[permaculture] debunking "invasion biology" Re: Cold Climate Plant List

L.Santoyo Designs santoyo at earthflow.com
Wed Nov 16 22:35:49 EST 2005

Thanks again Claude -and as usual, Toby too,

I forget sometimes, that the anti-exotic and the 
militantly-passionate, natives-only plant people are among the long 
list of well intentioned "environmentalists" that make teaching 
Permaculture Design Courses so important and relevant... to teach a 
new way of seeing, of reading the patterns of the landscape -and not 
always falling for, without question, the "romantic" versions of 
nature that most of us were taught to believe...

Don't forget to check out "Invasion Biology: Critique of a 
Pseudoscience" by David Theodoropoulos (of J.L. Hudson, Seedsman 
-seed catalog fame). With the help of Camille Cimino our local 
Permaculture Guilds here in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, California 
just hosted his lecture and book signing... see a review of his book 
I found on amazon below...


Larry Santoyo, Director
EarthFlow Design Works

By Reviewer:Luna Verde  (Miami, FL USA)

In Part I, Theodoropoulos draws on paleobiology, historical records 
of the movement of species, and studies of natural changes, to 
disabuse us of naive views of "natural, stable, co-evolved" 
ecosystems. Then, he details the true causes of the population 
outbreaks that are called invasions, showing that these are symptoms 
of anthropogenic disturbance -- changes in hydrology, pollution, fire 
regime changes, etc. For me, this was the most devastating and 
convincing part of the book: one realizes that the so-called 
"invasive species" are not the problem, and we must address the true 
causes underlying these population outbreaks. He then examines many 
of the most popular "alien invaders" in the media -- purple 
loosestrife, eucalyptus, star thistle, wild boar, fire ants, kudzu, 
salt cedar, and others -- and neatly demolishes common misperceptions 
about them. He exposes the extremism of the anti-invader movement, 
and shows the harm that too often results from extermination efforts.

Part II will be the most difficult for most readers, dealing with the 
psychology of belief and the nature of xenophobia and prejudice. At 
first I was prepared to be repelled or offended by his comparisons of 
biological nativism to racism, but his tone is so dry and unemotional 
when examining these potentially explosive parallels, and he calmly 
presents case after case, leaving the reader no choice but to give 
the matter serious consideration. He also "follows the money" and 
exposes the herbicide industry funding of anti-invader efforts. This 
part of the book answered for me the question I was left with after 
reading Part I -- how could we have forgotten the basic lessons of 
ecology when considering these species, and created the environmental 
equivalent of a "demon theory" of disease?

Part III builds a new view of "anthropogenic dispersal", showing the 
many beneficial effects of invaders, demonstrating the rapid 
ecological integration of man-dispersed species, and showing the way 
towards a new direction for the conservation of biological diversity. 
After thoroughly demoralizing me and demolishing my world-view, this 
part revived my spirits and energized me to take a fresh approach to 
restoration and conservation. My own approach to land management has 
been radically changed, and I will be focusing on underlying causes, 
rather than treating mere symptoms.

>>  Karen Kellogg <garuda2 at comcast.net> wrote:
>>I got one of the shrubs from the state in a wildlife buffer package
>>years ago--one is now a lovely large shrub blocking my view of my
>>neighbor's house---I've been thinking I should get rid of it; now your
>>post gives me a decent argument for keeping it--- and It smells so
>>heavenly when in bloom!!!
>>Thanks, Karen
>Toby wrote:
>>Dave Jacke made the following amusing observation: if Russian olive is
>>rampant in your area, what possible harm could there be in planting one more
>>of this soil-restoring, wildlife-feeding, edible (etc., etc.) plant? The
>>seed burden will be dwarfed by what is already there.
>>Oh, yeah: I wonder how much funding NYIPC gets from Monsanto and other
>>herbicide companies. Most of the Invasive Plant Councils get lots
>>(California's was started by a Monsanto exec). They love the repeat
>>business. "Invasive" plant removal is a huge source of herbicide use--too
>>bad about those "natural, native ecosystems."
>>Sorry if I'm a broken record. A knee-jerk anti-exotic reaction will get from
>>me a knee-jerk "learn some basic ecology" response (I realize the posts came
>>from off-list).
>>  >
>>  > "I consider Russian and Autumn Olive to be invasive.
>>  > I believe one or both are on the invasive plants list of NYIPC.
>>  > They also are very strong allelopaths, which could
>>  > affect native plants.   I hope you'll take it off your list.
>>  > Thanks, Barbara"
>>  >
>>  > "Though I have much yet to learn about permaculture, I do know 
>>something about
>>  > plants, and in particular, non-native invasive plants...several 
>>of the species
>>  > on this list are non-native and some are considered invasive...if you are
>>  > concerned at all about the integrity of natural, native systems, 
>>please avoid
>>  > planting Elaeagnus angustifolia and E. umbellata, and crownvetch 
>>  > varia)...
>>  >
>>              Paradigm Shifting: Invasives Revisited.
>>                  ... Current understanding of invasives is outmoded
>>                           and lacks ecosystem knowledge.
>>By: Claude William Genest
>>Green Mountain Permaculture Institute.
>>      A Chaos Theorist once remarked that it is relatively simple to 
>>find the fault in a design. It's harder to spot the assumptions 
>>that give rise to the fault. And it's hardest of all to identify 
>>the world-
>>view that underlies it all.
>>A world-view which holds germs as causing disease and "exotic 
>>invaders" as responsible for destroying ecosystems is outmoded, 
>>leads to faulty assumptions and poor design choices. This is 
>>painfully true with our understanding of pioneering successional 
>>plant species wrongly maligned as a "problem".
>>Gaia Theory
>>      The Nobel prize winning "Gaia Theory" teaches us that the 
>>earth is like a body : it self-organizes, self-repairs, and self-
>>reproduces. It is a single, self-regulating living system that 
>>organizes itself in such a way as to maintain and create the 
>>conditions suitable for life.
>>  From this systemic perspective it can be rightfully said for 
>>example that we don't "catch a cold". Rather, we make ourselves 
>>vulnerable by compromising the processes that collectively make up 
>>our immune systems. Coughing, sneezing and runny-noses are not the 
>>problems of your cold, they are the solutions ! They are your body 
>>expelling the "exotic invaders".
>>Similarly, invasive plants are also operating in the context of the 
>>whole-system. Take a closer look:  they are absolutely specialized 
>>at cleaning up our mess and repairing degraded soils.  Purple 
>>loosestrife's historical progression can be traced right up the 
>>fouled waters of  our man-made canals and its ability to fix 
>>nitrogen and mine minerals make it an ideal pioneer species for 
>>degraded former wetlands. Eurasian Millefoils'  "thousand leaves" 
>>give it more surface area with which to capture the nutrients we so 
>>ignorantly and abundantly provide and Zebra mussels fix our 
>>phosphorous overload like nobody's business.
>>An understanding of living systems also does away with the 
>>ecologically untenable notion that anything in nature results in a 
>>monocrop, as any walk in a healthy forest will reveal.  Monocrops 
>>are man-made and to think of it, what species has been more 
>>invasive and expensive than the common lawn whose acreage and rates 
>>of herbicide applications exceed those of farms ?
>>Living systems evolve towards diversity, complexity and resiliency. 
>>Pioneer species including many exotics, "take-over" for what 
>>appears to be a long time only in our myopically short life-spans. 
>>The pattern in fact is one of "succession" in which one species 
>>helps create the conditions for the next. Life creates life, even 
>>in death.
>>Historically Correct ?
>>      The Historical argument holds that what was there once should 
>>be there again.
>>The historical land use pattern has been to erode top soil through 
>>clearcuts, farm it to death, then turn it to pasture and finally to 
>>hay. We erode the soil and systematically mine its fertility 
>>through intensive, extractive and chemical-laden monocrop practices 
>>and then stand amazed that nature is stepping in to repair the 
>>To recreate the matrix of species that dominated prior to intensive 
>>logging/farming all that is required is but to re-create the soil, 
>>flora and fauna conditions that were then present. The irony is 
>>that Gaia, in association with exotics, is doing just that. 
>>Incredibly, we pay to eradicate this process, then pay again to 
>>inappropriately plant climax plants in a pioneer soil.
>>A lake's best friend ?
>>      In order for any species to thrive, it needs food. Waste is 
>>food and we are providing the nuisances of Lake Champlain with a 
>>smorgasbord of agricultural, industrial and human nutrients.
>>The historical land use patterns of the lake have been to both 
>>remove the natural "sponges and buffers" provided by wetlands and 
>>then to dump our wastes into the lake. Many are surprised to learn 
>>that the number one source of point pollution in the lake are water 
>>treatment plants.
>>We radically alter the life conditions that allowed natives to 
>>flourish, and then blame the exotics for succeeding in the 
>>conditions we created !
>>How is it that what was once labeled a mere  "nuisance" has 
>>graduated to the ranks of "exotic invader" ?
>>It is important to remind ourselves that species like Zebra mussels 
>>are nuisances only to man: they block his intake pipes, cover his 
>>war relics, and cut his bare feet. But in terms of phosphorous 
>>sequestration they are clearly more a friend to the lake than a foe.
>>So, does invasive reduction have to be an expensive war ? Or can we 
>>learn to work with natural systems to profitably reduce the waste 
>>stream entering our soils and watersheds? If an ounce of prevention 
>>is worth a pound of cure, would it not make more sense to eradicate 
>>the human roots of the problem rather than pay to eradicate 
>>nature's solutions ?
>>permaculture mailing list
>>permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org

More information about the permaculture mailing list