretty flowers in one's garden. Can you name an introduced plant which is host-specific for lepidoptera? I can't. And yet thousands of natives, woody & herbaceous are.
Linked here is a publication resulting from countless hours of field-collected data from NPS & Fish & Wildlife Svce. Surely you've seen such publications. We don't care what flowers you plant in your residential garden, as long as they stay put.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 8:56PM
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This recent article by Doug Tallamy is worth reading.

Here is a link that might be useful: Backyard Biodiversity

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 7:21AM
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terrene(5b MA)

The article makes many good points, although admittedly I find it a bit disappointing because it presents the issue of native plants as polarized and it seems you position yourself as "contrary" to the "native plant nazis". Who are these people anyway? Storm troopers who want make every exotic plant illegal and then raid the yards of unsuspecting gardeners? Here in Mass. we have a pretty comprehensive list of prohibited plants and yet most of the plants sold in nurseries and planted in landscapes still seem to be non-native.

IMO the subject is not all or nothing and it's pretty complicated. Native plants and non-invasive exotic plants can grow happily together and create a habitat that is teeming with wildlife and does not threaten wild areas (perhaps with a preponderance of woody plants being native). Natives are not always easy to grow and some of them are so aggressive they could displace other native plants (does that make them invasive?). Sometimes natives are eaten by insects and look ratty, although paradoxically one of their benefits is to harbor insect herbivores. Many non-natives provide habitat and food for wildlife. And so on.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 10:11AM
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flabotany(9 FL)

I only grow things that are "native" to this planet.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 7:50AM
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Just do a search through gardenweb on invasives and non-native. I only recently started lurking again on this blog because previously there were some that posted every day of the need to remove all non-native plants from our gardens. Of course they were also the ones that were asking for plants to be exchanged with them that were not native to their area. All they apparently saw was the word "Native" and did not care where the plant was native too.

Currently on the bee keepers thread there are two people that were concerned that honey bees could be harming the native bees. When I asked which bees honey bees were harming only today did one of the people reply with a noncommential answer. Of course honeybees are non-native and under some level exotic but if they were removed from this continent we would be in a world of hur.

My previous concern, when I stopped posting, was with the changes of weather and with plants trying to adapt to the changes by expanding or contracting the territory that the plants grew in. I was blasted by several because all plants should remain in their native areas and if they moved out of them they should be destroyed. My contention was that plants were not static in an area and could move by seeds or roots to adapt to the plants own requirement. Most could not even envision what I was talking about. They would rather plant a water loving native in an area where the water had dried up than admit that plant could no longer grow where it once could. The other side of this is that new plants would take over the territory such as grasses move into the area left by a fallen tree.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 11:05PM
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The basis of this native/nonnative dichotomy is about the same as the dichotomy some voice in a cultural sense. It borders on xenophobia. In general it is unacceptable in culture, but in nature people actually believe it is true. The basis are invasion ecologists and co. who do not behave as the objective scientist the should be, who gather data and signify change WITHOUT valueladen words. Instead they use encoding words and terms like :invasive, agressive, meltdown, prolific, ecosystem integrity loss, intruder, pest....I have read many papers and you read this time and time again. Moreover: many claim that their "expertview" uniquely qualifies them to tell descisionmakers what to do. Like eradication of animals or cutting down forests. Apart form the fact that many people like foreign species and thus add another kind of value to them, this is also an ethical question: is it okay to kill (in very large numbers and on a constant basis) anything based on a biased view or a personal prefeence?

It is like historians who signify a change in our culture and tradition. Who note that our culture changes in many ways, like food (pizza's, chinese food, French kitchen etc)., foreign music, foreign architecture or changes in our own architecture etc through global exchange and immigration. That they not just research it, but also add the fact that this change is "bad", that protecting our culture is okay and its value is selfevident. That foreign music is okay but doesn't belong here, that foreigners are prolific, a threat to the culture etc...And thus we should go back i time and get rid of them. And they claim they are the sole ones who can judhe that...Is this right? I don't think so.

When we look at the facts in nature we see that competition (plants!) has not lead to a single extinction. We see many ecologists who insist this is true based on examples (from Islands), but it has been reseached by not some contrairians and not published in some obscure Magazine . I think their problem is the fact that they cannot accept that humans ARE a big and natural factor and that things change. Worldwide indeed species will become extinct because of this. Locally however biodiversity in fact becomes a lot bigger (as it has done). What is good or bad is a personal thing.

Think that native plants provide better habitat for species? Well at least in England and the Netherlands it has been researched. Native forests do not consist of more species than foreign plantations in the same regions. We are constantly told that the opposite is true.
In fact in The Netherlands many Red list species are dependant and found exclusively under/in/on foreign trees (Norway it foreign??) and Sitkaspruce for instance.

If you want to use native plants please do so. If you don't, don't think you are doing anything wrong. It is only wrong for people with a certain point of view. But there is no need to adopt it.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 7:17PM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

"Think that native plants provide better habitat for species?"

Well, if someone wants to provide habitat for spicebush swallowtails, spicebush or sassafras would probably be most suitable. I am sure that with a little research one could find more examples of where native species of plants provide better habitat for certain other native species. People who grow native plants seem to really enjoy it. Is there something wrong with that? I say that because there is one forum here out of probably 100 dedicated to growing North American natives and yet there seems to be an attitude here that we are forcing our views on everyone. There are only a handful of nurseries that specialize in native plants yet some are giving the impression that it is impossible to find plants from any other part of the world. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of gardens boast a very small percentage of North American plants. Yet this continent has a very rich and diverse native flora. Would be nice if we could talk about it for a change instead of hurling insults at one another.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 8:38PM
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I only recently started lurking again on this blog because previously there were some that posted every day of the need to remove all non-native plants from our gardens.

I guess those people left because I don't see anyone like that around here now.

Think that native plants provide better habitat for species?

I'm not even sure what this sentence means. "Better habitat" for what species? Insect species, animal species or other plant species? There is research in the US to support the premise that native plants support more native insect types (genus and species) than non-native plants. There is research to support that many insects are plant-specific and need their host plants to continue (there are some generalist insects, just ask a Japanese beetle).

But that doesn't mean we can't co-exist with some non-native plants. It is when you create acre after acre of homes that use almost exclusively non-native plants in their landscape that you start to see a reduction in insect counts (and subsequently in those that feed on insects like birds and spiders).

I am a native plant enthusiast but I have a few non-natives as well - daylilies, gardenia, tea olive, tomatoes and some annual flowers to name a few. But over 95% of my yard is native plants. I don't tell people to get rid of non-natives ... but I do encourage them to use more natives and to get rid of any invasive plants (there's that word!) if they have them.

I think Education is key. Tell people why native plants are important and let them make informed decisions. Sadly, not enough people even recognize the concept of "native" plants and certainly don't go into the store looking for them. And if they do, plants are not easily labeled as to their origin.

People who grow native plants seem to really enjoy it. Is there something wrong with that? I say that because there is one forum here out of probably 100 dedicated to growing North American natives and yet there seems to be an attitude here that we are forcing our views on everyone.

Here, here! Why come into this forum just to pick a fight?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 9:01PM
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Lycopos. I am not aware of insulting anybody. I just state the facts. If you read upon this subject, you'll see that well respected ecologist in well respected magazines conclude the same about their collegues. And it is not ad hominem. It is a simple fact that the similarities are striking and easily summed up. And the basis for the thought that native is somehow better than nonnative just isn't there. That dichotomy only exists if you use double standards.

About using native plant species: read my last sentence.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 9:08AM
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@ esh ga.

The best way to describe it was by Dov Sax and James Brown in 2005. In a response to a reply by Chassey in Austral Ecology. This is the last part of a longer response.

""Dont get us wrong. As private citizens we authors are enthusiastic supporters of actions and policies to reduce the ongoing loss of global biodiversity and homogenization of the earthÂs biota. We also stand by our comment, however, that many scientists, managers,
policy makers and lay people have a deep-seated prejudice against exotic species that comes close to xenophobia. This is apparent in the adjectives used to describe non-native species and their impacts  invasive,alien, plague, foreign, aggressive, catastrophic, insidious, destructive, decimating, devastating, damaging,threatening, assaulting and flooding  to mention just a few. But worse than such words are the unsubstantiated, unscientific tales, too often promulgated by scientists themselves, that biological invasions are somehow unnatural and that as a general rule invading species dominate ecosystems and cause economic losses, wholesale ecological changes and extinctions of native species. Sometimes they do, but the impacts vary enormously with the species of invader and the environmental setting. Moreover, whether these impacts are perceived as positive or negative, good or bad, varies with the moral beliefs of societies and individuals. When scientists claim that their professional credentials uniquely qualify them to make such moral judgements, they exceed their special, time-honoured roles as unbiased collectors, interpreters and communicators of scientific information."

This thought Sax and Brown address has filtered through in socieyt and in fact I see many people hwo are convinced that natives are indeed somehow better than nonnatives.
If you say people need to educate themselves (to see you are right and to get rid of nonnatives), I feel the need to respond becase education is about facts and not about preferences, if you put it in the way you do.

If they do, there is a very good chance that they read what Sax and Brown describe as valueladen, based on unscientifc tales etc. Unlike greenhousedeniers, Sax and Brown among others are active in the field of Invasion Ecology and repeatedly publish papers in peerreviewed Magazines. In 2008, they were the ones who studied evey single documented case of extinction and concluded that competition rarely and on contitents never lead to extinctions. That includes all plants. That on every continent biodiversity has reason by a huge amount. Etc.
This has not been contradicted, it has even been acknowledged by some of their "opponents.

Finally: the reason why people react here, like me, even if this is just one topic on a large forum is that I don't like this native-nonnative argument at all. If someone on a large cultural forum would say something like getting thei neighborhood clean of people with other cultures because this is somehow better, you would get the same (and probably a lot more) responses. Because this confilcts with the (strong) morals of other people.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 10:03AM
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Finally: the reason why people react here, like me, even if this is just one topic on a large forum is that I don't like this native-nonnative argument at all.

Well I don't like lots of things but I don't feel the need to go into those forums and criticize their passions about roses, or iris or violets or bamboo.

But go right ahead if it makes you feel better to splash around in this little pool.

We also stand by our comment, however, that many scientists, managers, policy makers and lay people have a deep-seated prejudice against exotic species that comes close to xenophobia.

I wish I could agree that MANY of those folks feel that way. I think these days that the number is not as big as you think it is.

I see many people who are convinced that natives are indeed somehow better than nonnatives.

They ARE better for the ecosystem in which they live. An native oak tree provides far more benefits to its ecosystem than a Tree of Heaven or Chinese Pistache or a Camellia provides to that same ecosystem. However, in those trees place of origin, they are the native trees and they would provide more benefit there than would one of MY native trees.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 12:43PM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

Dov Sax recently gave a talk at my alma mater. He makes a point of not making any value judgments regarding species introductions. At the same time, he downplays the importance of maintaining global species richness and local diversity (something of importance to policy makers) while emphasizing the role of invasions in increasing local species richness. Here is an excerpt from another paper by Brown and Sax from 2004:

"We focus here on one pervasive effect of exotic species. Human-assisted invasions are increasing local species richness but decreasing global species richness. As emphasized by conservation biologists, there have indeed been many human-caused extinctions. Most species that have become extinct were initially relatively low in abundance and restricted in distribution. A large proportion of them inhabited islands. This loss of species is what we refer to as the decrease in global species richness. At smaller scales, however, the losses due to extinction of native species have on average been more than offset by the colonization of invading species. Already abundant and widespread species have expanded their ranges, more than compensating in local species richness for the restricted endemic forms that have disappeared."

They go on to talk about how the number of introduced species that become naturalized outpaces the number of endemic species that have gone extinct. But later on they concede:

"Is this decrease in global biodiversity a bad thing? Is the net increase in local species richness due to invasions
a good thing? Is high species richness desirable? We do not believe that these are scientific questions. Science can elucidate the causes and consequences of these changes in biodiversity, but ultimately deciding what is good or bad is a moral and social issue. Few people would question whether the dozens of exotic flower and vegetable species in their gardens are desirable. The value judgements may change, however, if some of those same species were to become naturalized and spread into wild areas or to become serious weeds in agricultural fields. This is exactly what has happened, over and over again, in environments throughout the world. Exotic plants, originally imported for horticultural purposes, have escaped from cultivation and become invasive. Whether intentional or unintentional, human transport is breaking down the longstanding barriers that have generated and preserved much of the variety of life. For better or for worse, modern humans are manipulating biodiversity in a colossal uncontrolled experiment. Scientists have the opportunity to record objectively the results. They have the obligation to explore the implications. But it is up to humankind as a whole to decide whether it is good or bad, and hence what actions should be taken."

They conclude with some interesting remarks at the end of this paper:

"This essay would probably have elicited a spirited response from Marilyn Fox. As a rigorous scientist, she would not have questioned the facts, except perhaps to ask for better documentation. As a dedicated conservationist, however, she would almost certainly have taken issue with the non-judgemental, dispassionate tone. Marilyn Fox was passionately and unabashedly Australian. She treasured the distinctiveness of her native land, its biota, and especially its plants. She devoted her career to studying natural history, educating her countrymen about their natural heritage, and preserving flora, fauna, and natural areas. She had answered the moral and ethical questions about exotic species. Native species were good and worth preserving at great cost. Those invaders from the northern hemisphere were bad and should be eradicated. She appreciated the irony of having acquired by marriage the name of one of Australias most rapacious invaders. Debating these issues made for fondly remembered evenings around the Fox supper table: delicious food, fine wine, and stimulating conversation."

I am leaving out other parts of the paper where they make arguments for why introducing species could be viewed as beneficial. But then no one is arguing against the value of many plants as ornamentals in the garden or as food crops.

This being a gardening forum, what I find ironic is that few take issue with the concept of a "weed". That is, a plant growing where someone does not want it. Would anyone take objection to an individual's decision to remove a "weed" from one's garden? I doubt it very much. But call that weed an "invasive species" and it is being xenophobic. Going back to the OP, that person has been referred to as a Nazi, which is ludicrous. At the same time, what we chose to import or to buy and add to our gardens is just as much of a value judgement. There is going to be an inherent bias is any decision a person makes but that does not make it unreasonable.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 6:55PM
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It borders on xenophobia when we make the native- nonnative distinction if we say natives are good and nonnatives are bad. That implies that some destructive traits are exclusively related to foreign trees and this is exaclty what has happened in the past and present among humans. The name is: xenophobia.
The claim that natives are better adapted to an ecosystem and adding some examples is exactly the way people try to prove inferiority or less desirablilty when it comes to human imigrants. And again, this is not substantiated.

You could say that mixing of cultures makes the world more the same and that this means a loss of local cultures, even human races. You could say that you are happy that you can getin touch with so many other cultures without travelling to them. That you can eat all sorts of food etc in yourown city. That you can enjoy seeing other landscapes with other trees and animals alongside the ones you knew.
Or may be you think it is beter to preserve the local culture (nature) and that (any) change is bad.

But if you use examples to prove that foreign people or cultures have no place here because they have certain traits,you must prove that. Gving examples is not prove. How about the Mountain Pine beetle: Totally indigenous and eating away more than 100000 km2 in British Columbia. Would it be foreign, it would be used as prove. We hear nothing like that, because it is native...

BTW: Norway spruce as a single tree in England and The Netherlands provides life for more insects than the native Ilex and taxus does. About ten times more insect species to be exact, And also more than about 6-7 broadleaved, native species in The Netherlands (partly because Norway spruce is marginally nonnative here). With 70 insects feeding on it living on it, it is just an ordinary tree. As I said: when it grows as a dominant species in a habitat in England, it provides the same ecological diversity as native Oak forests do. The same is true for forests of foreign species in the US, in Costa Rica, in New Zealand etc. So you'll find examples of native providing many life, providing less life.

Finally: ecology if just one view on nature. As in culture, you have aestethics and other things. They are all personal.

Remember: more than 50% of all native species anywhere in the world are invasive species. The did not develop out of a local population. And that is what we see happening on many occasions. Cain toads that become less poisonous, birds that know how to tackle the toad defense mechanism. Snakes that developed fast to eat only the smaller, less toxic toads or that have become immune. American Mink, that is becoming smaller and the European Mink becoming larger (totally in contrast with the theory that a competitive edge should mean the European mink becoming smaller and the American bigger!). Various insects that have changed and now feed on foreign plants. So also from that perspective, nature adapts. Finally, the introduced species will change over time to become new species. Provided that we do not take away all habitat...

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 6:30PM
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Are we to be lectured to on the environment by someone from Holland? That's like having your local parish priest giving you tips on what to do on your wedding night.
Jorg, don't preach to us about xenophobia and I won't tell you how to grow tulips.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 8:15PM
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It borders on xenophobia when we make the native- nonnative distinction if we say natives are good and nonnatives are bad. That implies that some destructive traits are exclusively related to foreign trees and this is exaclty what has happened in the past and present among humans.

Your attempt to portray our arguments as xenophobic just won't wash. We do not imply that "some destructive traits" are exclusively related to foreign trees - only a fraction of non-native plants in North America (this is a North American native plant forum) are considered invasive. There are native trees (such as Black Walnut) that produce chemicals to inhibit growth of other plants (please see the term "Allelopathy") and that is well known.

The claim that natives are better adapted to an ecosystem and adding some examples is exactly the way people try to prove inferiority or less desirablilty when it comes to human imigrants.

I can't speak to what people say about "human immigrants" and your attempt to infer that our argument is similar is misleading to others that read this. You are trying to pull in examples not related to this subject to infer that we are in some way implying that human movement is a like analogy. We're not. Completely different subjects.

You chide us for giving examples and then immediately mention a "Mountain Pine Beetle" infestation in British Columbia. I didn't know anything about it, but I looked it up to see what is going on:

Why is British Columbia in the midst of a mountain pine beetle epidemic?

Forests of mature lodgepole pine are prime habitat for the mountain pine beetle. The beetle also thrives under warm weather conditions. The interior of British Columbia has an abundance of mature lodgepole pine, and has experienced several consecutive mild winters and drought-like summers. Beetle populations in many parts of interior B.C. have increased to epidemic levels as a result.

Sounds like a disruption in natural processes allowed this beetle to gain the upper hand. I imagine the balance will restore itself at some point. Can you say the same balance will be restored when invasive organisms enter an ecosystem?

Norway spruce as a single tree in England and The Netherlands provides life for more insects than the native Ilex and taxus does.

Interesting, can you provide a source for that? And why do you compare it to just Ilex and Taxus? That implies that you hand picked a few genera that it does out-compete, while not mentioning the many that it does NOT out-compete.

Various insects that have changed and now feed on foreign plants. So also from that perspective, nature adapts.

Were these insects "generalists", by the way? If so, yes those insects are generally "more adaptable". It is the insects that are specialists that suffer the most when populations of their native host plants diminish (not saying they go away, but just diminish). Do you have any source data for that bit about them adapting? Source data is always nice.

Finally, the introduced species will change over time to become new species. Provided that we do not take away all habitat...

They will become new species? How exactly? And provided we do not take away all habitat? Habitat for what? These new plants?

I appreciate your points, but words are just your opinions without some data to back up your points that things adapt, become "new species" or somehow do a better job than the natives in that area.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 5:58PM
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@ esh Ga 7....first of all: did you read the link at the beginning of this thread?
Some of your remarks seem to indicate that you do think likewise. Or how do I need to interpretate the remark that you "WISH you could agree that" etc.
These insects were no generalists. That is not evolution. Generalists just can eat anything (moreless). These insects developed smaller or larger jaws (for instance) and then started to feed on COmmon Laburnum.

Human analogy: the starter of this thread made his point in the article he/she wrote. Besides: the analogy between this and foreigners is not new, it is well known and you can read it in many scientific work. If you say that for some reason native plants are better, that is just incorrect and it is excatly the way racism works or at least xenophobia (those people are okay, but they don't belong here because of their culture, religion etc).

Same is true for at least two snake species in Australia which rapidly evolved to adapt to Cain toads. Etc.

How they will become new species? By evolution. In fact more than 50% of new taxa in certain regions devolped out of introductions. On Ibiza, many many aniamls and plants were introduced 4000 years ago by man. Most are now unique subspecies of the Island and now protected.

Not all things I wrote are found on the internet, I read a lot of books too. But I found these links.

An article with Dov Sax, James Brown and other scientists can be found here. Here you'll not only find the point that competition rarely causes extinctions (plants and never on continents. But also the development of local species to eat the new species (of plant). Also the remark that eventually introduced species will become new species because of evolution:

Other links on the topic:

Finally: habitat...habitat for everything. Habitatloss by humans and not the species they introduce is by far the nr1 reason for the extinction of animals and pants. If there is no habitat for anything, there will also be no habitat for introduced species.

Norway spuce etc: read the whole quote. The point is that ecologists started nitpick and argue this by saying that a native Oak (Quercus Robor and Quercus Petraea) provide life to hundreds of insects when they try to prove how "good" the trees are and that new species are inferior. The fact is that if you take all trees in The Netherlands together, the Norway Spruce is just an ordinary tree. Besides: The maximum number of insects on Norway spruce is 160 and on Quercus Robur 420. So this tree is always superior, because they solely look at insects? That is not what they are saying, but it is a clear implication if you attach value to the number of insects that live on a tree/plant. below you can see if you do not nitpcik but count all organisms, there s no difference (even in England where Norway Spruce surely is not "native").
Besides it is very doubtfull if these species is nonnative in The Netherlands, but that is another story.

Some more links then:
Biodiversity in conifer species (foreign) in england):

Competition rarely (never on continents) cause extinctions:

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 4:26PM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

Local extinctions can impact community composition and genetic diversity, and can result from species introductions. I have said this many times and even Brown and Sax have made mention of the fact that there is more to diversity than species richness alone. Any qualified ecologist would consider alpha, beta, and gamma diversity in addition to scale when evaluating the health of a biological system. To quote Marten Winter (related source below):

"Our studies have shown that in spite of an increase in regional species richness due to species introductions exceeding the local extinctions of plant species in European regions, these are increasingly losing both their phylogenetic and taxonomic all discussions on `biodiversity' one needs to consider other forms of biodiversity than pure species richness e.g. those of phylogenetic relations. These can supply additionally important information about the condition and possible risks to ecosystems."

Look up ecological extinction for examples of how this can relate to species introductions. The xerces blue butterfly is an example of how the local extinction of one or more species (ants) can lead to the global extinction of another. Could just as easily be considered genocide of a native species if we are to anthropomorphize them as some have done when they refer to the characterization of invasive species as "xenophobia". Have you no sympathy for the kakapo that gets eaten by the stoat?

And yes, I am playing this up but there is an equal or greater degree of cherry picking, hand waving and semantics coming from the other side of this argument.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 7:01PM
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hpersky(USDA 6, NJ)


Surely therere other, worthier venues for battling xenophobia than a site about native plants. I must say I just began to read these posts, given an interest in the subject, and am quite interested in the process of naturalizing, and what, in fact, is best for a given setting. I have to say that of all the posts I have read, yours succeeded in most getting get my back up, rather than inclining me to explore your argument.
Do you (you, not the various people you quote) truly believe this debate about what may work best in a given ecosystem has anything to do, for example, with the latest example of xenophobia in Arizona?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 9:51PM
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On Mr. Ziegler's article:

I agree with Mr. Ziegler (and applaud him for removing his burning-bush!). Most plants of horticultural interest are not invasive, and thus shouldn't be extirpated from the backyard.

However, Mr. Ziegler has set up a straw-man argument by framing native plant enthusiasts' views as so extreme. In my experience people who focus on a native-themed garden still grow Kentucky bluegrass lawns... (which is not, by the way, native to Kentucky!)

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 11:03PM
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I have decided that Mr. Z's bosses must have told him to put more zing in his writing so as to stir up comments, more or less what talk show radio hosts have been doing for years, with great results.

Putting the link to his article on the native forum is almost the same as my saying at the health spa, 'I'm fat and proud of it...and please pass the extra butter for my grits and biscuits."

I must admit I took the bait initially and responded to his posting, thinking his comments were legit, but now I have decided he just wants to be contrary. Must come from the really cold winter he suffered through this past year. LOL.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 7:58AM
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hpersky: I think these are very different people with a lot of thing sin common. They see a problem, they adress this to a newcomer and the endresult is to get rid of all newcomers. The thing in Arizona reminded me very much of this argument. Over here I saw this documentary in which several people stated that these MExicans were dangerous and carried guns.....yes, may be....and how is that unique to Mexicans???

In The Netherlands, we have the same thing constantly now. Muslims are the problem of: hate against gays, are badly inegrated, are prolific, are agressive, are a threat to us, are the main cause of violence and theft etcetcetc. And it is all based on examples (tons of them) and it is believed by nowadays 20% of the voters. The facts are very different. But examples, pictures, are strong. Just like that kakapo...Which is not the victim of competition (like in plants, which we are discussing here) but by a predator and the kakapo does not live on a continent, but on an Island.

I do not think a kakapo is worth more or less than a stout BTW. If we believe in Dawinism, than the kakapo is a victim of its lack to defend itself. No one is to blame. I LOVE all animals. In fact, I have helped young birds from predatory birds. Just because I consider myself a full part of nature and it is my instinct to protect the young, defensless bird. So too the kakapo: I think it is a very placid, lovely bird. It would be very difficult for me not to protect it when I saw it under attack. I wonder if people would think the same if a dangerous mosquito was under attack from a newcomer btw....

But is the kakapo really the victim of the stout. Did New Zealand nature flourish before invasive species came on the Island. This has been researched on almost all pcific islands: the population of almost all birds was dwindeling well before predatory mammals were introduced. It! It were Polynesians for instance. Was the Moa killed by European mammals? No, it was not. And this is not just an example, this is the redline: the only invasive species which has had a constant impact on its own all over the world is us. Focussing on invasive species without taking this factor into account, is the same as what we do with immigrants blaming them for things caused by ourselves. Which we constantly do.

The part of Europe and the uniqueness that is lost. Not a single part of Europe has an "ecosystem" that was not (heavily) modified by humans. So what caused this loss in "uniqueness"?? Invasive species? One thing is certain: never on their own.
Besides: if you say that plants lose some traits, you have to be fair. The newcomers gain new traits. Fro instance: Sitkaspruce in Europe is now different from its American borthers and sisters. We now have European landraces and these are indeed protected. So yuo gain seomthing "unique".
Another thing is that we also gain unique compositions never witnessed by modern man. For instance: in NW Europe you have woods constisting of more different trees than ever before. Like Tsuga-Abies-Picea-Pseudotsuga-Quercus-Fagus forests.

If "unique" means something "good" than we win something and we lose something.

But the words used by this sceintist are hardly scientific.
They are trying to appealing to our emotions. "sSomething unique is lost!! Forever!"...They appeal to the fact that we do not want to use something of "value". Which is not scientific, as value is something personal. It is also single sided: it does not mention that we get something else back.

It is like saying that we lose our culture, because our Dutch music gets lost, our language is heavlily influenced by English and changing rapidly our architecture is influenced by foreign artists etcetc. First of all, like in nature: this is nothing new! The Dutch language for instance is littered with germanisms.
I repeat myself. If you only focus on what was, then you only lose something. If you look at everything, you must say that things change and you got something back. So the Dutch language and culture is in constant flux and like nature, more than ever!

Ecologists are prone to attribute value to some things and not to others. So they mention losing something that is of value to them and they do not mention gaining something that is if no value or even undesirable. What is or what isn't desirable is a personal thing. Not something science can dictate or even prove.

Almost all things we have lost when it comes to biodiversity, is lost because of habitatloss and hunting by us. It is rarely if ever lost by introductions of specieson continents and certainly not by competition.
The introduction of species has lead to huge local increases in biodiversity and globally, because of a few losses mainly on Island by disease and predators, is going down.
New species can provide valuable habitat for other speies, oldcomers or newcomers. And sometimes, we discover new species in introduced forests. Like in The Netherlands, wehre a totally new fungus (mushroom) was found in a forest of Pseudotsuga Menziesii...

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 7:27PM
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hpersky(USDA 6, NJ)

I suppose that one should admit a more permeable line between scientific and emotional/political arguments. But, then, I guess it does come down to facts, that is, in a given environment, what works best to encourage wildlife, my particular interest. And that I suppose it's reasonable to assume the mix of native and non-native would work in some contexts. It also seems reasonable to learn from people who work here in NJ on preservation, not for the sake of ideological purity, but for the sake of biodiversity. I realize you take issue with that argument, but it still seems extreme to me to suggest that the basis of the argument is ideological purity, rather than ecology.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 3:55PM
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What the $%@#? I was trying to read this stuff and thought I had mistakenly picked up some blog by contributors to an Elsevier report or some UN publication! This is way too heavy for a WV hick looking for info. on weeds!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 5:44PM
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