Ecological Change With the Arrival of Europeans in the New World

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Ecological Change With the Arrival of Europeans in the New World

Imagine yourself coming from an overpopulated, intensely manicured development (typical of many Americans) to an Island of immense vegetation and overgrowth. Your job is to develop a productive colony using these unknown plants. Your only guides are the natives of the land - if they are gentle and willing to help. Now forget all you know about ecology and the importance of cultures and think about what you would probably do. What if you had one more chance to go to your native land and bring back with you a few simple things to make your life easier? What would you bring? Most would probably react the same way the Europeans did, bringing seeds and machinery for cultivation with them.

The Europeans may have even gone further than needed in their search for a productive product. Europeans were fearful and distrustful of the wild, natural areas. For example, many Europeans considered mountains to be hideous. This was said of the Alps, and many mountainous areas of Europe (Sale 77). They had this agenda to control whatever they could. If the land looked wild it needed tamed to their ideas, even if this made the ecosystem unstable or less productive.

The results of their need for control and their lack of knowledge on ecosystems resulted in a reflux of new plants being imported. The most influential plants were the forage or grazing crops. These were brought because the Europeans wanted their own familiar crops to be in the grazing yards. These plants included white clover and "Kentucky" bluegrass. Ironically the Kentucky bluegrass was named so because it preceded west at a faster rate than the colonists, so when they arrived in Kentucky they found it in abundance and named it so. These plants were introduced at least as early as 1685, when William Penn was noted for trying some in his courtyard (2 Crosby 157). These plants spread with the equivalences of weeds. Imported, overgrazing European animals helped in the quick dispersal of these plants.

The effect of these new grasses is hard to determine. Many of the indigenous grasses all but disappeared, except for small-untouched areas. The introduced animals helped to pave the way for many of these new plants (2 Crosby, 157). The animals first overgrazed the native plants, which were not adapted for heavy grazing, and then continued overgrazing created a new niche or specialization.
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