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The Ethics of “Classical” Biological Control and the Value of Place
Editor(s): J. A. Lockwood; F. G. Howarth; M. F. Purcell
Author(s): Jeffrey A. Lockwood
Print Publication Date: 2001

The risks of introducing nonindigenous species for biological control are typically debated in terms of the potential extinction of native, nontarget species. However, even if no native species is lost or suppressed, the introduction of an exotic organism raises ethical concerns. While the addition of new species to an ecosystem raises local, α-diversity (assuming no decline in existing species), there is a concomitant decrease in γ-diversity between locales as the recipient and donor communities become more similar. The homogenization of the world’s biota, and the consequent loss of biological diversity is of immense ecological, psychological, social, cultural, and ultimately ethical concern. Indeed, the concept of place (a setting of profound meaning to an individual by virtue of direct experience) is becoming a dominant theme in under-standing our world. This concept is a viable foundation for anthropocentric ethics (and a potential bridge to biocentric values) with dear implications for classical biological control. As our sense of place matures, we are beginning to recognize that all exotic introductions represent environmental and moral risks. The ethical question with respect to classical biological control in the context of place is whether the exotic introduction is worth the risk and damage. The answer to this question will be a function of the nature of the target and “beneficial” organisms and how we perceive the places into which the exotic is being introduced or dispersing. Classical biological control often may be a “necessary evil” (antidotes are commonly poisons), justified in context of its likelihood of preventing greater damage by the “pest.” However, ethical pest management practices are unlikely to develop if we fail to recognize the inherent harm of exotic introductions to that which we value.

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