Biological Invaders – Adaptation
Music; Ambience: dawn chorus
Throughout time, new species have always been introduced into new environments, but typically, this process has happened gradually — until now. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Lonsdale: Clearly, communities build up over evolutionary time with the arrival of new species as they evolve and expand to fill out their range. Throughout the history of biodiversity new species have arrived – and the communities had to adapt to them – but in many cases they’ve had millennia to adapt to them.
Mark Lonsdale is a researcher with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia. He says that foreign species – also known as ‘biological invaders” – are being transported to new places at an unprecedented rate, thanks to people.
Lonsdale: As an ecologist I imagine that there is no intrinsic difference between an invasion today and the kind of invasions that have happened over evolutionary time. The difference is in the amount of invasions that are going on.
Like the zebra mussels who came to North America in the ballast water of foreign ships, or the rabbits that settlers brought with them to Australia, never before have so many species been able to move so far, so quickly.
Lonsdale: We’re moving species around in vast numbers, through trade, through travel, through tourism and so on. And we’re starting to see emerging now, a sort of giant homogenization of biological diversity. You’re seeing the same species wherever you go. And the risk is that we lose the differences that make biodiversity so interesting, and so valuable.
We’ll hear more about invasive species, and what’s being done to control them, in future programs. To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.