Invasive plants can be good for eco-change

February 13th, 2011 - 4:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 13 (IANS) Contrary to prevailing belief, invasive plant species - introduced by humans - can also have positive ecological effects, new research has revealed.

Tomás Carlo, assistant professor of Biology at Penn State University, and Jason Gleditsch, graduate student in Biology, studied how invasive fruiting plants affect ecosystems and how those effects can be beneficial to an ecological community.

“Among conservation biologists, ecologists, and managers, the default approach is to try to eliminate and root out non-native, invasive shrubs — anything that seems to change an ecosystem,” Carlo said, the journal Diversity and Distributions reports.

According to a Penn statement: “The fundamental goal is to return a natural area to its original, pristine state, with the native species occupying the dominant position in the community.”

“But the problem is that most native communities already have been changed beyond recognition by humans, and many native species are now rare.”

To test the idea, Carlo and Gleditsch sectioned off an area known as the Happy Valley region in central Pennsylvania, where honeysuckle — a non-native fruiting plant that is considered invasive — grows in abundance.

They then assessed the abundance of bird species and fruiting plants, including honeysuckle, within the area.

They found that honeysuckle and bird communities had formed a symbiotic relationship - how two or more species interact by benefiting mutually from each other’s existence.

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