Invasive. What does that word mean to you?
Does it conjure up images of a large invading force using power by numbers to overwhelm some other group? Does it represent and abundance that needs to find a use? Perhaps a bit of both?
Personally, I feel that the word ‘invasive’ is typically assigned to a species that is currently taking advantage of it’s preferred growing environment. I also feel that the plant or animal in question generally remains an invasive because of the interference humans make on the system.
A plant appears on bare ground that we do not want, so we spray it. It grows back again and is labeled as an invasive. Is it invasive, or is it just the best species to grow in that bare ground condition?
In this episode I address 2 species, 1 animal and 1 plant. However, I feel that the concepts discussed can be applied across the board to all things that are considered invasive.
The treatment of Muscovy Ducks (Cairina moschata) here in the United States is a bit mixed. In one Q&A document produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Muscovies are addressed as both being “… now considered native and has been added to the list of species protected under the MBTA” and then later are called “… an invasive species and should not be returned to the wild.”
So what are they, an animal to be protected and left in the wild or an animal that should not be in the wild? The MBTA (Migratory Bird Treat Act) protects birds from being captured and sold. Many on this list are songbirds, raptors and other such birds. How then, if the Muscovy is a migratory animal is it also invasive? Would it not just… migrate?
The Muscovy is considered invasive because it can breed so well. But, in breeding well it also produces a lot of meat. Just 1 duck can feed my family for 2 meals. With up to 20 ducklings per hatch and 3 or more hatchings possible in a year in my climate, that is a lot of possible production from a free-range animal.
Why would we consider such a prolific source of food as invasive is beyond me. If populations do run high, why not permit hunting, as with deer, etc., rather than placing the duck on a list that prohibits population control. Again – very mixed signals.
For now, the U. S. F. & W. Service seems to be taking the approach of saying it is against their regulations to own/breed/sell these ducks, but that they will not be prosecuting.
Hopefully someone will recognize that there is a better way and fix this listing and perhaps we can start to think about all “invasive” animals in a new way.
The bane of most horticulturalists in the Southeast of the USA, Ligustrum sinense is quickly identified as an invasive plant. It pops up in ditches, fence lines and forest edges all throughout our region and is seemingly impossible to stop. Once planted it just keeps coming back time and time again.
You know… like Sweet Potatoes, Rhubarb and Jerusalem Artichokes…
I find myself again wondering if this is really some sort of invading force, or if it is just finding ideal conditions that let it thrive. If it is just thriving, how do we maximize the use of it’s product?
Can we stop trying to kill it and instead say “If you want to keep growing, great! I need the firewood anyway!” and be grateful for the quick and easy firewood? Could we coppice the tree as we do with others and cultivate it in that way? Can we find a use for it as the excellent bee forage that it is, rather than condemning it?
I am unsure what the answer is in regards to Chinese Privet, but I can say that I have it on my property and I do not intend to make any efforts to remove it from the property. It provides forage for my goats and bees and the wood will soon find a use as well.
What I would like to see is if privet has a larger part to play in the ecosystem that we are not considering. Since being listed as invasive the studies focus on what to do to kill it. Where is the study that sees what interaction privet has with the rest of the ecosystem? Given time does the rest of the ecosystem fully establish and privet takes a backseat? That would be something useful to know.
Let me know your opinions below. Are there some truly no-holds-barred invasives that completely wipe out an ecosystem? Could we find ways to use prolific species (such as eating the duck or burning the wood) rather than fighting them?
The choice is yours.