“Invasive Species Denialism” Increases Exponentially

 

Anthony Ricciardi and Rachael Ryan have analyzed 77 articles published from 1994 to 2016 in scholarly journals and the mainstream media that express some level of “invasive species denialism”. Denialist articles appearing in these publications have increased exponentially over the past three decades, most notably in the mainstream popular press – and they have the graph, fitted to a curve, to prove it.

The authors cite Diethelm and McKee (2009) in defining “science denialism” as “the use of rhetorical arguments to give the appearance of legitimate debate where there is none, with the ultimate goal of casting doubt on scientific consensus.” Similar strategies have appeared in disputes over the dangers of tobacco smoking and climate change.

Ricciardi and Ryan say that “[u]nlike normal scientific debates, which are evidence based, this discourse typically uses rhetorical arguments to disregard, misrepresent or reject evidence in attempt to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that species introductions pose significant risks to biological diversity and ecosystems….” In their view, the “denialist” articles assert an absence of damage from bioinvasion “despite peer-reviewed research that shows otherwise ….”  One example of evidence ignored by the contrarians are several analyses of the causes of endangerment or extinction of vertebrate species listed on the Red List maintained by the IUCN [as reported in my blog from May 2016 link]

Furthermore, these claims are almost always made in the absence of peer review – either in popular media or as opinion articles in scholarly journals. Many of the writers are social scientists and philosophers, not natural scientists. Only five of the 77 articles, or 6%, were published in natural science journals.

Ricciardi and Ryan say that unlike genuine scientific debate, “denialists” reject scientific evidence while repeating claims that have already been refuted in the scientific arena. Often, “contrarians” link invasion biology to xenophobia and latent racism, or otherwise impugn the motives of those engaged in the invasion biology field.

Ricciardi and Ryan consider possible reasons for the rise in “denialist” articles. Possible reasons include anti-regulatory ideologies, distrust of scientific institutions, conflicting values and perceptions of nature, even individuals’ desire for attention. They note that despite the absence of a true scientific controversy, the “denialists’” assertions gain credibility because science reporters think they need to present “both sides” of the argument.

Unlike the situation in the contrived controversies over climate change and risks from tobacco, we at CISP have not found a powerful industry backing the contrarians.

Ricciardi and Ryan express concern that the growing number of articles rejecting decades of research on invasive species might undermine policy initiatives at a time when invasion biology’s relevance to biosecurity, conservation, and ecosystem management is increasing. Gaining public support is critical to the success of such policies.

This concern is especially well-founded given that the authors’ results underestimate the extent of invasive species denialism. That is, they omitted from their analysis articles from internet blogs – known to be major platforms for promoting “science denialisms” – and websites that specifically attack invasion biology.

While Ricciardi and Ryan published this as a “note,” it is packed with information, e.g., references on science denialism, in general; and, in supplementary information, a table citing the 77 denialist articles.

 

SOURCE

INVASION NOTE. Ricciardi, A. & R. Ryan The exponential growth of invasive species denialism. Biological Invasions. Published online 12 September 2017

 

New Disease that Attacks Beech is Spreading

beech leaf disease symptoms;  photo by John Pogacnik, Lake Metroparks

In 2012, Ohio authorities detected a new disease attacking American beech (Fagus grandifolia) in northeast Ohio. The disease has spread to several counties in northeast Ohio and neighboring areas of Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario.

Counties currently reporting beech leaf disease; Cleveland Plain Dealer relying on data from Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Currently, no cause has been determined – despite efforts by the USDA Forest service, Ohio Division of Forestry, Ohio Department of Agriculture, Holden Arboretum, and Ohio State University.

Early symptoms are dark striping on the leaves – best seen by looking upward into the backlit canopy. The striping is formed by a darkening and thickening of leaf tissue between leaf veins. Later, lighter, chlorotic striping may also occur. Both fully mature and very young “emerging” leaves show symptoms. Eventually the affected foliage withers, dries, and yellows. Bud and leaf production is also affected. However, there is little premature leaf loss.

All ages and sizes of beech are affected. Sapling and pole-sized trees die within about three years after symptoms are observed. In areas where the disease is established, the proportion of American beech affected nears 100%.

Disease incidence does not appear to be influenced by slope, aspect, or soil conditions. Also, while a wide variety of insects and pathogens is associated with symptomatic trees, these appear to be separate from and unrelated to beech leaf disease.

The disease might also affect European and Asian beech.

Given the range and ecological importance of American beech – a species already under threat in from beech bark disease – scientists seek to form a collaborative group that would efficiently address research issues related to the cause of this malady and management implications for the species.

Beech trees in the Northeast, Appalachians, and even Michigan are already under threat from beech bark disease, described here .

Workshop to Coordinate Research and Management

A workshop will take place May 2-3, 2018 at Cleveland Metroparks Watershed Stewardship Center, 2277 West Ridgewood Drive, Parma, OH 44134

https://clevelandmetroparks.com/parks/visit/parks/west-creek-reservation/watershed-stewardship-center-at-west-creek

Presentations on the first day of the meeting would seek to

  1. Prioritize next steps and coordinate efforts.
  2. Increase communication and coordination among land managers and researchers.
  3. Inform resource allocation and leverage funding sources for maximum effectiveness.
  4. Set up 5-year plan – Research, Survey, Diagnostics, etc.

The second day would include a field trip to view the disease.

Contact one of the following if you are interested in giving a presentation on the ecological importance of beech; or the history, etiology, surveys, or epidemiology of beech leaf disease.

healthy beech in Virginia; F.T. Campbell

SOURCES

http://portal.treebuzz.com/beech-tree-leaf-disease-no-known-cause-1036

John Pogacnik, Biologist, Lake Metroparks & Tom Macy, Forest Health Program Administrator, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry. Forest Health Pest Alert Beech Leaf Disease July 2016

 

What Is USDA Waiting For?

 

As I wrote in my blog in October, the Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reversed a previous policy and now has the option to impose a financial penalty on importers when any of their shipments does not comply with the international standard for wood packaging (International Standard for Phytosanitary Measure Number 15 – or ISPM#15). The penalties are assessed under Custom’s authority per Title 19 United States Code (USC) § 1595a(b) or 19 USC § 1592.

The Department of Agriculture has its own legal authority to penalize shippers whose wood packaging violates regulations implementing ISPM#15.  However, USDA not taken the equivalent step of using its own authority to crack down on violators. Why not?

APHIS’ legal authority stems from the Plant Protection Act of 2000 [7 U.S.C. §7701, et seq. (2000)] (The text is posted here)

This law provides broad authority to APHIS to penalize non-compliant importers, using both civil and criminal penalties. Under Section 7734 (b):

“Any person that violates this chapter … may, after notice and opportunity for a hearing on the record, be assessed a civil penalty by the Secretary…” The penalty can vary from $50,000 to $1 million, depending on whether the importer is an individual or a corporation; the number of violations adjudicated in the proceeding; the gravity of the violation; and the importer’s ability to pay. Civil penalties can be assessed regardless of whether the violation was intentional (in the language of the statute, “willful”).

Under Section 7734(a), the Department may seek criminal penalties in cases when the importer “knowingly” violated the law and its implementing regulations. Criminal penalties include both fines and imprisonment. To apply a criminal penalty, USDA must convict the importer in a trial – prove the violation beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

It is puzzling that USDA has not acted on this authority.

As we all know, the biological diversity of America’s forests’ is severely threatened by wood-borers that can enter the country in wood packaging. Tree mortality caused by non-native pests has been estimated to cost municipalities $1.7 billion per year (Aukema et al. 2011). For discussions of introduced pests’ impacts, see the sources listed at the end of this blog.

Nearly 12 years after APHIS adopted regulations implementing the formal International Standard for wood packaging, significant numbers of shipments that do not comply with the regulations continue to arrive. In the fiscal year that ended on September 30, Customs detected 2,000 shipments in which the wood packaging did not bear the mark certifying that the wood had been treated in accordance with ISPM#15. In nearly 900 additional shipments, CBP detected damaging pests in the wood packaging. (For more detail on this issue, see my blog from last February.) link. So, the need to improve compliance is manifest. Imposing a financial penalty strikes me as an available and useful strategy to achieve that improvement.

The new CBP policy is a much-needed step. Now USDA should reinforce that action by implementing its own enforcement powers. The USDA’s Office of General Counsel and APHIS should be asked what is preventing implementation and what can be done to move this forward. Effective action to interdict forest pests requires strong enforcement by both CBP and USDA. Right now, it looks like the Department of Homeland Security cares about U.S. forests more than the Department of Agriculture.

 

SOURCES

Aukema, J.E., B. Leung, K. Kovacs, C. Chivers, K. O. Britton, J. Englin, S.J. Frankel, R. G. Haight, T. P. Holmes, A. Liebhold, D.G. McCullough, B. Von Holle.. 2011. Economic Impacts of Non-Native Forest Insects in the Continental United States PLoS One September 2011 (Volume 6 Issue 9)

Background on forest pest damages:

Campbell and Schlarbaum, Fading Forest reports http://treeimprovement.utk.edu/FadingForests.htm

Lovett, G.M., M. Weiss, A.M. Liebhold, T.P. Holmes, B. Leung, K.F. Lambert, D.A. Orwig , F.T. Campbell, J. Rosenthal, D.G. McCullough, R. Wildova, M.P. Ayres, C.D. Canham, D.R. Foster, S.L. LaDeau, and T. Weldy. 2016. Nonnative forest insects and pathogens in the United States: Impacts and policy options. Ecological Applications, 0(0), 2016, pp. 1–19. DOI 10.1890/15-1176.1  Recommendations available at www.caryinstitute.org/tree-smart-trade

Posted by Faith Campbell

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