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.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bailey R (2000) Bio-invaders. Reason.com (August/September 2000). http://reason.com/issues/august-september-2000
Bellard C, Cassey P, Blackburn TM (2016) Alien species as a driver of recent extinctions. Biol Lett 12:20150623
Boykoff MT, Boykoff JM (2004) Balance as bias: global warming and the US prestige press. Glob Environ Chang 14:125–136
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
Clavero M, García-Berthou E (2005) Invasive species are a leading cause of animal extinctions. Trends Ecol Evol 20(3):110
Clavero M, García-Berthou E (2015) Invasive species: an unfair report. New Sci 21:52
Clavero M, Brotons L, Pons P, Sol D (2009) Prominent role of invasive species in avian biodiversity loss. Biol Conserv 142:2043–2049
Cockburn A (2015) Weed whackers: Monsanto, glyphosate, and the war on invasive species. Harper’s Magazine, September 2015, pp 57–63
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
Davis MA, Thompson K (2002) “Newcomers” invade the field of invasion ecology: question the field’s future. Bull Ecol Soc Am 83:196–197
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
Diethelm P, McKee M (2009) Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond? Eur J Pub Health 19(1):2–4
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
Duffy DC (2013) The games ecologists play: the contrarian. Bull Ecol Soc Am 94:380
Estévez RA, Walshe T, Burgman MA (2013) Capturing social impacts for decision-making: a multicriteria decision analysis perspective. Divers Distrib 19:608–616
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
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
Mazza G, Tricarico E, Genovesi P, Gherardi F (2013) Biological invaders are threats to human health: an overview. Ethol Ecol Evol 26:112–129
Meyerson LA, Reaser JK (2003) Bioinvasions, bioterrorism, and biosecurity. Front Ecol Environ 1:307–314
Oreskes N, Conway EM (2010) Merchants of doubt. Bloomsbury, New York
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
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
Pearce F (2015a) Trial by repetition. New Sci 227:26–27
Pearce F (2015b) The new wild: why invasive species will be nature’s salvation. Beacon press, Boston
Raffles H (2011) Mother Nature’s melting pot. New York Times (2 April 2011): WK12
Ricciardi A, Hoopes MF, Marchetti MP, Lockwood JL (2013) Progress toward understanding the ecological impacts of non-native species. Ecol Monogr 83:263–282
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
Richardson DM, Ricciardi A (2013) Misleading criticisms of invasion science: a field guide. Divers Distrib 19:1461–1467
Russell JC, Blackburn TM (2017) The rise of invasive species denialism. Trends Ecol Evol 32:3–6
Sagoff M (2005) Do non-native species threaten the natural environment? J Agric Environ Ethics 18(3):215–236
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
Shine R, Doody JS (2011) Invasive species control: understanding conflicts between researchers and the general community. Front Ecol Environ 9(7):400–406
Simberloff D (2003) Confronting introduced species: a form of xenophobia? Biol Invasions 5:179–192
Simberloff D (2011) Non-natives: 141 scientists object. Nature 475:36
Simberloff D (2012) Nature, natives, nativism, and management: worldviews underlying controversies in invasion biology. Environ Ethics 34:5–25
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
Simberloff D (2015b) Where do camels belong? the story and science of invasive species. Biol Invasions 17:1927–1929
Simberloff D, Vitule JRS (2014) A call for an end to calls for the end of invasion biology. Oikos 123:408–413
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
Theodoropoulos DI (2003) Invasion biology: critique of a pseudoscience. Avvar Books, Blythe
Thompson K (2014) Where do camels belong? the story and science of invasive species. Profile Books, London
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
Winograd NJ (2013) Biological xenophobia: the environmental movement’s war on Nature. Huffington Post: the blog, 6 June 2013
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.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
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
- Invasion biology
- Science denialism
- Temporal trend
- Science communication