Sunday, November 14, 2010

Invasives: When Plants and Animals Attack!

Plants and animals are travelers.

Sometimes, things don’t work out well in the ole jungle, and you have to move out. People do it all the time and so does nature. They just do it differently.

Plants disperse seeds in a variety of ways, but they also can create bonds between animals (like ourselves) traveling with us to new territories. Some times it’s just so hard to give up the things you love

like oranges.

Florida citrus plants are hailed to be grown here in America, but they did not originate here. The origin of oranges is traced back to Asia with no exact locations at this moment. As trade began to develop amongst nations, the Romans obtained seeds from the Persians and it’s spread in Mediterranean region began.

On his voyage to discover India, Columbus ran into what is now the Bahamas and brought orange seeds with him on his second trip. Soon after, the Portuguese brought some oranges with them to Brazil. As it happened in the Mediterranean region, history repeated itself in the Americas. Oranges found a new home.

The same story can be said about peanuts, peaches, limes, tangerines, other citrus fruits,

and animals.

History shows that horses used to be native to the Americas, but for some reason vanished. With the passage of time they were brought back again by the Spaniards. Years passed and wild horses were once again native to this region.

On another note, a story that we have forgotten (or fail to realize) is the migration of people. Like plants and animals that are not “native” to the region, we too place social implications on our own brethren.

Going back to plants and animals, the idea of being invasive is fairly new. Oranges and horses did not devastate or infiltrate the environment people were accustomed to at the time. This brings up a vital question to the shift in paradigm.

What Happened?

In my opinion, the common ground amongst "invasives" stems from the failure to realize that natural systems have changed in the past and are changing now. The fact that a singular organism can alter the environment so drastically should signal a common denominator amongst all our local ecosystems; they are not as resilient and prolific as they once were.

This to me is a fundamental idea that people should begin to realize. In the past, ecosystems were filled with life preventing any species from overtaking and threatening the environment. Plants were plentiful and did not provide the space or nutrients for foreign plants to invade the land. Predators were also available to control the populations of any organism entering the ecosystem. Today, the constant disruption of nature is preventing these systems from combating these foreign species.

A comparison can be drawn between a wounded individual who is continually opening a healing wound. This single action causes systemic risks to the individual. The more frequent a wound is exposed and untreated, the risk of infection increases. If natural systems are not allowed to be prolific due to heavy pollution or successive setbacks (mowing the grass, tilling the soil, compacting the soil with heavy machinery, etc), the opportunity for other species to enter increases. Instead of having organisms that would naturally compete for space or use it as food, the floodgates eventually open for foreign species to infiltrate the surrounding area.

It is not that these species are invading due to their foreign nature. Instead, it is because the environment does not have the capacity or the appropriate tools to combat them. This also wages war on Mother Nature rather than confronting the main issue.

From here, you can think for yourself and spur some debate about this topic. I’ll leave with the words of Woody Guthrie and Sharon Jones:

“This Land was made for You and Me.” – Woody Guthrie

This Land is Your Land” – Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings


You: pronoun for second-person or being

Being: a living organism


POWELL, L. (2009). A Review of “Citrus: A History”. Food & Foodways: History & Culture of Human Nourishment, 17(2), 136-138. doi:10.1080/07409710902925912.

Weinberger, E. (2009). Oranges & Peanuts for Sale. (pp. 148-149). Southern Review. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

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