Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Birding Far Right

Just enjoyed reading the latest BB, I couldn't help thinking that it read a bit like 'a far right' publication. 'Progress of the UK Ruddy Duck eradication programme' was one of the main articles and the best line was in the 'What makes a good alien' paper which read........ 'Quite apart from the ecological and economic damage that they may or may not do, I simply do not like to see alien species...they represent some kind of litter (and in many cases self-sustaining, increasing litter at that)'. The author, Tony Fox also goes on to say 'We must be ready to eradicate these escapes where their presence represents a clear threat to native biodiversity..'

Well I think the level headed quite understand that homo-centric ecosystems need to be managed well. The majority of the UK environment is either farmland (75%) or urban; man-made environments which are comprised of a majority of introduced and genetically modified organisms. Fundamental crops and livestock (cows, sheep, potatoes, chickens etc) are introduced organisms and our urban gardens are packed out with introduced species, even the Sycamore is an introduced tree (introduced by the Romans). The word 'native' is a perplexing term and really should mainly refer to the temperate forest ecosystem that would cover the UK if it was not for human modification. All waterbirds on gravel pits, farmland birds, garden birds etc are all utilising man made environments- often either introduced or escaped organisms themselves or feeding on introduced plants and organisms.

If Fox were to have delivered a balanced argument he would have also pointed out the ecological and economic benefit that the over whelming majority of introduced organisms bring to a homo-centric ecosystem. Eradication programmes and describing organisms which have been invited into our country as litter- well we all know what that sort of language is- very naughty when it is applied too broadly. In fairness to Fox and acknowledging it also important to overstate a point to make it-eradication is a legitimate conservation tool in certain scenarios because extremes measures are required for extreme cases. My favourite one is the shooting, poisoning and killing of domestic cats in New Zealand to protect the flightless endemics.

My point is the introduction of organisms is a fundamental part of being human. We have the privilege to choose, design and create what these homo-centric ecosystems are to look like and the introduction and modification of organisms is all part of it. Getting the balance right is what it is all about. Eradication is an extreme measure that should be applied on an case to case basis if so required and sweeping statements and broad policies based on ambiguous concepts like non-natives or aliens leads to poor management.

No comments: