California’s leadership in promoting diversity extends well beyond society and also to the biodiversity of the state’s environment. The Golden State is home to more species of plants and animals than any other state in the nation. Our unique climate and thoughtful farming practices have created a rich and diverse ecosystem.
And yet, we should never take this for granted. We also should appreciate the critical role pesticides play in protecting that biodiversity – especially from the wide range of invasive species of non-native plants, insects, aquatic life and animals. All of these have the capacity to wipe-out our unique and cherished habitat.
This is not a theory, but a reality we have witnessed throughout recent history. In many of these cases, pesticides have been considered the best or only way to protect plant or animal habitats.
- The Varroa “destructor” Mite, introduced from Asia. Is considered the primary threat to bees and other pollinators.
- In the realm of insects, we have seen the Mediterranean Fruit Fly and Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter introduced into the state from elsewhere only to destroy crops and residential fruit trees.
- Dutch Elm disease has killed several thousand elms in California, and millions nationwide due to an invasive bark beetle.
- The same is true for the American Chestnut tree, which is nearly extinct due to an invasive pest known as the chestnut blight.
- Most recently, as reported in the Sacramento Bee, an invasive weed in Lake Tahoe is “degrading water quality and clarity, disrupting the natural ecosystem, impeding boating and recreation, and releasing nutrients that can contribute to harmful algal blooms. Despite considerable investment by property owners, the weeds continue to spread and officials and the scientific community are urging immediate action.” That action includes herbicides to kill off the weed.
All of these are prime examples of the danger invasive species pose to California’s biodiversity and represent the potential to destroy our unique environment. Often times the most effective action will involve the judicious use of pesticides.
This is especially true with regard to responsible pest control undertaken by California farmers, the original environmentalists, who for decades have led the way in preserving the state’s delicate ecosystem. As stewards of the land, farmers continue to adopt many practices. For pollinators this has included creating pollinator-friendly habitat, as well as planting cover crops that attract pollinators, and applying modern pesticides that target only the intended pest.
We’re an advanced society because of our ability to control these types of pests. Pesticides are often the best, safest and most effective way to control invasive pests in order to serve the higher goal of protecting California’s unique biodiversity.
By Renee Pinel