Human activity changes the environment, as last week’s release of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reminds us. But not all change is bad. One way in which animals and plants respond to warming temperatures, for example, is to move beyond their historical distributions, just as they do when they are transported to new regions by humans. The response of people who find themselves ‘invaded’ by such ‘displaced’ species is often irrational. Deliberate persecution of the new — just because it is new — is no longer sustainable in a world of rapid global change.
It is true that some invasive species damage ecosystems and can eradicate resident species. As a result, the European Commission, for example, is planning laws to control the ‘adverse’ impacts of species introduced through human activities, albeit without quite saying how those impacts should be defined. But the same process can also increase ecological diversity. On average, less than one native species dies out for each introduced species that arrives. Britain, for instance, has gained 1,875 established non-native species without yet losing anything to the invaders.
Human development — dubbed the age of the Anthropocene — boosts biodiversity in other ways too.
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