Invasive (alien) organisms

Karl Benediktsson, January 23, 2011
A little tempest has raged recently because of an impending revision of the Icelandic nature conservation legislation. Forestry advocates object to a clause about "invasive alien species" which is to be included in the legislation. Ecologists object to their objections and argue the case from the standpoint of their scientific truth.
I have for a long time been rather apprehensive of "invasive (alien) species" in "Icelandic" nature. Perhaps this is due to my scholarly upbringing in New Zealand and Australia, where the results of ecological imperialism are all too obvious. But... I cannot but think that here in Iceland the debate is stuck in an unhelpfully polarised mode. Either you LOVE or HATE the Alaska lupin/Sitka spruce/Spanish chevril/Contorta pine. Decide, NOW!
I was just reading an excellent article by a British geographer, about these issues. He convincingly shows how tricky the concept of "alien" species is, to the extent that it is useless in this context. Instead he suggests that we concentrate on the possible damage to the local biology wrought by incoming organisms.
What I find most interesting about these debates is how they reveal that nature is - always - a socially constructed reality. Socio-cultural values are part and parcel of all debates about nature. This is true whether we belong the camp of forestry advocates or ecologists.