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Earth Science

Should We Eat Invasive Species? 290

The Washington Post's Energy & Environment section raises today the question of whether the best way to control certain invasive species is to eat them. The biggest success story on this front in the U.S. has been the lionfish; it destroys the habitat of some other fish in the areas where it's been introduced, but it turns out to be a palatable food fish, too. Its population has gone down since the start of a concerted effort to encourage it as a food, rather than just a nuisance. The article touches on invasive species of fish and crustaceans, but also land animals and plants. I know that garlic mustard (widespread in eastern U.S. forests) is tasty, and so are the blackberries all over Seattle.
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Should We Eat Invasive Species?

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  • Re:Ailens (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @11:53AM (#47087491)

    we aren't using up any resource even in the short term. Helium? most of it just vented from natural gas wells, never collected. just a nat gas engineering problem. Potassium and phosphorous? 2.5% and 0.1% of lithosphere, just an chemical engineeing problem.

  • Re:On that note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TrekkieGod ( 627867 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @11:53AM (#47087495) Homepage Journal

    Let's hope the rest of the earth's species don't adopt this plan to control the invasive naked apes.

    I assure you that they try. All the time.

    We're not at the top of the food chain because the other species are nice to us. Or because we're nice, for that matter.

  • The problem is (Score:2, Insightful)

    by publiclurker ( 952615 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @11:55AM (#47087507)
    You can eat all of the blackberries you can get to and the plant is still there.
  • Re:On that note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @11:57AM (#47087519) Journal

    Let's hope the rest of the earth's species don't adopt this plan to control the invasive naked apes.

    At a population level, the reverse might actually be true:

    One of the few tactics that any species large enough to gun down faster than it can reproduce, or touchy enough that you can just set its habitat on fire, can embrace to survive, and even thrive, is to be docile and tasty. Humans go crazy for that, and promptly allocate massive amounts of effort, and delicious calories, to encouraging your population to increase dramatically. Sure, then they put a captive-bolt stunner into your brain and chop you up for parts; but being a darwinian winner isn't about quality of life...

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @12:00PM (#47087531) Journal
    Given that 'being eaten' is the plan for plants that go to considerable metabolic expense to produce attractive fruits or berries, those probably aren't good candidates for this strategy. (Admittedly, humans probably excrete more of the seeds into the water treatment plant than birds do, so they probably aren't the ideal customer; but fruits are still the deliberately expendable seed carriers, not life-critical components.)
  • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Sunday May 25, 2014 @12:05PM (#47087555) Homepage
    Could you cite that this is an actual Chinese saying? I have only heard this kind of quotation repeated as a racial slur by Westerners. The Duke of Edinburgh, for instances, has been reported by several sources to have once said "If it has four legs and is not a chair, has wings and is not an aeroplane, or swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it."
  • Re:On that note (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @12:05PM (#47087559) Journal

    Plenty of species have benefited from humans without becoming primary sources of food for them. Easy example: Cats and Dogs. Other examples: Squirrels, pigeons, and rats.

  • Re:On that note (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 25, 2014 @01:42PM (#47088093)

    Except that you ignored the key word in GP's post: primary.

  • by lowkster ( 546516 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @02:15PM (#47088251)
    Honey bees are an invasive species. They were brought to the Americas in the 1600's. Now people are panicking about colony collapse and trying to save this invasive species. I thought that is how nature works, life seeks out new and better environments to grow in. Does it matter if a bee is blown across the ocean by a hurricane or carried over by a Spaniard? Or if a mussel makes to the great lakes on the bottom of a tanker or on a piece of drift wood?
  • Re:On that note (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @02:18PM (#47088263) Homepage

    The only predators that can kill humans in comparative safety are ambush predators (salt water crocodiles) and predators more adapted to their environment than we are (sharks).

    You're forgetting mosquitoes (and other insects). When you calculate the biomass of the things, the number of humans killed or injured by insects and the ecological footprint of them, they win.

    "Please -- not green ..."

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @04:17PM (#47088861)

    As to domestication changing the species, yes but the species would survive. Furthermore, if you were so interested in maintaining a legacy strain you could literally select for known original phenotypes thus maintaining the species more exactly as it was found then nature would itself.

    No problem is insolvable.

    As to the jenga tower, there are SOME species that act in that way however most do not.

    For example, is the ferry shrimp found in muddy ditches in California essential to the california ecosystem? Obviously not. They could all go extinct tomorrow without so much as a ripple in our ecosystem.

    Species go extinct all the time and always have and frequently there are little if any ecological consequence because there is enormous redundancy in our ecosystem.

    There are exceptions but those exceptions are the exception.

    An example of just such a species would be the American wolf which did serve a vital role in maintaining the populations of native herd animals.

    The result of removing the wolf is that these herds do not maintain their scale naturally anymore.

    The fix was to allow hunting permits thus human hunters replace the wolf's role in the ecosystem. Sadly, those hunters have a different sensibility then the wolves. The wolves selected the small, the weak, the sick... and thus helped to keep the herds stronger by selecting effectively for the large, the strong, and the healthy.

    Human hunters tend to target animals that look impressive. Thus striking down many times the large, the strong, and the healthy contrary to what the wolves struck down. That is an issue and we should look into that. But it isn't insolvable.

  • Re:Give Me More (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @05:18PM (#47089145) Homepage Journal

    Frankly i think the fight against most invasive species simply creates jobs for public employees.

    That's easy to think because it's easy to forget about the species that we used to have, but don't any longer.I'm old, so I do remember the species we used to have back in the 60s. but are long gone, like the rock crab, which is way better eating than the tiny Asian shore crab that displaced it.

    Another thing to remember is that Florida is a very big state, so if you simply list all the edible invasive animals, it seems like a cornucopia. But if you look at the situation in habitat by habitat, the situation looks different.The problem these things is that they don't have native predators -- they overwhelm the resources within a habitat. That means you lose everything else in that habitat that was dependent, directly or indirectly, on resources consumed by the exotic. That includes many desirable native species.

    Take Tilapia. Of course the're edible, they're a popular aquaculture fish, but they're not *great* eating. They're like tofu: it's all about what you cook them *with*. When they take over a body of water, they displace native fish that are actually *better* eating. So instead of a nice bass, you end up catching a mediocre white fish you can buy cheaper than bait at the supermarket anyway.

    Or Asian carp. They are indeed edible, in fact good if you know how to prepare them, but they also displace many, many desirable native gamefish: bass, crappie, catfish, trout and salmon, all of which are superb eating. For a whole list of edible animals you might not be aware of, you get one in their place. That's a raw deal.

  • Re:On that note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qwak23 ( 1862090 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @08:09PM (#47089919)

    So without our defining characteristics, we're easy prey? Of course! Our intellect and its products (technology, shared learning, etc) are exactly what make us tough prey. Throwing someone into the wilderness of Alaska naked is not a realistic proposition, aside from the fact that our bodies aren't adapted to the cold (again, clothing is technology, and part of who we are), it's akin to taking away a snakes fangs and throwing them back into the wild.

    Some animals are born with physical defenses, some animals are born with the mental capacity to build physical defenses. The former are limited to the environments where their physical characteristics give them some advantage, the latter can put themselves in virtually any environment. Sure, some individuals would fare worse than others, but we wouldn't have spread to every corner of the planet without that ability.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton