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Confronting introduced species: a form of xenophobia?

Abstract

Critics from the fields of history, philosophy, sociology, gardening, and landscape architecture have recently attacked attempts to control introduced species as infected by nativism, racism, and xenophobia. Many appeals against introduced species, beginning in the 19th century, focus on aesthetic issues. It is impossible to prove a particular aesthetic judgment is in no way underlain by xenophobia or racism. Certainly the Nazi drive to eliminate non-indigenous plants was related to the campaign to eliminate non-Aryan people, while the writings of some early 20th century garden writers are laden with the language of contemporary nativism. Most judgments about the aesthetics of introduced species, however, cannot be clearly linked to such motives. Further, invasion biologists and conservationists today depict their motivation as preventing ecological or economic harm, as did their precursors a century ago. Because such harm is readily documented, this stated motivation is highly plausible, and attempts to impute baser motives are unconvincing if not tortuous. Critics of efforts to control invasions often ignore their ecological and economic impacts. These impacts, rather than aesthetic judgments or appeals to questionable concepts of naturalness, constitute a cogent, ethical basis for management of introduced species. Claims that modern introduced species activity targets all introduced species, not just invasive ones, and neglects benefits of certain introduced species have no basis in fact and becloud an urgent, important issue.

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Simberloff, D. Confronting introduced species: a form of xenophobia?. Biological Invasions 5, 179–192 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1026164419010

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1026164419010

  • biological invasion
  • introduced species
  • nativism
  • Nazis
  • racism
  • xenophobia