UW News

October 19, 2011

Beyond ecological insubordination: Speaker urges us to rethink invasive species

News and Information

Non-native species are viewed widely as being a paramount threat to biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services that society relies upon.

“In many places on the Earth, however, non-native species are now critical for the maintenance of biodiversity at the genetic, species and community levels, while at the same time providing vital ecosystem services,” says Julian Olden, University of Washington associate professor of aquatic and fishery sciences and faculty in the College of the Environment.

“Ignoring the potential beneficial roles of non-native species is no longer a valid option,  especially when discussing environmental management and sustainable development into the future.”

Julian Olden and graduate student Thomas Pool weigh invasive carp from an Arizona stream.

Julian Olden and graduate student Thomas Pool weigh invasive carp from an Arizona stream.Olden Lab

Olden will address the subject in a public lecture, “Invasive Species: Exonerating Crimes to Envision a New Global Future,” Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m., Kane 210. The event is the annual deans lecture and Lisa Graumlich, dean of the College of the Environment, will give opening remarks. The event is free but space is limited, so advance registration is requested either online or by phone, 206-221-1841.

“In my presentation I argue for reconsidering our managerial ethos towards non-native species with the hope that it encourages a constructive discourse about the undertones of invasion biology,” says Olden.

Thats because many ecosystems  now contain a blend of the old and the new species, he says. In Hawaii, for example, non-native species of birds have become the primary dispersers of seeds and fruits of some native plant species. While non-native birds may have contributed to the extinction of several native bird species, trying to eliminate the invaders makes little sense if native species of plants and current ecosystems have come to depend on the substitute species.

Olden is an expert on freshwater ecosystems and says of his talk, “I will deploy a futuristic approach to postulate the possible, probable and preferable alternative global scenarios of freshwater ecosystems in response to biological invasions and the worldviews and myths that underlie them.”