1 November 2008 Invasion Biologists and the Biofuels Boom: Cassandras or Colleagues
Daniel Simberloff
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Modern invasion biology is a new science, with the holy grail of being able to predict the trajectory of particular invasions. Although this goal has yet to be achieved, there has been much progress through experimental research and meticulous study of the scope and mechanisms of existing invasions. Several well-established patterns are relevant to potential biofuel feedstocks: (1) ca. half of all damaging plant invaders were deliberately introduced, not accidental hitchhikers or escapees; (2) some native plants have become invasive; coevolution with native community members was not proof against unexpected damage; (3) many introduced plants were innocuous for decades or even centuries in their new locations before suddenly exploding across the landscape; lack of current observed impact does not guarantee safety; and (4) control or even eradication of widespread invaders is sometimes possible, but it is far from certain and it is often very expensive. We cannot count on effectively managing an introduction gone awry. Because much invasion biology is targeted at developing methods of preventing anthropogenic movement or establishment of species, invasion biologists have occasionally been assailed as obstructionists by various interests who fear their livelihoods will be impeded: the seed and horticulture trades, foresters, the pet industry, fish and game biologists, etc. A fringe group of philosophers, sociologists, landscape architects, and others have even taken to calling invasion biology a thinly veiled form of xenophobia. Some biofuels advocates have joined this litany, accusing invasion biologists of playing on the emotions of an uneducated public by raising fears of a new kudzu. Invasion biologists need not be cast in this role. In collaboration with agronomists, geneticists, physiologists, and other scientists, they have much to offer in understanding the risks posed by particular feedstocks and developing approaches that would minimize these risks and mitigate unforeseen consequences.

Nomenclature: Kudzu, Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi. PUELO.

Daniel Simberloff "Invasion Biologists and the Biofuels Boom: Cassandras or Colleagues," Weed Science 56(6), 867-872, (1 November 2008). https://doi.org/10.1614/WS-08-046.1
Received: 1 March 2008; Accepted: 1 May 2008; Published: 1 November 2008
enemy-release hypothesis
Time lag
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