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Genomics Forum · Events

Managing Biological Invasions:
How to deal with environmental, sanitary and scientific uncertainty?

Seminar   03.03.2011






Cécilia ClaeysUniversité d’Aix-MarseilleEmail: Cecilia.claeys@nivmed.fr

Organised by

ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum


ESRC Genomics Policy and Research ForumThe University of EdinburghCollege of Humanities and Social ScienceSt John's LandHolyrood RoadEdinburgh EH8 8AQ

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Event details

Join us for a discussion on the issues surrounding biological invasions. Mainly based on French case studies, this presentation proposes a sociological analysis of controversies about invasive species (plants and animals) taking place in a context of environmental, sanitary and scientific uncertainty.

This seminar will be presented by Cécilia Claeys, Lecturer in Sociology at the Université d’Aix-Marseille. Please find the abstract below. This event is free and open to all—no need to book.


Biological invasions are defined as the problematic spread of exotic species (plants or animals). Exotic species, also called alien or allochthonous species, are in turn defined as species which have spread out of their native distributional range, as opposed to indigenous species which stick to their native distributional range. Apparently clear and precise, these definitions actually raise several empirical, theoretical and epistemological questions, leading to different kinds of scientific and socio-technical controversies.

First are taxonomic debates which problematise the distinction between exotic and indigenous species. The lack of a real “zero point” for species distribution, and as a consequence the multiple temporal and spatial scales which can be used to measure changes in distribution, means that the distinction between exotic and indigenous species is permeable and negotiable.

Second is the paradoxical relationship between biocentrism and anthropocentrism. Do biological invasions represent a threat to humankind – either to public health (from simple allergies caused by pollen to deadly epidemics carried by mosquitoes, for instance), or to economic interests (agriculture, tourism)? Or are they a threat to Nature (biodiversity, endemic species lost, landscape)? Biocentric and anthropocentric accounts of biological invasions sometimes complement and sometimes stand in opposition to one another, leading to shifting alignments and oppositions between different stakeholders.

Third is the mythological background of to debates over biological invasions. Invoking both fear of nature and fear for nature, stakeholders including scientists commonly invoke a range of Judeo-Christian references including ideas about the garden of Eden and of divine retribution.

Further details