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Where Do Camels Belong?: The story and science of invasive species [Paperback]

Dr Ken Thompson
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Mar 2014

Where do camels belong? In the Arab world may seem the obvious answer, but they are relative newcomers there. They evolved in North America, retain their greatest diversity in South America, and the only remaining wild dromedaries are in Australia.

This is a classic example of the contradictions of 'native' and 'invasive' species, a hot issue right now, as the flip-side of biodiversity. We have all heard the horror stories of invasives, from Japanese knotweed that puts fear into the heart of gardeners to brown tree snakes that have taken over the island of Guam.

But do we need to fear invaders? And indeed, can we control them, and do we choose the right targets?

Ken Thompson puts forward a fascinating array of narratives to explore what he sees as the crucial question - why only a minority of introduced species succeed, and why so few of them go on to cause trouble. He discusses, too, whether our fears could be getting in the way of conserving biodiversity, and responding to the threat of climate change.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (20 Mar 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1781251746
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781251744
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 53,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Thompson makes his case in a lively, readable style, spiced with a healthy dose of sarcasm towards "aliens = bad" fundamentalists. Better yet, he bolsters his argument with plenty of citations from the scientific literature, which adds welcome heft. (Bob Holmes New Scientist)

Lively and punchy...You walk away from this book feeling flushed and a bit bruised. (James McConnachie Sunday Times)

Ken Thompson...challenges us to look at the issue dispassionately and logically...a well put together book about the science and the philosophy surrounding invasive species. (Simon Barnes Times)

An important and thought provoking book that deserves widespread exposure. At risk of hyperbole, I'd say it is to ecology what Darwin's Origin of Species was to evolution. (Brian Clegg popularscience.co.uk)

Book Description

A timely, instructive and controversial book, which delivers unexpected answers.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Harlequin Ladybird and Other Animals 20 Mar 2014
By R. Newbold TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
During the winter of 2013, I noticed that the upper walls in the bedrooms of my house had acquired strange "cornices" - like large red-black buttons - further investigation revealed these to be clusters of hibernating ladybirds - and their slightly unladybird-like spot patterns and colours led me to identify them as Harlequins, one of the alien species reported to be larger and more aggressive than our shyer, more gentle native species, and a typical subject of this fascinating book by Dr Ken Thompson, a research ecologist who has brought his expert eye to the history, development, sociology and culture of this fascinating topic. The book is highly readable and informative (though I could do with not knowing so much about pubic lice, I'd have welcomed some discussion of grey squirrels, which don't get a mention!), and the author weaves the themes of politics, human behaviour and changing attitudes to biodiversity and conservation which helps explain the often contradictory attitudes we adopt to the invaders (often depending on the cuteness and furriness of the interloper). Thompson himself wades into the debate, coming down on the side of some unlikely species (pipe-clogging zebra mussels in power stations are efficient water purifiers for instance). I'm all for his suggestion of introducing yet another alien, the endangered Iberian lynx to sort out those pesky Spanish (or are they?) rabbits, but it may have consequences!

By the end of the book I was applauding Dr Thompsons lambasting of our irrationality, whilst at the same time realising that as a keen gardener, I'm definitely in the dock (as are we all) in the way our modern life multiplies and accelerates these conflicts.

... and the Ladybirds (or evil cold-blooded killers as Rentokil somewhat hyperbolically calls them)?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why do naturalists hate foreigners so much? 14 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Columbian Exchange, which brought potatoes, tomatoes and maize to Europe and peppers, wheat and sugar to America, was a great boon to mankind. It was also a boon for nature, which has never been more fecund and various as now.

Most introductions are neutral or positive. Sometimes the new species escapes its natural predator or parasite, only to succumb because it has no resistance to the new bugs it finds in its new habitat. As the author points out, only about 10% of introductions survive without help from gardeners, farmers or game keepers, and only about 10% of those flourish in the wild so well as to be considered a pest. US agriculture is worth about 800 billion dollars a year, feeds large parts of the non-US world as well, and depends 95% on introduced species. So putting up with Japanese knotweed or harlequin ladybirds seems a small price to pay.

However, we seem to be prepared to pay millions in our (usually failed) attempts at eradication. Thompson suggests that this is just a socially acceptable xenophobia. We're not allowed to be racist about humans, so we take it out on plants. In fact, invasive species seem to go through a life cycle of invasiveness. Wait long enough and the invader declines to an acceptable level without any human intervention whatsoever.

Thompson writes well and amusingly. This is an eye-opening book which should be of interest to anyone who loves nature, has a garden or wonders where their taxes go. Heartily recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
So easy and interesting to read I got through it in a working week of bed-time reading. I have always wondered why natives in the garden were supposedly better than non-natives. Seems that we just might be being a wee bit hoodwinked by scientific orthodoxy. Thought provoking, relevant and interesting. I liked it so much I bought another one for a friend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look into alien species 3 Sep 2014
It's fascinating how he puts such a spin of conventional views on alien species, he takes five well known ones and through explains shows how the media puts them in a bad light.
This book really makes you think, I've always had an interest in biodiversity and the environment while doing my degree in Zoology we covered alien species and biodiversity.
It's also written in a manner if you are new to this area you'll understand it
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5.0 out of 5 stars a must read book on invasive species 18 Oct 2014
By John
After studying environmental biology at university I thought I knew all there was to ecology and invasive species. In fact I knew very little but know i feel much better informed. I'm starting to read Ken Thompsons other books which I'm sure will be just as eye opening.
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