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Pervasive Pine Trees

Pine trees are a common fixture in the natural landscape, thriving in countries as varied as Australia, South Africa, Madagascar, Bermuda, and Argentina.

Pines are actually native to the northern hemisphere, specifically in North America and Eurasia, but due to the intentional planting of pines in foreign regions for industrial and commercial purposes, they can now be found in a majority of the southern hemisphere.

They adapt quite well, even in tropical climates and soils of poor quality.  The problem with this is pines are quick to colonize in these foreign lands, and are prohibiting the growth of native plants that can’t compete with their pace.

Along with high rates of pines being planted by humans, natural occurrences such as strong winds during pine coning contributes to the widespread distribution of pines in various regions. Even if pine trees are confined to plantation, their seeds can travel outsides these confines and further distribute the population.

Their presence also causes harm to the natural regime and stunts the biodiversity of its alien hosts. Animals endemic to the regions lose their food sources or habitat. In many countries there has been a decrease in native birds due to this loss. To humans and aquatic life, pine invasions pose a threat by disrupting the water flow, after which there is no longer a reliable water source for humans and animals.

Obviously, pines are not weeds and hold great value both culturally and ecologically. However, their invasive nature in foreign lands is another example of why plant distribution should not be based on economic value alone, and rather we should strive to preserve a land’s native environment instead.

Currently, there at least 19 known species of pine that are considered invasive, with problem areas in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, and South Africa. Management of pine invasions include removing pines completely from the problem areas and sowing native seeds with hopes that native flora and fauna can be successfully re-introduced. Another method for pine management involves integrating endemic species into the pine forests first, removing the pines after the native plants are well established.

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