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Life Out of Bounds: Bioinvasion in a Borderless World by Chris Bright

1998; 288 pp. $13 W.W. Norton

What happens when all the natural boundaries that separated species around the world for millions of years are removed, willy-nilly, in the blink of an evolutionary eye? Out of my window in northern California I see "open space" with Australian eucalyptus, South American pampas grass, and French broom, all living within a matrix of wild oats from Europe. On the asphalt below, the suffering nightcrawlers, crushed brown snails, and potential parasites in the fresh dog doo are all descended from recent Old World immigrants, as am I. Clearly things have gotten a bit mixed up, and it's not all pretty. The question is, does this homogenization of the world's biota matter, and if so what can be done about it?

Life Out of Bounds is the best modern synthesis on bioinvasion. Very readable, and reasonably priced, this book is for any Earthling wanting a fuller understanding of life in the Homogocene.

"There are several promising developments outside biotech?for example, marine biocontrol. One potential target is the green crab, which could be attacked with a weird barnacle that is one of the crab's native parasites. The barnacle replaces the crab's gonads with itself, thereby rendering its host sterile. There are now also contraceptive "vaccines" for some mammals, and artificially produced pheromones (signaling chemicals) that confuse the mating instincts in certain insects. Given the rate at which invasions are proceeding, research on these and other "counterinvasion" techniques deserves a high priority on the conservation agenda."

 

ISBN: 0393318141

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