Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

ECOVIEWS: Environmental Choices Are Not Always Easy

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

ECOVIEWS: Environmental Choices Are Not Always Easy

Article excerpt

Where might you look for triclopyr, sethoxydim and imazapyr? Should you be concerned about the fate of the addax, dama, and scimitar-horned oryx? And what do these odd words have to do with ecology?

The answer to the last question is that all were mentioned in recent news updates from the Wildlife Society, whose mission is "to represent and serve the professional community of [those] who work actively to study, manage, and conserve wildlife and its habitats worldwide."

As for triclopyr, sethoxydim and imazapyr, they are neither former states of the Soviet Union nor invasive insects from North Korea. They are compounds found in herbicides that you might find in your garden shed or garage. You are not apt, however, to find an addax, dama or scimitar-horned oryx in your yard, as they are endangered African antelopes. Both the herbicides and the antelopes present the kind of environmental dilemmas that are likely to become more common in the future.

Some herbicides do not mix well with insects. An article in the international journal Environmental Pollution reported on the negative effects of herbicides on a butterfly known as Behr's metalmark. The relatively common butterfly was chosen for the study because Lange's metalmark butterfly, a close relative, is endangered and near extinction. One reason Lange's metalmark is on the last of its six legs is that it occurs in a small habitat in California where its primary food source, naked stem buckwheat, is being overcome by invasive exotic plants. The invasive plants are controlled with various herbicides.

Research on the response of Behr's metalmark to the three herbicides revealed that toxic effects reduced the number of pupa that emerged as adults. These results are presumably indicative of how the herbicides affect Lange's. The reasons for the effects vary among the herbicides, but the conclusion is the same -- herbicides can have potentially serious detrimental effects on butterflies. What irony. Herbicides that reduce the viability of the metalmark are necessary to keep invasive plants from eliminating the buckwheat that is essential for the butterfly. A true California conservation conundrum that might best be addressed by letting nature decide the outcome without any more human input. …

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