The exponential growth of invasive species denialism

Abstract

Since the 1990s, there have appeared numerous articles in scholarly journals and the popular press that deny the risks posed by non-native species and claim that the field of invasion biology is biased, uninformative and pseudoscientific. Unlike normal scientific debates, which are evidence based, this discourse typically uses rhetorical arguments to disregard, misrepresent or reject evidence in attempt to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that species introductions pose significant risks to biodiversity and ecosystems; thus, it is similar to the denialism that has affected climate science and medical science. Invasive species denialism, like science denialism in general, is typically expressed in forums where it avoids expert peer review. Denialist articles have increased exponentially over the past three decades, most notably in the mainstream popular press. This burgeoning phenomenon could impede development and implementation of policies designed to safeguard against invasive species spread and impact.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Bailey R (2000) Bio-invaders. Reason.com (August/September 2000). http://reason.com/issues/august-september-2000

  2. Bellard C, Cassey P, Blackburn TM (2016) Alien species as a driver of recent extinctions. Biol Lett 12:20150623

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  3. Boykoff MT, Boykoff JM (2004) Balance as bias: global warming and the US prestige press. Glob Environ Chang 14:125–136

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bradshaw CJA, Leroy B, Bellard C, Roiz D, Albert C, Fournier A, Barbet-Massin M, Salles JM, Simard F, Courchamp F (2016) Massive yet grossly underestimated global costs of invasive insects. Nat Commun 7:12986

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  5. Clavero M, García-Berthou E (2005) Invasive species are a leading cause of animal extinctions. Trends Ecol Evol 20(3):110

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Clavero M, García-Berthou E (2015) Invasive species: an unfair report. New Sci 21:52

    Google Scholar 

  7. Clavero M, Brotons L, Pons P, Sol D (2009) Prominent role of invasive species in avian biodiversity loss. Biol Conserv 142:2043–2049

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Cockburn A (2015) Weed whackers: Monsanto, glyphosate, and the war on invasive species. Harper’s Magazine, September 2015, pp 57–63

  9. Crowley SL, Hinchliffe S, Redpath SM, McDonald RA (2017) Disagreement about invasive species does not equate to denialism: a response to Russell and Blackburn. Trends Ecol Evol 32:228–229

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Davis MA, Thompson K (2002) “Newcomers” invade the field of invasion ecology: question the field’s future. Bull Ecol Soc Am 83:196–197

    Google Scholar 

  11. Davis MA, Chew MK, Hobbs R, Lugo AE, Ewel JJ, Vermeij GJ, Brown JH, Rosenzweig ML, Gardener MR, Carroll SP, Thompson K, Pickett STA, Stromberg JC, Del Tredici P, Suding KN, Eherenfeld JG, Grime JP, Mascaro J, Briggs JC (2011) Don’t judge species on their origins. Nature 474:153–154

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Diethelm P, McKee M (2009) Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond? Eur J Pub Health 19(1):2–4

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Doherty TS, Glen AS, Nimmo DG, Ritchie EG, Dickman CR (2016) Invasive predators and global biodiversity loss. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 113:11261–11265

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  14. Duffy DC (2013) The games ecologists play: the contrarian. Bull Ecol Soc Am 94:380

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Estévez RA, Walshe T, Burgman MA (2013) Capturing social impacts for decision-making: a multicriteria decision analysis perspective. Divers Distrib 19:608–616

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hassan A, Ricciardi A (2014) Are non-native species more likely to become pests? Influence of biogeographic origin on the socioeconomic impact of freshwater organisms. Front Ecol Environ 12:218–223

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Lewandowsky S, Oberauer K, Gignac GE (2013) NASA faked the moon landing—therefore, (climate) science is a hoax: an anatomy of the motivated rejection of science. Psychol Sci 24:622–633

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Mazza G, Tricarico E, Genovesi P, Gherardi F (2013) Biological invaders are threats to human health: an overview. Ethol Ecol Evol 26:112–129

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Meyerson LA, Reaser JK (2003) Bioinvasions, bioterrorism, and biosecurity. Front Ecol Environ 1:307–314

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Oreskes N, Conway EM (2010) Merchants of doubt. Bloomsbury, New York

    Google Scholar 

  21. Paini D, Sheppard AW, Cook DC, De Barro PJ, Worner SP, Thomas MB (2017) Global threat to agriculture from invasive species. Proc Natl Acad Sci 113:7575–7579

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Paolucci E, MacIsaac HJ, Ricciardi A (2013) Origin matters: alien consumers inflict greater damage on prey populations than do native consumers. Divers Distrib 19:988–995

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Pearce F (2015a) Trial by repetition. New Sci 227:26–27

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Pearce F (2015b) The new wild: why invasive species will be nature’s salvation. Beacon press, Boston

    Google Scholar 

  25. Raffles H (2011) Mother Nature’s melting pot. New York Times (2 April 2011): WK12

  26. Ricciardi A, Hoopes MF, Marchetti MP, Lockwood JL (2013) Progress toward understanding the ecological impacts of non-native species. Ecol Monogr 83:263–282

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Ricciardi A, Blackburn TM, Carlton JT, Dick JTA, Hulme PE, Iacarella JC, Jeschke JM, Liebhold AM, Lockwood JL, MacIsaac HJ, Pyšek P, Richardson DM, Ruiz GM, Simberloff D, Sutherland WJ, Wardle DA, Aldridge DC (2017) Invasion science: a horizon scan of emerging challenges and opportunities. Trends Ecol Evol 32:464–474

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Richardson DM, Ricciardi A (2013) Misleading criticisms of invasion science: a field guide. Divers Distrib 19:1461–1467

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Russell JC, Blackburn TM (2017) The rise of invasive species denialism. Trends Ecol Evol 32:3–6

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Sagoff M (2005) Do non-native species threaten the natural environment? J Agric Environ Ethics 18(3):215–236

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Salo P, Korpimäki E, Banks PB, Nordström M, Dickman CR (2007) Alien predators are more dangerous than native predators to prey populations. Proc R Soc B 274:1237–1243

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  32. Shine R, Doody JS (2011) Invasive species control: understanding conflicts between researchers and the general community. Front Ecol Environ 9(7):400–406

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Simberloff D (2003) Confronting introduced species: a form of xenophobia? Biol Invasions 5:179–192

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Simberloff D (2011) Non-natives: 141 scientists object. Nature 475:36

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Simberloff D (2012) Nature, natives, nativism, and management: worldviews underlying controversies in invasion biology. Environ Ethics 34:5–25

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Simberloff D (2015a) Nature’s nature and the place of non-native species [Review of The New Wild by F. Pearce]. Curr Biol 25:R585–R599

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Simberloff D (2015b) Where do camels belong? the story and science of invasive species. Biol Invasions 17:1927–1929

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Simberloff D, Vitule JRS (2014) A call for an end to calls for the end of invasion biology. Oikos 123:408–413

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Simberloff D, Souza L, Nuñez MA, Barrios-Garcia MN, Bunn W (2012) The natives are restless, but not often and mostly when disturbed. Ecology 93:598–607

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Theodoropoulos DI (2003) Invasion biology: critique of a pseudoscience. Avvar Books, Blythe

    Google Scholar 

  41. Thompson K (2014) Where do camels belong? the story and science of invasive species. Profile Books, London

    Google Scholar 

  42. Walther GR, Roques A, Hulme PE, Sykes MT, Pyšek P, Kühn I, Zobel M, Bacher S, Botta-Dukat Z, Bugmann H, Czucz B, Dauber J, Hickler T, Jarosik V, Kenis M, Klotz S, Minchin D, Moora M, Nentwig W, Ott J, Panov VE, Reineking B, Robinet C, Semenchenko V, Solarz W, Thuiller W, Vila M, Vohland K, Settele J (2009) Alien species in a warmer world: risks and opportunities. Trends Ecol Evol 24:686–693

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Winograd NJ (2013) Biological xenophobia: the environmental movement’s war on Nature. Huffington Post: the blog, 6 June 2013

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank Petr Pyšek and Dan Simberloff for constructive comments on the manuscript. Funding from the Canadian Wildlife Federation and NSERC Canada is gratefully acknowledged.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anthony Ricciardi.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (PDF 169 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ricciardi, A., Ryan, R. The exponential growth of invasive species denialism. Biol Invasions 20, 549–553 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-017-1561-7

Download citation

Keywords

  • Invasion biology
  • Science denialism
  • Post-truth
  • Temporal trend
  • Science communication