Strangers in the Garden: A Scourge of Non Native Species

A suburban child runs across a perfectly manicured lawn. Instinctively, the sight of a billowy dandelion seed head is irresistible. It is a vivid contrast, a gem arising from the managed monoculture of grass otherwise known as a lawn. But the wonder and awe of discovering nature via chance encounters is often replaced in adulthood, by a need to control and manage our natural surroundings. The dandelion, once perhaps, a fascinating flower species, becomes a weed- an uninvited inconvenience that doesn’t fit into the planned symmetry of the divided parcels of land we inhabit. Nature then, becomes a series of management objectives. Management considerations affecting our environment are wide-reaching in scope. Even well intended science -based management often represents anthropocentric values. But there is a growing consensus among the various levels of environmental management that we have a problem of epic proportions, and it’s worsening by the year. It’s the problem of invasive and exotic species infestations. Commonly the argument is made that conservation is approached from a resource-based, special-interest perspective. This may offer insight as to why exotic infestations that occur on commercially undesirable lands tend to be left to fester. On the other hand, it is sometimes difficult to justify the excessive amount of "management" and intervention that takes place in other areas. Closer examination of the financial and political pressures that underlie many of the decisions that prompt these environmental modifications often reveal our priorities. I can think of no better example than South Florida. Healthy pine...

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