Letter: Invasive plants pose real threat to biodiversity
Katharine Gregg’s column, “In defense of invasives and wild plants” (Monitor Opinion page, July 12) reflects some serious misconceptions about invasive plants. Most “wild” plants are not invasive. Neither are most introduced plants. In conservation work, the term invasive is reserved exclusively for the roughly 3 percent of all plants living in the wild that spread rapidly in healthy natural habitats, where human impacts have been slight to nonexistent.
In healthy habitats, such plants run rampant, displacing native plants and reducing the biodiversity of entire ecosystems. Invasives like purple loosestrife may indeed control erosion and filter toxins in polluted wetlands.
But so does native cattail, without destroying the great variety of microbes, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects that have evolved with and depend on those native species. Whatever the benefits claimed for plants like kudzu and Japanese knotweed, the damage they do far exceeds the good.
We are in the midst of the greatest extinction event in 65 million years. Invasive plants are contributing to the loss of biodiversity. Since we are responsible for these introductions, shouldn’t we take steps to address them, with the goal of restoring health and diversity to ecosystems damaged by invasive species?
The author’s argument for cultivating invasives is, in fact, the human-centered one, and that out of respect for the ecology of natural systems, we should seek out and use non-invasive plants that can achieve the same benefits claimed for invasives.
(The writer is senior botanist for the New England Wild Flower Society.)