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Lab Girl: A tribute to the challenges of science

January 1, 2017

lab-girlLab Girl is a memoir of a scientist, Hope Jahren.  Jahren is a geobiologist, which is the scientific discipline that “explores the interactions between the physical Earth and the biosphere [global ecosystems].” (1) She describes the arduous journey from curious student to full-fledged scientist.  That transition involved physically demanding collection expeditions, digging deep into the soil for the samples that informed her research into the complex relationships between the soil and the plants that live in it.  Then long, tedious hours in the laboratory are required to analyze the soil and plant samples to develop the hypotheses needed to explain those relationships.  Finally, complicated laboratory tests are needed to test the hypotheses.

If you don’t already have a deep respect for the demands of science, Lab Girl will help you to appreciate the dedication of the scientists engaged in the process of refining our scientific knowledge.  At a time in our social history when science is being questioned by those with political agendas, Lab Girl is an antidote to skepticism about science and scientific expertise.

Familiar Themes

Jahren alternates chapters about her career with chapters about the plants she studies.  As we might expect, Jahren has a profound respect for trees and so her book is relevant to the mission of Million Trees.  She eloquently makes many of the same observations we make on Million Trees.  Here are a few:

On the value of observation and the complexity and changeability of nature:

“Time has changed me, my perception of my tree, and my perception of my tree’s perception of itself.  Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.  It has convinced me that carefully writing everything down is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is no more, including the spruce tree that should have outlived me but did not.” (2)

On the importance of fungi to forest health:

“Underneath every mushroom is a web of stringy hyphae that may extend for kilometers, wrapping around countless clumps of soil and holding the landscape together.  The ephemeral mushroom appears briefly above the surface while the webbing that anchors it lives for years within a darker and richer world.  A very small minority of these fungi—just five thousand species—have strategically entered into a deep and enduring truce with plants.  They cast their stringy webbing around and through the roots of trees, sharing the burden of drawing water into the trunk.  They also mine the soil for rare metals, such as manganese, copper, and phosphorous, and then present them to the tree as precious gifts of the magi.” (2)

Placing blame for “invasive” weeds where it belongs:  ON US!

“A plant that lives where it should not live is a weed.  We don’t resent the audacity of the weeds, as every seed is audacious; we resent its fantastic success. Humans are actively creating a world where only weeds can live and feigning shock and outrage upon finding so many.  This mixed message is irrelevant:  there is already a revolution taking place in the plant world as invasives effortlessly supplant natives within every human-modified space.  Our impotent condemnation of weeds will not stop this revolution.  We aren’t getting the revolution we want; we are getting the one that we triggered. (2)

On the future of our forests:

“Every year since 1990 we have created more than eight billion new stumps.  If we continue to fell healthy trees at this rate, less than six hundred years from now, every tree on the planet will have been reduced to a stump.  My job is about making sure there will be some evidence that someone cared about the great tragedy that unfolded during our age.” (2)

And that is the job of Million Trees as well…to make this record of fighting to preserve our urban forests.  We echo Hope Jahren’s final message in Lab Girl:  “Here is my personal request to you:  If you own any private land at all, plant one tree on it this year.  If you are renting a place with a yard, plant a tree in it and see if your landlord notices.  If he does, insist to him that it was always there.  Throw in a bit about how exceptional he is for caring enough about the environment to have put it there.” (2)

Hope for 2017

We have had some big disappointments in 2016, and it isn’t easy to find something useful to do to improve the political climate in our country.  Planting a tree is something positive that many people are in a position to do.  When you feel discouraged about the future of our country, go visit your tree and pat yourself on the back for making an investment in the future of our country.

Happy New Year

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  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geobiology
  2. Hope Jahren, Lab Girl, Alfred Knopf, 2016
21 Comments leave one →
  1. January 1, 2017 11:58 am

    Thank you for this wonderful, brilliant, hopeful for the future post. I hope it’s a sign that more people and scientists are understanding nature and that what we’ve been saying is true. We must protect every tree. The love and care for nature must be personal. People need to get as exciting about rooting for trees as they do about sports teams. At least.

    I love the idea to plant a tree whenever, wherever possible. The foot high redwood I planted in 1976 is now enormous, with two solid trunks that would take quite a few people holding hands to circle, and can be seen blocks away. The Japanese maple next door who I loved for years finally died, but her tiny baby sprouted in our front yard where I nourished and watered her (burying some beloved pets by her greatly increased her growth) and now she is taller than our house.

    Twenty five years ago I was told to cut down a baby redwood in a yard where gardened. I dug her up and planted her in the yard we rented at the time. A few years ago, most of that yard was destroyed as the house was remodeled and sold. But that redwood, now very tall, was listed as one of the selling features of the property. So if you plant a popular species where you are renting, the tree might be appreciated and protected in the future since they do increase property values. So many people don’t seem to know, but remind them how it’s the richest neighborhoods that have the most trees.

  2. Madeline Hovland permalink
    January 1, 2017 5:50 pm

    Thank you for this beautifully written Million Trees post. Million Trees inspires me and gives me faith in the future as does Bev Jo’s reply.

    • January 2, 2017 7:03 pm

      Thank you, Madeline. Your wonderful work inspires me too and gives me hope. And so true about Million Trees.

  3. Patricia Cotterill permalink
    January 2, 2017 7:41 pm

    I noted your bolding in the article. That weeds thrive in human-influenced environments is undeniable, but it doesn’t mean that humans shouldn’t try to redress the balance of the loss of native plant communities to weedy ones by planting natives in specific areas – in other words, help to undo the depredations that human land use and economies have had on virgin vegetation.
    Also I would caution that you need to be careful of what trees you plant and where. Some are invasive of native populations. And you wouldn’t want to plant a tree in a prairie, for example. In New Zealand there is concern because the Monterey pines (Pinus radiata) that have been planted for the forestry industry, have invaded the natural tussock grasslands on the higher mountain slopes. These invasive forests now have to be burnt – or their saplings rooted out by volunteers – to save precious natural habitat. Yes, as the author notes, things are always more complicated than they seem!

    • January 3, 2017 6:59 am

      This is the nativist viewpoint on these issues. Here is another way to look at these issues:
      (1) The non-native plants that you are trying to destroy are thriving because of changes in the environment, such as increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increased nitrogen in the soil, and changes in temperatures and precipitation. Therefore, it is pointless to attempt to replace them with native plants that are no longer adapted to the changed environment. They will return and the methods that are being used to eradicate them (such as herbicides) are damaging the environment further.
      (2) Trees spread into grassland whether they are native or non-native when grassland is no longer burned periodically as part of indigenous cultural practices or grazed by animals. This is natural succession and it cannot be stopped unless you make a permanent commitment to burn the grassland periodically or populate the grassland with wild or domestic animals to prevent it. Natural succession has nothing to do with the nativity of the trees. Here in California we are losing grassland to native Douglas firs more often than they are being “invaded” by non-native trees.

      The nativist perspective requires permanent commitments to gardening the wildlands to create a native garden that is less “natural” than our novel ecosystems. Not only is it extremely expensive, it is futile.

      • January 9, 2017 3:01 pm

        I really agree, Milliontrees. It can seems so complicated because of course we do not want to lose rare native plants, but there are so many other factors and often people don’t know the details. I’ve seen/heard the East Bay Regional Park District do things that harm plants and animals for no rationale reason in many of their parks, but I’ve also seen Audubon approve harming birds they were saying they were trying to protect.

        Everyone needs to think past what are often commonly-accepted myths and really dare to explore what is often common sense.

        For me, knowing we all have toxic glyphosate and other poisons in our body against our will because of massive pesticiding (I could give a tour of the poisoning of the Bay Area if anyone wants to see how and why this is contaminating our water was well as air and land) is enough reason to never, ever accept poinsoning for any supposedly good reason. How much more cancer and chronic illness do we want the poison promoters to cause?

        Most people just don’t know details, like with Ring Mountain in Marin, California, where those wanting the preserve to be sprayed used the presence of the Calochortus Tiburonensis lily that exists nowhere else on earth as the rationale. They claimed the non-native grasses would cover up the lily. But it’s clear that spraying poison is the greater threat since the Calochortus only lives on Serpentine rock where the grasses can’t grow. The Marin group who opposes poison won and I’ll show anyone who wants to see how the grasses are not a problem at all.

        What is also often forgotten is what I’ve seen in the East Bay Regional Parks, which is that those assigned to cut or poison plants often have no idea what they are doing, and can end up killing the rare plants they are supposedly protecting. Just talking to the EBRPD about why they are poisoning a particular plant or animals species has been a shock in terms of bizarre answers that reveal they have no idea what they are doing. An example is the planned aerial spraying poison at Briones (now postponed), where one representative said it was for boy scouts to camp and another said it was for people riding horses. Another said that Briones was too steep to use goats (which is ridiculous.) Staying on the trails or designated areas makes much more sense than poisoning a large land mass and the nearby creeks and reservoirs. Another reason was that “if you saw how many cardoon there are, you’d want to poison them all too.” Well, considering that cardoon is vegetable sold in fancy produce stores and has one of the most beautiful blossoms I have ever seen, is used by native animals, and which is rare enough that I’m thrilled to see even one, no I would not agree.

        Also, once approval is given, the results can be catastrophic, like on one small beautiful wildflower trail in the EBRPD that they mistakenly destroyed.

        In Aotearoa/New Zealand, the Europeans brought plants and animals that damage the fragile and rare environment, but only some are targeted for killing. I would think the Monterey pines could support native animals and some plants as well as being far less destructive to the earth in Aotearoa than the millions of grazing sheep, and certainly more than the domestic carnivores that are wiping out the flightless birds.

        That is interesting about the native Douglas Fir, which can rival redwoods in height and which create eco-systems that support plants and animals often not seen anywhere else. I’m crazy about them, and wish we had more in the East Bay. From what I can tell, they help create more diversity than redwood forests. If you want a vitamin C boost while hiking, you can eat a pinch of their new growth tips, and what other trees smells so wonderful? (They are the typical Christmas tree). I only began to understand why there are so many more species of plants on Mt. Tamalpais in Marin than the East Bay oak/bay forests when I realized how much life the Douglas Fir sustains.

        There are so many aspects to this issue, but some things should be agreed on for the safety of everyone, which is very simple: Don’t ever use poison and avoid cutting down any tree. We need every one we have. And be cautious about any decision that could harm plants and animals.

        • Patricia Cotterill permalink
          January 9, 2017 7:19 pm

          Well, you wouldn’t be happy in New Zealand then. As far as I know all non-native animals, especially alien carnivorous predators, such as ring-tailed possums (which also eat vegetation), stoats, weasels and hedgehogs, etc. are targeted with traps and poison and cats and dogs are personae non gratae on public and preserved land under the control of the Department of Conservation. The rationale? That if this is not done a very large proportion of NZ’s native birds will go extinct – many are threatened and scarce and others have already gone extinct. So which do you want? Alien predators who maintain good populations in the countries of the world where they came from or NZ native birds, many of which are endemic and exist nowhere else? I know which I’d choose. As for the Monterey pines I could show you pictures of the barren ground that underlies these plantations, devoid of other vegetation cover, and diverse soil flora and fauna, compared with native forest and grassland. Hence the initiative to get rid of self-sown seedlings in natural plant communities before they convert them to more barren forests. No, nature is not simple, and human solutions to correct the ecological wrongs done by the depredations of human settlement often have to be harsh.
          I should add that humans are warned to beware of these poisoned baits and to keep children and dogs away; possums, stoats, of course, cannot read! I should add also the reason why NZ birds, especially the flightless ones, are so vulnerable to alien mammal predators: because the only native mammals NZ has are bats!
          There are lots of ills in the world, people killing each other, people dying from self-inflicted drug overdoses; targeted use of pesticides for ecological restoration is a minor consideration in comparison!

          • January 9, 2017 7:39 pm

            Here is an analysis of the horrifying, poisonous projects in New Zealand: https://milliontrees.me/2016/08/01/island-eradications-in-the-bay-area-rear-their-ugly-head-again/ This analysis is based on a book by a kiwi (a person from New Zealand) who has worked to stop these projects, which have been going on for over 60 years. These projects kill many non-target species–including native species–and they are frequently unsuccessful.

            Justifying these projects on the grounds that worse things are happening in the world is a bit sickening, frankly. When conservation becomes just a matter of killing everything, it no longer deserves to be called conservation.

          • Patricia Cotterill permalink
            January 9, 2017 8:40 pm

            Answer my question. Which would you rather have? No native endemic flora and fauna in New Zealand or some? You can’t have both some and none. And “some” requires predator control. Conservation usually refers to conserving pre-existing natural resources or biotic communities, it doesn’t necessarily mean preserving the status quo. The idea of all these projects is to bring back biodiversity that has been lost by human influence on the landscape. How can that be bad? I notice that the people who espouse Millions of Trees’ paradigm usually know almost nothing about ecology and nature in general, they don’t even use the words “native” and “exotic” because they don’t even make the distinction. What is sickening, actually, is the loss of genotypes, of biota that have been millions of years in the evolutionary making, and are – or were until Man came along – superbly adapted to their environments. Try watching a few Nature programs and you’ll see what I mean. As for the link you sent, well, of course there is push-back in NZ, but to be balanced, try reading a few of the Dept of Conservation websites and see all the projects that are in progress!

          • January 10, 2017 6:18 am

            I have been to New Zealand. I saw many native birds. The poisoning projects are also killing native birds. If we aerial bomb huge swaths of land with deadly poison, we kill everything that lives there. These poisons cannot discriminate between native and non-native animals. Many dead native birds have been found and reported in the press.

            You offer a dichotomy that boils down to this: either kill everything or kill everything. It is a false choice that is, in fact, not a choice at all.

            Much of my article comes directly from the environmental impact reports of proposed projects and the monitoring reports of completed projects. I’ve read the “other side” and it confirms my understanding of these projects as deadly and pointless. I have taken ecology courses and read hundreds of books and articles on all sides of this issue.

          • Patricia Cotterill permalink
            January 10, 2017 9:18 am

            Yeh, I wonder how many kiwi you saw in the wild, how many kakapo or takahe or New Zealand robins? I admit I am not well versed in the practice of aerial spraying and its effects and need to read more, but I would imagine that it rather depends on what you eat whether you are targeted by the poison or not. I understand that some of the herbicide spraying is also to get rid of Monterey pine forests for habitat restoration. The fact remains that as a result of predator control some offshore islands particularly have become predator free and the native bird populations have increased, and breeding programs have become possible. (No point in breeding birds of threatened species for food for predators!) I am not advocating a dichotomy of killing everything vs. killing everything, I am saying, maintain native populations of flora and fauna which are superbly adapted and in balance with their natural environments (which also have to be maintained or restored) and stem the increase and ingress of exotic species that come in under the agency of Man and upset this balance. By the way, if there was not societal consensus on the harm that exotics can do, why do governments spend millions on Biosecurity at airports?

          • January 10, 2017 1:46 pm

            We saw kakapo, takahe, and kea in the wild. We only saw kiwi in captivity because it is only active in the dark. Rather than walking about in the dark, we preferred to see it in darkened museum rooms.

            The kea is nearly extinct as a result of the killing crusade. Bill Benfield’s book about the devastation of that campaign gives exact figures on the number of keas who have been killed by poisons. Aerial distributed poisons are indiscriminate killers. They are just as attractive to hungry native animals as they are to non-native animals.

            Governments spend money on these projects because they employ people like you and then the employees become the constituents that demand that the projects continue.

  4. Bill Benfield permalink
    January 10, 2017 12:51 pm

    Patricia Cotterill paints a false and almost benign picture of a nations collective insanity; New Zealand’s broad brush assault on exotic flora and fauna with super toxins which kill everything, native and exotic.
    Although she claims wilding pines, sometimes even pinus controrta planted by the state for erosion control, are being burnt or grubbed out by volunteers, the reality is burning would create vast and destructive wildfires, such as those of the Maori, which destroyed much of New Zealand’s forests prior to European arrival. In fact the state, via its so called “Department of Conservation” (DoC) aerial sprays vast tracts of land with potent herbicide cocktails which have gung ho names like “Armageddon”. The components include Grazon (highly toxic to aquatic organisms), Picloram, extremely persistent in soils, Dicamba, similar in action to 2.4.D and Aminopyralid. The composition is similar to “Agent White” used in defoliating Vietnam and possible cause of much damage and deformity to human populations.
    The wilding pines have given New Zealand great international exposure as a backdrop to many popular movies, as have the fields of colourful Russell lupins, which are similarly hunted down and aerially sprayed. In Central Otago, you can see whole landscapes of dead, slightly purple wild thyme with rosehip and the odd pine. Any native plants such as matagouri will also be wiped under this onslaught as well as damage to aquatic life, because rivers in the way are also caught up.
    Exotic fauna are equally caught up in this frenzy of destruction, with the preferred toxin being the metabolic poison, 1080. Totally banned in the state of California, and severely restricted elsewhere, this small nation uses around 90% of total world production on its wildlife. 1080 kills anything that requires oxygen as part of its metabolic process; be it bird, insect or animal, 1080 kills them all, even the insects that break down the leaf litter to make the forest soils. Despite aerially spreading this poison over thousands of square kilometres of wilderness allegedly to save the birds, the populations are declining. This loss is blamed not on the extremely profitable but insane conservation management, but on creatures like possum, a slow breeding vegetarian marsupial falsely demonised, or fast breeding rats and stoats which actually seem to benefit from the programme! It is purely as a result of poisoning that the population of the world’s only mountain parrot (and predator too), the kea, is down to around 1% of its 1960’s levels. It is now extinct over much of its former range, and likely to be extinct in the wild in a decade or so.
    New Zealand is truly a sad and sick little nation.

    • Patricia Cotterill permalink
      January 10, 2017 9:18 pm

      I suggest that your readers Google “1080 usage in New Zealand” in Wikipedia for a more balanced evaluation of 1080 and poisoning in general in NZ. It is used because it targets non-native mammals, the predators of birds – the only native mammals are bats. The entry states that only 5% of protected lands are aerially sprayed with 1080 each year, and also lists the number of organizations that support such spraying, not because it isn’t without problems, but that what it achieves is considered “worth the risk.”
      Killing animals or healthy plants is not pleasant and I wouldn’t want to have the job of picking up the carcasses. They are not morally to blame for eating millions of birds each year. But we get into complicated issues of philosophy here. Millions of people died in two World Wars. Does that mean they were not worth fighting? A question I’ve grappled with for much of my life. According to the November issue of Wilderness (a NZ magazine) a lot of research is being put into developing more efficient, more humane traps, and if a better pesticide is developed it will certainly be used.
      To those of us who value native communities, NZ is certainly compromised by settlement, as is North America and other colonized countries. It has 10 times as many exotic vascular plants as native ones, for example. So I find that sad. But it is not sick, and if it is as toxic as you make out then how come it can manage to export milk powder and dairy products, fruits, wine, lumber, cattle, sheep and wool? By the way, the most extensive devastation I saw was forestry clear-cuts, and there is very little burning – it just brings back the exotic gorse!

      • January 11, 2017 5:59 pm

        Here is the reaction from NZ to Ms. Cotterill’s comment:

        “Patricia Cotterill fails to understand that Wikipedia is not a credible source of information. It merely reflects the views of the contributors and is seldom fact checked. 1080 is a metabolic poison that targets nothing, it kills anything that requires oxygen as part of its metabolic process. Professor of Toxicology (Canterbury), Ian Jamieson has written that anyone who says otherwise is talking “complete and utter rot”. As a food exporting nation, New Zealand has been skating on thin ice for years. Water sampling for 1080 is only taken 24 hours after the drop, by which time it has passed down from the drop area, despite that, contaminated samples have been taken. 1080 in trout has been supressed by Ministry of Primary Industry, and it is quite possible that 1080 is present in eel meat which is exported. Contaminated milk has been dumped and Japan will no longer take any wild harvest food stuffs due to risk of 1080 contamination. There are warning signs that wild harvest meat should not be taken for several months after a drop.
        There is absolutely no work being done on endocrine disruption by 1080, and it is unlikely any will be done, as Dr. Beasley noted in 1996. What little has been done overseas caused sufficient concern in California, and hence the absolute prohibition of 1080. Dr. Michael Beasley of University of Otago’s Toxicology Group warned in a workshop proceeding paper released by the Royal Society of possible trade consequences given the lack of scientific data on long term exposure. “He said the data available on 1080 could not satisfactoriy address the range of investigations stipulated under current New Zealand requirements for new chemicals…he found very few studies have been done on the possible toxic effects of repeat 1080 exposures, including investigations into possible infertility, birth defects or tumour induction. There were also comparatively few studies of the effects of exposure via skin contact or dust inhalation, the common modes of contact in industry.” Nothing has changed since and it is quite likely New Zealand will ultimately be caught out.
        Organisations supporting poisoning include most conservation NGO’s, including Greenpeace, and as my book, “At War with Nature” explains, they are part of an absolutely corrupt and ethicless gravy train. Poisoning for bovine Tb is probably one of the most corrupt parts of it, as there is no verifiable evidence of transmission of Tb from wildlife to cattle, NZ is Tb free and has been for years, and so too are possum – but continuing the poisoning programme certainly keeps a lot of people very nicely well off thank you!
        Wilderness magazine is a mouth piece for DoC’s conservation estate marketing, and so supports DoC in all things. NZ Geographic, another supporter of poisoning, is linked to publishing interests who also publish material for Federated Farmers. North and South magazine appears corrupted by Forest & Bird, an organisation founded by Sanderson, and is almost the world model for commercial conservation.”

        The situation in NZ is similar to these projects in the US. Very little testing for contamination is done after these poisonous projects are done. When testing is done, contamination is often found. Likewise, there is little testing of the poisons themselves and what little is done is usually done by the manufacturers, making it untrustworthy. The collaboration between organizations calling themselves “environmentalists” on this issue is contributing to the proliferation of the projects. There are a growing number of organizations committed to informing the public about the toxicity of the products being used and the contamination of our food supply. These organizations are the new environmentalists.

        • Patricia Cotterill permalink
          January 12, 2017 10:18 am

          Hmm. Methinks MT does protest too much. You call in the toxicologists who of course come out with all guns blazing. Their job is to protect human health and of course any risk to human health is too big a risk according to their perspective. New Zealand Dept of Conservation’s job on the other hand is to protect nature, and specifically, native ecosystems, and they have found 1080 a useful tool in this respect. According to sources MT does not believe, 50% of native NZ birds are estimated to already be extinct. DoC does not want that to become 100%! Consider, chemotherapy is toxic to patients, but we continue to administer it, because we believe that the end result justifies the means. If you want to fling terminology about, as MT often does, the toxicologists could be called speciesist, because all they focus on is the human species, whereas conservationists are altruists, because they also care about non-human species.
          Of course, seeing traps containing poison along nature trails is startling to visitors, because here in Canada for example we don’t do such things; we merely pollute our waters with hormones, antibiotics, aerial spray with insecticides, kill one native species to preserve another (wolves vs. caribou), etc, etc. all for the purpose of promoting the economy and human interests. Our efforts to preserve our native flora and fauna very much take a back seat to the human economy, even though settlement has wreaked havoc on native biota in much the same way as it has in NZ and the US.
          By the way, Wikipedia has its deficiencies, and it usually admits them, asking for more information and indicating its sources. It does not, unlike MT, deliberately seek to mislead its readers by cherry-picking facts and information to promote a single, biased point of view. I would not care so much if MT had just stuck to opposing the cutting down of Eucalyptus trees in their local, loved, landscape, but to expand this into a creed whereby they refuse to acknowledge that non-native species can cause harm and ridicule the findings of invasion biology (a fatuous position) is indefensible. Worse, they revile the people who are trying to reverse the harm that has been done to native ecosystems by human activity, past and present. This is not difficult to do, because re-creating nature is a difficult and complex thing to do, at which we are all rookies, and because we humans, besides being ecological illiterates, want simplistic, pollyannaish solutions to complex problems.
          And, if you are so opposed to herbicides/pesticides, leave the conservationists alone and go after agribusiness and the world economy!

  5. Tony Orman permalink
    January 12, 2017 12:11 am

    Patricia Cotterill’s views represent a well meaning but distorted view of ecological reality in New Zealand. There exists in Kiwi Land a phobia of introduced species. It’s very hypocritical. Possums (herbivores, not carnivores), deer, trout – all introduced – but so are humans by migration waves first in 1350 then about 1840. It’s very convenient for the anti-introduced phobics to eat lamb, beef etc,from introduced farm stock. And to plant petunias and dahlias, potatoes and lettuce etc., and ignore they were introduced. The reality is it’s a 21st century ecosystem, evolved from human migrations and settlement.
    The anti-introduced ideology uses broad spectrum poisons like 1080. The reality is its an ecosystem poison that disrupts predator/prey relationships and food chains and leads to population explosions of fast breeding species like rats.

  6. January 23, 2017 11:42 pm

    The wildcat (Felis silvestris) ranges across Eurasia and Africa and consists of five subspecies, the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) in mainland Europe, Scotland (that population is critically endangered and often called by the subspecies name Felis silvestris grampia), and Turkey, the Near Eastern wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) in North Africa and the Middle East, the Southern African wildcat (Felis silvestris cafra) which lives south of the Sahara, the Central Asian wildcat (Felis silvestris ornata) in India, Central Asia, and Mongolia, and the Chinese mountain cat (Felis silvestris bieti) of central China and the Tibetan Plateau. Although it is called by the separate subspecies name Felis silvestris catus, the domestic cat belongs within the Near Eastern subspecies.

    Neither domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) nor domestic cats are indigenous to The Americas, Hawaii, Australia (the dingo, which derives from and belongs within the domestic dog subspecies, is the closest Australia gets to having a native dog species), or New Zealand, but nativists call domestic cats invasive and only call domestic dogs introduced, even though the dog can kill a human whereas the domestic cat and small and medium cat species can’t.

    What is your position on domestic and feral cats in terms of the topics of nativism and invasion biology?

    What a Dingo is by Natural History: https://retrieverman.net/2009/10/10/what-a-dingo-is-2/

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