Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Invasive species threaten traditions

Most of the time that invasive species are discussed it is in terms of the impacts on the ecosystem, on trade, on travel, and so forth.  Not often does the conversation turn towards how invasive species affect our traditions.  Considering that the U.S. is a land of constant movement and advancement, our traditions are usually only a few generations old and not so entrenched as some other cultures that have existed for several hundred or even thousands of years.  However, the native peoples that were here long before the U.S. existed have a culture steeped in tradition and are now having to think about things in ways that they never had to before invasive species came to their lands.

Native Hawaiians thrive on the concept of the Aloha Spirit.  They are a very giving and friendly people and this can become an issue when dealing with invasive species as living on an island chain brings a new dimension to transmission of invasive species.  When an invasive species is brought to one island it may only take a friend bringing a plant cutting to their friend the next island over to spread quickly though the chain.  This sharing and giving spirit, a trait at the core of their culture, is having to be checked against the potential environmental impacts of spreading invasive species.

A native alpine mirrorplant (Coprosma montana) in Hawaii by Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

To read more on how invasive species have impacted Hawaiian traditions:Cultural practice of sharing island bounty hampered by invasive species