Are the ecological impacts of alien species misrepresented? A review of the “native good, alien bad” philosophy

Abstract

The study of invasion ecology usually focuses on the negative impacts of alien species, while potential positive impacts are often overlooked. Understanding of biotic interactions may thus be skewed towards the negative, which could have important implications for ecological management and conservation. This article provides a comprehensive review of all types of impacts, both beneficial and detrimental, that can result from species translocation. An extensive review of literature on species introductions to terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems and involving a wide range of taxa (including microorganisms, parasites, plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, fish and Crustacea) showed that, despite limited research into facilitative alien-native interactions, such interactions occur surprisingly frequently. Examples were found of introduced species acting as hosts, food sources, pollinators or seed dispersers for native species, as well as providing herbivory, predatory or parasite release. However, research showed that numerous negative interactions also occurred and combination impacts (when an alien benefits some natives but disadvantages others) were common. In many cases, the traditional view that biological invasions constitute a significant threat to native biota is both accurate and appropriate. Efforts to prevent translocation and control non-native species can be vital. However, the “native good, alien bad” maxim does not convey the complexity of invasion ecology: alien species do not axiomatically pose a threat to native biota. In order to move understanding of invasion ecology forward and to develop maximally-effective management strategies, facilitative alien-native interactions need to be added into the alien species debate.

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Goodenough, A.E. Are the ecological impacts of alien species misrepresented? A review of the “native good, alien bad” philosophy. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 11, 13–21 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1556/ComEc.11.2010.1.3

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Keywords

  • Contemporary evolution
  • Facilitative interactions
  • Non-native species
  • Species introductions
  • Translocations