Ep. 60: “We Shouldn’t Be at War with Plants (How ‘Invasion Biology’ Misses the Mark)” feat. Prof. Juliet Stromberg

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How “invasion biology” misses the mark

Julie Stromberg is a retired professor from Arizona State University, where she received her PhD in Plant Ecology in 1988. While at ASU, she specialized in riparian ecosystems. Much of her research focused on relationships between stream and ground water hydrology and riparian ecosystems, and on effects of ecosystem disturbance (floods and fire) on riparian plant populations, communities, and landscapes. Some of her studies were conducted at reference sites where human influence is minimal, while others were carried out at hydrologically altered sites or at sites undergoing restoration. By understanding pattern and process in riparian ecosystems, she provided resource managers with information that could inform conservation and restoration efforts. She contributed to over 80 scholarly articles during her career and now focuses on non-academic writing.

Nikki Hill joined me as the co-host of this episode. Nikki has a degree in environmental science and has worked in restoration and agriculture. Currently she invests her energy in wildtending efforts. We co-authored a zine together called, “The Troubles of ‘Invasive’ Plants,” which you can download for free at my blog.

Much of our discussion focused on Tamarisks, aka Saltcedars, a tree of African origin that thrives in riparian areas across the western United States. Tamarisks have been called, “invasive,” but the whole story of this plant–and the reasons for its abundance–is far more complex than that simplistic and unscientific label suggests. We talked about how popular knowledge and policy lags behind science and research; how human water use has changed the ecology of the Southwest; how the endangered bird species, the Willow Fly Catcher, has come to depend on Tamarisk; how it doesn’t make sense that some biodiversity indexes ignore non-native plants in their tallies; the role of scientists in manufacturing myths around Tamarisks; how agriculture devastates biodiversity; the role of annuals–native or not–in early ecological succession; how non-native plants can have beneficial ecological effects; climate change and plant migration; plant agency and sentience; contemporary alienation from nature and the importance of re-engaging; the healing practice of wildtending; and how an adversarial approach to restoration won’t solve the ecological problems we made by being adversarial.

This episode’s introduction music is assembled from loops by Doctor Dreamchip. You can follow them here: Youtube | Instagram | Patreon

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