Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Shuffle Off The Buffelgrass
There's an interesting chain of articles over at the Arizona Daily Star's website...follow me as we first stop at this article about the problems being caused in Arizona by buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare), specifically its potential to act as fuel for wildfires, and its role in the transition of Arizona from desert into a lush grassland.
From there, head over to this opinion piece criticizing the original article, noting that buffelgrass is good forage for grazing animals, is not actually fueling wildfires(?) and is the only thing that will help rebuild Arizona's topsoil and "the native invisible ecosystem" of soil microbes, leading to the reestablishment of native grasses. As to whether the soil ecosystem in buffelgrass-invaded sites is native, I cannot say. I also cannot find any information about the buffelgrass site invaded by native grasses that was referred to here, but I would definitely be interested in learning more.
Our last stop on the buffelgrass tour is this second opinion piece supporting Arizona's decision to control buffelgrass, noting the various negative effects that this species has been found to exhibit on the environment, and claiming that Arizona's grazing animals don't need additional forage. Again, my knowledge on the sbject is quite limited.
So who is right and who is wrong? It's not an easy answer, especially since the newspaper, as is to be expected, is utterly free of scientific references supporting either opinion. It would have been nice to at least see the credentials of the two people offering such polarized views. From the comments left under both pieces, it sounds like the Arizona Star's readers have their feet firmly planted on the anti-buffelgrass side of the fence.
The second opinion piece seems in line with a brief scan of peer-reviewed literature. Do note, though, that she works at the organisation that produced the buffelgrass bio you linked to above - the Desert Museum.
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