Thursday, February 9, 2012

Nature's Indomitable Spirit: New Zealand wilding pines, a reminder about the will to survive

Was just finishing a short opinion piece by Brian Taylor for New Zealand's Otago Daily Times about how best to deal with the wilding pines that spread throughout both the north and south islands. Wilding pines, also referred to as wilding conifers, are invasive species of pine trees, the result of a combination of early settlers stripping indigenous scrubland for agriculture and cattle grazing which provided a fertile base for various imported pine tree species to explode across the valleys and hillsides.

With New Zealand spending millions of dollars annually to try to stem the tide of the ever-expanding wilding pines, Taylor was questioning the wisdom of current strategies. Yes, the pines are an invasive species that is altering the natural landscape and the result is both an economic and environmental threat, but it's a result due in part to man providing the trees with the initial foothold. Taylor questioned whether current land management use - grazing and burning techniques to maintain economically important grasslands - would forever be at odds with wilding pines and whether there could be other natural buffers developed to help manage the pines' growth and expansion, rather than the felling of mature trees and removal of seedlings which has not yielded hoped for results.

Interesting article but what caught my attention most of all was Taylor's description of nature's tenacity, as it is applicable to all environments - land or sea, plant or animal.

"Mother Nature can be a rather intractable old matriarch, and no matter how strenuously Man tries to thwart her advances, she will invariably be the clear winner in a marathon. After all, she has been around far longer than mankind and has not survived millions of years by simply taking a back seat when threatened. She is a formidable contestant, smart, very smart in fact, versatile, highly adaptable, and loves a challenge. When the chips are down, she will always be one jump ahead, ever ready to override our mistaken endeavours by taking control of regeneration her way.

She abhors nudity and will make sure that all of her domain remains well covered. There will be no bare spots for her, no sir. Pull out a weed and see what she does, she will plant another one straight back and will continue to do so as long as we constantly annoy her by perpetuating our misguided attempts at laying the ground bare."

Taylor is describing nature's will to survive. Despite all that can be heaped upon it, whether through natural occurrences or man-made interference, nature will do what it can, do whatever is necessary to carry on. It will adjust; it will adapt. But what we must keep in mind is that to evolve and continue its existence, nature can make some cold, harsh decisions - such as extinctions if that's what it takes. And that can involve the loss of the smallest insect all the way up to the largest mammals in the sea. And it can include us just as easily. For all our accomplishments and all our self-importance, if we push nature too far, it can shake us off like a bad case of fleas.

After pondering whether New Zealand could adopt land management policies that work with nature rather than continually fighting it, Taylor closes with a thoughtful reminder about ecological perspective - in whose playground we are briefly being allowed to roam.

"We live in a mere moment of time in the history of the planet. It has constantly evolved throughout the ages, and will continue to do so long after we have gone. We are able to exist on earth only because nature provides us with all our needs for survival. Yet in this modern world of rapidly diminishing forest cover, some are still prepared to promote the age-old slash and burn mentality - in this case, 'for the good of the view, rather than for the good of the planet'.

Maybe it is time we reconfigured our response strategies and embraced greater biodiversity, which is, after all, the key to a balanced and healthy ecosystem."

Here, here.

Source: Otago Daily Times

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