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Temple Trees of Thailand




Nature Out of Place; Biological Invasions
in the Global Age

by Jason Van Driesche and Roy Van Driesche. Island Press. 2000. 363 p. $30.

Curious why the fuss about invasive alien species?

Here is a book that provides compelling explanations. The authors takea tag-team approach. Son Jason gives first-hand accounts of his visits to some restoration efforts around the country. Father Roy takes the bigger view with expository essays. The blend of styles works because they are harmonized with sincerity and biophilia. And while geared for North American readers, the many insights and practical solutions given could be of much interest to dwellers on other continents.

Structured in three parts, Part one makes the case that bioinvasion is a form of global change, why a single global Coliseum may not allow for pandas or kiwis or red-legged frogs; some species just do not get along. There is also an interesting history of transportation technology and its influence on bioinvasion.
Part two examines strategies to prevent and control bioinvasions and how ongoing human activities often thwart native species recovery and enhance invasive species dominance. The chapter on forest pests makes abundantly clear that one rotten log can ruin a forest.

The disproportionate emphasis on biological control seemed lopsided and almost smacked of featherbedding for one of the authors. However, embellishing on one’s specialty is understandable. Besides, the early disasters of sloppy biocontrol were honestly admitted, and current weaknesses sternly exposed. An outline for a more rigorous framework to improve biocontrol safety and effectiveness was also given.

Part three puts people back into the picture and covers a couple case studies of outreach efforts to raise awareness about restoration work and improving prevention, arguing that the "restoration of native ecosystems--and in particular, control of invasive species--is as much a social challenge as an ecological one.

"In the context of chemical pollution, risk abatement is based on the fundamental principle that risk of damage declines as exposure declines...In a biological context, a 95 percent reduction in risk does not mean that 95 percent less harm will occur; it simply means that there is now a 5 percent chance that 100 percent harm will occur." --NATURE OUT OF PLACE

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