Most of my work as a forest steward is intervening in the attack – introduced invasive plant and animal species weakening and defeating thriving communities of biodiversity. My heart, mind and body are on the front line, giving me first hand understanding.
When a new species is introduced, often it is challenged to survive, much less thrive, due to difficulties adjusting quickly to new conditions. But when a species can adjust to new conditions, its evolutionary history has afforded it methods of expanding to which the existing species have not had time to counter-adapt, giving the invader a decisive advantage. Whether we humans ourselves adapted to hurdle our natural barriers, or our barriers somehow eroded giving us easy expansion opportunities is a moot point. To this day our species has not only invaded every bioregion, we have introduced other species invaders that have thrown nature out of overall homeostasis.
All life has a longing to live and expand. But all species also need interspecies symbiosis to survive – all life requires community. As species adapt new ways to expand, other species adapt ways that counter-balance the expansion. This counter-balance is best achieved through slow changes. When changes happen too quickly counter-adaptations may not manifest in time, leaving opportunities for monocultures to establish, and extinctions to occur. Examples of humans’ biocultural adaptations include using tools, controlling fire, agriculture. These ‘inventions’ served as a catalyst for our growth in population and expansion out of our niche into habitats of other species’ communities.
The true question is, What is the human habitat? That is, assuming our species’ adaptions came at a slow enough pace that other species had time to manifest counter-balancing adaptations, where would our niche have been? We are, after all, animals. All animals have a habitat. If English ivy growing up a tree in the Pacific Northwest could be asked, Where is your niche?, it may take offense to even the implication that it is not entitled to expand as freely as it chooses. But the longing to populate and expand does not override a species’ natural limits to life within diverse living communities. Symbiosis is the primal nature ethic.