Without getting to a long history of land use, people will agree that our species has taken the most resources. Some people, myself included, believe our land’s ability to restore its potential is very low. To put it bluntly, our “forests” are first regrowth and from a view that appreciates the eons of time a forest takes to get into balance there is no wonder these forest are sick. Forests do mature and sickness selects for the strongest trees. The latest proposal by you, DCR, is to spray toxic chemicals in our waterways and on our land to save it from the sickness, invasives. Nature will find balance. I am even sure if we spray chemicals, which will never eradicate all the invasives, Nature will find balance to detox those chemicals I just hope we are included in that balance!
The chemicals you plan to use are toxic to all life. These chemicals all work to undermine the same foundation necessary to life. I can make this broad claim because our best science is now on board with the view that all macro-life needs a common microbial world to sustain it. Plants, animals and humans are homes for a microbial force, which we can’t live without. Your herbicides weaken our collective foundation. In regards to the invasives themselves, to you they may present opportunity to team up with corporate chemical sponsors, use tax dollars, and watch the effectiveness of chemicals to kill. To me invasives are an opportunity to understand and create land beauty. I don’t endorse the spread of invasives. Whether chemical or biological I think we have enough lessons to learn from as it is. What I believe in is ecological judo. We can use invasives the blow of invasives to actually create a better balance for all. Below I have listed the points that support an ecological judo against invasives.
First, invasives are messengers. They thrive in harsh environments. Yes they are from elsewhere but they play by biological parameters our natives play by too. Those parameters include soil mineral balance, soil carbon, light, water and air requirements. Maybe there isn’t enough phosphorous and calcium in the soil, maybe there isn’t enough carbon to hold microbes and nutrients, maybe we are trying to grow lawn when our land is much easier a forest, and maybe we haven’t fully realized how drastically generations of modern land use has reduced our land to a thin starvation layer of rocky topsoil.
Second, invasives actually bring better balance. The fact that we are 90% microbe cells and 10% human cells makes us look like coral reefs that support microbe diversity. Invasives are no different. They work to support the same parameters that are necessary to all life. The only difference is they are the first responders. They can team up with the microbes that can handle the harsh soil environments. This mutualism in the harsh soil environment mellows the terrain over time. More rich earth is built which holds air, water and more nutrients. Imagine if we assumed EMT’s would stick around after the emergency was taken care of. Invasives, like EMT’s, go back into the periphery once the land emergency is taken care of. Sure the invasive EMT’s might speak another language but they would quickly understand, even without words, they are no longer needed for action when people went back to normal life.
Third, we can speed up the process of healing our land right through invasives. We can return natives without removing the invasives. This is extensively documented with mob-grazing in invasive filled pastures. The cattle’s manure and selection of what to eat and the grass’s long rest period turns what might take invasives 1,000 years to return native grasses to just two years! After the succession dormant invasives will be in the background waiting for the field conditions to need a first responder.
There are side effects to ecological judo I must warn you about. Be careful: by embracing invasives we will be more able to embrace those prickly, thorny sides of ourselves. Another side effect we should be careful of is that when we complement our competition view of life with a co-creation view the world becomes much more connected and beautiful. Imagine if all our “failures” were actually our greatest opportunities to grow?!