Planet's Wildlife Growing More Alike, Experts Warn

November 11, 2005

Big Macs in Bejing, Wal-Mart stores across Brazil, The Simpsons in Arabic on Egyptian TV: Such is the homogenized nature of modern culture.

But it isn't only human society that's becoming increasingly globalized. Biologists say wildlife, too, is growing more alike everywhere you go.

Researchers warn that human impacts on the environment are fuelling the global spread of animals and plants, which are replacing regionally distinct species.

Known as "biotic homogenization," it's a phenomenon that "elicits serious concern among conservationists as a major threat to regional individuality," according to University of Wisconsin biologist Julian Olden.

Olden is among a small but growing number of scientists investigating a process he likens to the "rapid spread of big-box retailers" at the expense of local "mom-and-pop businesses."

"We are just starting to understand the subtle aspects and implications of biotic homogenization," he added.

Natural history writer David Quammen says we're entering an age where "virtually everything will live virtually everywhere, though the list of species that constitute 'everything' will be small."

The list includes rampant weeds, cultivated fish, street-wise rodents, brainy birds, and invasive mollusks.

As a result, scientists say, life on Earth is becoming increasingly impoverished, and we have only ourselves to blame.

Dangerous Waters

Perhaps the most obvious threat to nature's regional variety comes from invasive, nonnative species, which have capitalized on the growth in global transport and trade.

The zebra mussel, for instance, has spread via ships and boats across Western Europe and North America.

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