Thursday 26 April 2012

Out of Eden by Alan Burdick

What happens when a species native to one part of the world is introduced to another part of the world? Of course sometimes, the species finds its new home to be perfect and has no predators or diseases to keep it in check and takes over to the detriment of local wildlife. Sometimes the new species just slots in nicely in the new environment, kept in check by predators that welcome its presence. Sometimes the new species can't adapt to its new environment and doesn't set up there.

Out of Eden is a fascinating account of ecological invasions across the world, concentrating on remote islands and marine life. We are shown the devastation caused by the brown tree snake on Guam, which has caused the extinction or near extinction of several species of birds on that island. We are given a tour of Hawai'i outlining the effects of introduced species on the wildlife of those islands. We're shown how ships become floating homes for species that then find it easy to invade coastal waters far away from where they originated (and the steps that are now being taken to minimise this happening).

Throughout the book Burdick stresses the complicated nature of the biology of invasions, how the relationships between prey and predator are not simple and examining some of the factors that bear on the successor otherwise of a new species in a new ecosystem. He talks to and works with scientists around the world who are studying biological invasions, investigating how long invasions have been happening and what their effects are and whether we can control them.

The result is fascinating (though the book may be a little too academic if you don't have a background in biology or ecology) and well worth reading if you're interested in the state of wildlife.

Out of Eden by Alan Burdick published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

You can read my latest post about Green Books over on Brighton Blogger's Book after Book blog. 


The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting Juliet.

I read today that a mosquito which carries dengue fever is gradually making its way towards Europe because of climate change. All pretty terrifying really.

Titus said...

Sounds exactly like my sort of thing! Thanks.
Was watching the great Ray Mears on i-player last night, and he was musing on the presence of the Baobab tree in Australia, though it's called the boab there.

Sallie ( said...

I think I'll try to read this Juliet. This week I posted a bird I thought was quite beautiful and asked for help IDing -- it turned out to be an Indian Myna, which, as an introduced species has caused all kinds of trouble in Australia. And I hope it isn't on its way to doing that around the Everglades here in Florida (where we saw it -- they already have huge problems with boa constrictor snakes in there -- and plants that aren't supposed to be here really thrive in our mild climate of course.

Ms Sparrow said...

This is not a problem to be taken lightly. Here in the Twin Cities, we are battling Asian carp and zebra mussels that are devastating our rivers and lakes. Plus we have the Emerald ash borer killing thousands of trees. The southern bayou states are battling boa constrictors that are decimating the wildlife as well as pets.

RG said...

I will try to find it and read it too! Plenty of invasives here!

I have received the prize and will give it appropriate blog treatment next week when my cold abates!!!

Christina said...

Florida here is suffering with the problem of boas and pythons being kept as pet then released when they are no longer wanted. A fish with no natural predators too. I can't remember the name right off. People have no idea of the damage they can do to the natural world.

shoreacres said...

Really interesting. There's been new publicity here on the Gulf Coast about Asian Tiger Shrimp, which have been around for a few yeras, but only here and there, with a couple of larger sightings.

Now, they seem to be back. The problem with them is that they eat the local shrimp - these tiger "shrimp" can be a foot long, and they have an appetite. The local shrimp industry is quivering. The tigers are edible, but the thought of a shrimp that looks like a lobster is a little unnerving!