“Invasive species – plants, animals, and microbes introduced to regions beyond their native range – carry a global price tag of $1.4 trillion dollars. They are responsible for the loss of natural resources and biodiversity, damages to infrastructure, and an uptick in infectious diseases.”
The above paragraph comes from an article in the Columbia Basin Bulletin, entitled Ability Weakening To Prevent Invasive Species And Predict Impacts to Ecosystems, Infrastructure, posted to the bulletin’s website on August 24. The article is a review of research into the efficacy of invasion biology hypotheses, published in the on-line journal NeoBiota (http://www.pensoft.net/journals/neobiota/), under the title Support for major hypotheses in invasion biology is uneven and declining, authored by Jonathan M. Jeschke, Lorena Gómez Aparicio, Sylvia Haider, Tina Heger, Christopher J. Lortie, Petr Py ek and David L. Strayer (the Bulletin article had no attributed author, so we’ll assume their editorial staff wrote it). I didn’t see any mention of $1.4 trillion in the NeoBiota article, and a casual look at a reference that purported to know the economic damage in the U.S. of invasive species put the price tag at $120 billion a year here.
We are entering the election silly season, where ridiculous statistics are quoted as fact all the time, so maybe the Bulletin quote comes from one of the candidates for office somewhere. But it seems completely arbitrary to me, and since there is no reference, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to find out if they’re right or not. It certainly sounds like a lot of money, and the effects of these creatures sound really bad.
So, words of caution – don’t take everything you read, hear or see for granted. Do your research, and try to find the sources that are responsible for all these assertions.
Anyway, back to NeoBiota. As readers of this column know, I have featured the work of David Theodoropolous, who argues in his book, Invasion Biology – Critique of a Pseudoscience, that many of the tenets of invasion biology are not backed up by data. Well, along comes an article in a journal – which supposedly means that serious people with PhDs are studying and obtaining grants from scientific institutions to further the science, because that’s what journals are for – that is, according to its website, “advancing research on alien species and biological invasions,” that argues that the tenets of invasion biology, yes, you guessed it, are not backed up by the data!
Now reading the other articles in NeoBiota, you’d never get the impression that invasion biology was a pseudoscience.
The articles are well-written, heavily referenced, and use technology very well to enable readers to instantly see and go to on-line references. The authors are legitimate scientists, and the journal follows all the conventions that I’ve seen in other scholarly journals. Which usually means that the science the journal is talking about is real.
With the proliferation of publishing that electronic tools allow, we’ve seen an amazing diversity of journals for just about any topic you can think of. One of my favorites is the Journal of Irreproducible Results, founded by two scientists in Israel in the 1950s, which according to its website (jir.com) “offers spoofs, parodies, whimsies, burlesques, lampoons, and satires. JIR appeals to scientists, doctors, science teachers, and word-lovers.
JIR targets hypocrisy, arrogance, and ostentatious sesquipedalian circumlocution. We’re a friendly escape from the harsh and the hassle. JIR makes you feel good :-).” This journal was launched by scientists for scientists, and obviously has a following.
NeoBiota was also launched by scientists for scientists. “Pensoft Publishers [publisher of NeoBiota] was conceived during the Christmas/New Year festivities of 1993-94, when we, Penev and Golovatch, with families, were enjoying Bulgarian wine and food at the southern Bulgarian resort Ognyanovo. It was then that the idea came to us, that we should cooperate in a publishing venture – active scientists publishing for other active scientists! It occurred to us that, in the publishing area of environmental/life sciences wherein lay our expertise, there was clearly an empty niche begging occupation.” (from the NeoBiota website) Well, a few years down the line, this Bulgarian enterprise is very much alive and growing. “In less than 10 years, Pensoft has become the leading Publisher and Bookseller of natural science books in Eastern Europe and Russia. As booksellers and agents, we have expanded our areas of interest from Zoology, Botany, Earth and Environmental Sciences, to encompass also Mathematics, Physics, History, Archaeology, Linguistics, Business, Finance, etc. Hence, much of the very often, mostly unwillingly, neglected treasure represented by Russian or Bulgarian, or other East European/Balkan literature in various branches of natural, medical and humanitarian sciences, has been opened to the western reader and has become accessible due to our efforts.” (again, from the website) Well, it’s free, and is willing to publish an article that calls into question the whole basis for the journal. I don’t know about you, but I’m subscribing today. Happy reading!