Nature Out of Place: Biological Invasions In The Global Age

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9781559637572: Nature Out of Place: Biological Invasions In The Global Age
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Though the forests are still green and the lakes full of water, an unending stream of invasions is changing many ecosystems around the world from productive, tightly integrated webs of native species to loose assemblages of stressed native species and aggressive invaders. The earth is becoming what author David Quammen has called a "planet of weeds." Nature Out of Place brings this devastating but overlooked crisis to the forefront of public consciousness by offering a fascinating exploration of its causes and consequences, along with a thoughtful and practical consideration of what can be done about it. The father and son team of Jason and Roy Van Driesche offer a unique combination of narratives that highlight specific locations and problems along with comprehensive explanations of the underlying scientific and policy issues.Chapters examine Hawaii, where introduced feral pigs are destroying the islands' native forests; zebra mussel invasion in the rivers of Ohio; the decades-long effort to eradicate an invasive weed on the Great Plains; and a story about the restoration of both ecological and human history in an urban natural area. In-depth background chapters explain topics ranging from how ecosystems become diverse, to the characteristics of effective invaders, to procedures and policies that can help prevent future invasions. The book ends with a number of specific suggestions for ways that individuals can help reduce the impacts of invasive species, and offers resources for further information.By bringing the problem of invasive species to life for readers at all levels, Nature Out of Place will play an essential role in the vital effort to raise public awareness of this ongoing ecological crisis.

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Not long ago, while waiting to board a plane, environmental scientist Jason van Driesche noticed a Hawaiian tourism poster that showed a lush ravine carpeted with flowering trees and shrubs, "an exotic destination if ever there was one." If, that is, "exotic" means "alien," for the plants in the picture were all invaders from other continents: African tulip trees, Indian kahili ginger, and other non-native species that thrive on ecological disturbance and the willingness of humans to transport plants and animals from one ecosystem to another without pausing to consider the consequences.

Those consequences, write van Driesche and his fellow scientist and father Roy van Driesche, are enormous. The ever-increasing globalization of agriculture and commerce is remaking the earth into a "planet of weeds," replacing biological diversity with a seemingly inescapable sameness of forms. In Nature Out of Place, they catalog some of these losses, showing how humankind's preference for the "best" species is yielding catastrophe on every continent. More helpfully, they offer a program of action for people to stem and even undo some of that destruction by landscaping with native plants, shunning exotic pets, eating locally grown foods, and protecting old, biologically rich habitats close to home. Clear-headed and illuminating, their book makes a useful tool for anyone concerned with environmental restoration and preservation. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Jason Van Driesche graduated from the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 
 
 Roy Van Driesche teaches and researches biological control at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and is co-author of the textbook Biological Control (Chapman and Hall, 1996).

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