‘Novel Ecosystems’ is a catch all phrase to encompass the changes in an environment created in part by human contact.
From an ecological stand point the free movement of ‘life’ forms that integrate with the new surroundings creates a localised eco-sytem. Consider this from the point of view of a garden that contains many imported plants, non-native species and even crops grown out of season. We gardeners intervene in ‘New Ecological World Order’ either consciously or otherwise.
Eco Changes in the Garden
- Conversion of greenbelt and pasture to housing or building on new sites can set up a domino of changes.
- The commercialisation of the horticultural industry since the Tulip Mania of 17th century has seen a growth in imported plants.
- Plant explorers seeking new, exotic or different species brought diversity back to the UK.
- The quest by gardeners for something new, better or different encourages change.
- Cross breeding has created may hybrids between native and invasive plants.
- New intentional and unintentional ecosystems created in areas of urbanization
Eco Problem Plants
- Large conifer forests have replaced much of the UK’s native woodland.
- Rhododendron ponticum is native to southern Europe and southwest Asia. ‘The plant is responsible for the destruction of many native habitats and the abandonment of land throughout the British Isles…. Where conditions are suitable Rhododendron will out compete most native plants… A Killer of the Countrysideinfo
- With a dangerous sap Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is on the list of invasive plants covered by UK legislation.
- Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is also listed along with some 30+ other species.
- Hydrocotyle ranunculoides or Pennywort, a floating pond weed, is one of several water borne plants causing concern
- The abundance of native species can be over taken by invader species. This can lead to the loss of our native plants.
- Novel environments can change soil condition and fertility often significantly.
- Over time the local and regional appearance may look and act very differently. Ancillary and support areas can be displaced.
- Water resources and riparian issues may become problematic.
- Invader species may harbour new insects, fungi and/or disease.
- Novel ecosystems can become entrenched over time with concomitant problems. It is not always possible to return to a previous status quo.
Intervention or Eco Free for All
- Gardeners are contributing to the widespread emergence of novel ecosystems and we should rethink traditional approaches to plant selection, garden design and conservation.
- Traditional approaches emphasizing native species and historical continuity recreating historic gardens may be doomed to failure.
- When and how to intervene is a question of how humanity manages and restores ecosystems in a rapidly changing world. Gardeners have a small role in this regard and we do well to make considered decisions.