Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 7, Issue 8, pp 1069–1079 | Cite as

The implications of accepting untestedhypotheses: a review of the effectsof purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)in North America

  • Heather a. Hager
  • Karen D. Mccoy


The acceptance of poorly tested hypotheses has adverse scientific consequences, and may have adverse ecological and social consequences. The hypothesis that purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) has deleterious effects on North American wetlands is an example. We traced the history of purple loosestrife and its control in North America and found little scientific evidence consistent with the hypothesis that purple loosestrife has deleterious effects. The most commonly cited study of the effects of purple loosestrife on native flora and fauna produced inconclusive results. The general acceptance of this hypothesis, however, has resulted in the introduction of nonindigenous insects for biological control. Efforts to control purple loosestrife may be misplayed and may have long-term ecological consequences if loosestrife does not have the impact it is believed to have. The acceptance of this hypothesis using scientific justifications may affect future scientific credibil ity. Careful evaluation of the precautionary principle is necessary when considering the control of nonindigenous organisms.

purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) biological control hypothesis testing wetland conservation nonindigenous species 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather a. Hager
    • 1
  • Karen D. Mccoy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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