The social and human dimensions of invasive species

December 5, 2018

Announcing a special issue on the human and social dimensions of invasive species masterfully coordinated by Ross Shackleton, who came to Lausanne as a post-doctoral scholar funded by the Swiss Government’s Excellence Scholarship, and has prolonged his stay with a lecturer contract.  The special issue, published in the Journal of Environmental Management, includes three review papers and thirteen case studies – see the Table of Contents below.  In our editorial paper, we review advances in the four main ways people interact with invasive species:

  • causing or facilitating invasions
  • thinking and feeling about invasions
  • being affected by invasions, for better or for worse
  • getting together to manage invasions

Read the rest of this entry »

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Place-based weed management on Aboriginal lands

August 31, 2018

Originally enlisted in the 1970s as a labour force fighting ‘the war on weeds’ under the command of government agencies, Aboriginal land manager involvement has evolved to be increasingly guided by culturally-based aspirations. The Australian Government’s funding of land management by Aboriginal communities through ‘ranger’ programs aims to enable them to manage lands according to their knowledge and priorities, and have produced various positive outcomes for conservation, Aboriginal employment, cultural re-invigoration, and recognition of the value of Indigenous ecological knowledge.

David Newry and Tom Bach discuss a weed (‘moorrooloombong’ or Acacia farnesiana) in the bush near Kununurra

However, in the case of weed management, this approach is not working: the emphasis is on killing plants that are identified on invasive alien species lists prepared by government agencies. While Aboriginal people hold unique attitudes about invasive weeds and animals, these are rarely reflected in how rangers control them. Based on field research with Bardi-Jawi, Bunuba, Ngurrara, Nyikina Mangala and Wunggurr rangers in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, my former doctoral student Tom Bach observed that 27 of 35 weed control projects followed the government agency weed lists for species-led control. Of these, only 2 were successful in meeting Aboriginal cultural aspirations. In most of the other cases, the list-based approach generated frustration among Aboriginal rangers who felt they were engaged in purposeless killing. Read the rest of this entry »


What to do about the ‘neo-Australian’ forests of lowland eastern Madagascar?

August 17, 2018

Neo-Australian landscapes along RN11a in eastern Madagascar: Grevillea, Eucalyptus, Acacia…

Beyond the rice paddies, beyond the orchards of litchi, cloves, and coffee, beyond the rare patches of lemur inhabited natural forest, beyond the swidden fallows, a new landscape has appeared in lowland eastern Madagascar in the past half century.  These ‘neo-Australian’ forests include four or five trees introduced from Australia that have, in many ways, become integral to regional lifeways: Read the rest of this entry »


Towards a “critical” invasion science

June 11, 2018

The study of invasive plants and animals might be seen as the domain of biology and environmental managers.  But in a recent piece I argue for a “critical” approach due to the deeply social nature of invasion landscapes, the power relations affecting the science of invasions, and the differential impacts of weed or pest control on lives and landscapes. By “critical” invasion science, I mean research that is informed by social theories, with a sensibility to questions of social justice and to the social construction of scientific knowledge. The piece investigates several aspects of invasion science ripe for critical analysis: the history of the science (to understand what the science is doing and why), the terminology and categories of analysis, and the highly contested social, political, and ethical context within which invasion management takes place. The piece conclude with four proposals for further work in critical invasion science and examples of the types of questions it might ask. Read the rest of this entry »


When invasion ecology looks at cities and urban areas

November 10, 2017

The historical roots of urban invasion studies across the rural–rural-wild spectrum. Fig. 1 in Salomon Cavin & Kull 2017. Kindly drawn by Lionel Cavin.

The study of invasive plants and animals has started to pay attention to cities.  In a paper just out, written by my colleague Joëlle Salomon Cavin and me, we document this ‘urban turn’ and ask what its implications are.  Specifically, our paper does a few things. We review how the ecological sciences in general have long had blinders as far as matters urban go, but also the existence of alternative paradigms – notably in 20th century European circles and in diverse ‘urban ecology’ traditions. Then, we look in more detail at how invasion biology has dealt with (or ignored) cities. In doing so, we Read the rest of this entry »


The fires in Portugal’s neo-Australian landscapes

June 22, 2017

The terrifying and sad images emerging from last Saturday’s fires in central Portugal struck me in their similarity to the 2009 Black Saturday fires around Melbourne where I used to live.  But the similarity is more than the day of the week, the record-high numbers of fatalities, the images of charred cars trapped along the road, and the human tragedy.  The other similarity is the vegetation: a fairly impressive portion of Portugal is covered by “neo-Australian” landscapes of introduced eucalyptus trees, as well as acacias and hakea.

A quick and dirty look at the extent of the fire in comparison shows clearly that the fires spread largely in eucalyptus forests:

Map of location of June 17, 2017 fires (source: ERCC) on left, with fire areas juxtaposed manually on an extract of vegetation map of Portugal (source: Meneses et al. 2017). Yellow is eucalyptus; dark green is maritime pine.

Eucalyptus trees, as well as other elements of Australia’s vegetation, are of course highly fire adapted.  Native Iberian cork oaks and pines are of course also no strangers to fire, but the question that has increasingly been raised in the press is to what extent eucalypts are to blame in the recent tragedy (in English, see articles for instance in Politico, LA Times, NYTimes). Read the rest of this entry »


Invasive species: interdisciplinarity, ecosystem (dis)services, and aesthetics

February 21, 2017

Announcing a series of new publications on “invasive species”, all from the Socio-ecology of Acacia project in which I participated (funded by SESYNC and two German research institutes). Here’s why they are interesting: Read the rest of this entry »