Flax Seeds 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
By Adda Bjarnadottir, MS
Flax seeds (Linum usitatissimum) — also known as common flax or linseeds — are small oil seeds that originated in the Middle East thousands of years ago.
Flax seeds have been linked to health benefits, such as improved digestion and a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
They're easily incorporated into your diet — grinding them is the best way to make the most of their health benefits.
Flax seeds are usually brown or yellow. They're sold whole, ground/milled or roasted — and are often processed into flaxseed oil.
This article tells you everything you need to know about flax seeds.
Flaxseeds have 534 calories per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) — corresponding to 55 calories for each tablespoon (10 grams) of whole seeds.
They consist of 42% fat, 29% carbs and 18% protein.
One tablespoon (10 grams) of whole flax seeds provides the following nutrients (4):
- Calories: 55
- Water: 7%
- Protein: 1.9 grams
- Carbs: 3 grams
- Sugar: 0.2 grams
- Fiber: 2.8 grams
- Fat: 4.3 grams
Carbs and Fiber
Flax seeds are made up of 29% carbs — a whopping 95% of which is fiber.
This means that they're low in net digestible carbs — the number of total carbs minus the amount of fiber — making them a low-carb food.
Two tablespoons (20 grams) of flax seeds provide about 6 grams of fiber. This is roughly 15–25% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for men and women, respectively (5).
- 20–40% soluble fiber (mucilage gums)
- 60–80% insoluble fiber (cellulose and lignin)
When mixed with water, the mucilage gums in flax seeds become very thick. Combined with the insoluble fiber content, this makes flax seeds a natural laxative.
Flax seeds are made up of 18% protein. Their amino acid profile is comparable to soybeans.
Despite containing essential amino acids, they're lacking in the amino acid lysine.
Therefore, they're considered an incomplete protein (11).
Flax seeds contain 42% fat, with 1 tablespoon (10 grams) providing 4.3 grams.
This fat content is composed of (14):
- 73% polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-6 fatty acids and the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- 27% monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids
ALA is an essential fatty acid, which means that your body cannot produce it. Thus, you need to obtain it from the food you eat.
Flaxseed oil contains the highest amount of ALA, followed by milled seeds. Eating the seeds whole provides the least amount of ALA, as the oil is locked up inside the fibrous structure of the seed (16).
Due to their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, flax seeds have a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 than many other oil seeds.
However, flax seeds don't contain as much omega-3 as fish oils.
One type of flax seeds — solin, the yellow variety — is not as nutritious as regular flax seed. It has a very different oil profile and is low in omega-3 fatty acids (22).
Flax seeds are very high in fiber and provide good amounts of protein. They're also rich in fat and one of the best plant-based sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Vitamins and Minerals
Flax seeds are a good source of several vitamins and minerals:
- Thiamine. This B vitamin is also known as vitamin B1. It's essential for normal metabolism and nerve function.
- Copper. An essential mineral, copper is important for growth, development and various bodily functions (23).
- Molybdenum. Flax seeds are rich in molybdenum. This essential trace mineral is abundant in seeds, grains and legumes (24).
- Magnesium. An important mineral that has many functions in your body, magnesium is occurs in high amounts in grains, seeds, nuts and green leafy vegetables (25).
- Phosphorus. This mineral is usually found in protein-rich foods and contributes to bone health and tissue maintenance (26).
Flax seeds are a good source of several vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health. These include thiamine (vitamin B1), copper, molybdenum, magnesium and phosphorus.
Other Plant Compounds
Flax seeds contain several beneficial plant compounds:
- p-Coumaric acid. This polyphenol is one of the main antioxidants in flax seeds.
- Ferulic acid. This antioxidant may help prevent several chronic diseases (27).
- Cyanogenic glycosides. These substances may form compounds called thiocyanates in your body, which can impair thyroid function in some people.
- Phytosterols. Related to cholesterol, phytosterols are found in the cell membranes of plants. They have been shown to have cholesterol-lowering effects (28).
- Lignans. Lignans are present in almost all plants, acting as both antioxidants and phytoestrogens. Flax seeds are exceptionally rich in lignans, containing up to 800 times more than other foods (29).
Brown flax seeds have slightly higher antioxidant activity than yellow varieties (15).
Flax seeds are one of the richest known dietary sources of lignans. These nutrients function as phytoestrogens (2).
Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that are similar to the female sex hormone estrogen. They have weak estrogenic and antioxidant properties (30).
They have been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome, as they reduce levels of fat and glucose in your blood.
Flax lignans also help reduce blood pressure, oxidative stress and inflammation in your arteries (31).
Flax seeds are high in several plant compounds, including p-Coumaric acid, ferulic acid, cyanogenic glycosides, phytosterols and lignans. In particular, the last two have been linked to various benefits.
Flax seeds may be useful as a part of a weight loss diet.
They contain soluble fiber, which becomes highly sticky when mixed with water.
A review of controlled studies concluded that flax seeds promote weight loss in overweight and obese people. Those who added the seeds to their diet lost an average of 2.2 pounds (1 kg), compared to the control group (35).
The analysis also showed that weight loss tended to be greater in studies lasting for more than 12 weeks and among those who consumed more than 30 grams of flax seeds per day (35).
Flax seeds contain soluble fiber, which may promote weight loss by reducing hunger and decreasing cravings.
Flax seeds have been associated with major benefits for heart health, mainly attributed to their content of omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and fiber.
High blood cholesterol is a well-known risk factor for heart disease. This is especially true for oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol (36).
Human studies note that daily consumption of flax seeds — or flaxseed oil — may lower cholesterol by 6–11%.
These seeds may be very useful when consumed along with cholesterol-lowering medication.
One 12-month study found that flax seeds caused an additional 8.5% reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol, compared to a control group (45).
This cholesterol-lowering effect is thought to be caused by the high fiber and lignan content in flax seeds.
These substances bind with cholesterol-rich bile acids and carry them down your digestive tract. This reduces cholesterol levels in your body (46).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential. They may have benefits for various aspects of heart health, including blood platelet function, inflammation, and blood pressure.
Flax seeds are very high in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
They have been shown to decrease heart disease risk in animal studies by reducing inflammation in the arteries (47).
Several studies link ALA with a lower risk of stroke, heart attacks, and chronic kidney disease. These studies observed a 73% lower risk of sudden death as well, compared to people with lower ALA intake (48, 49, 50, 51).
In one study, people with heart disease were given 2.9 grams of ALA per day for one year. Those receiving the supplement had significantly lower rates of death and heart attacks than people in the control group (52).
In a 6-month study in people with elevated blood pressure, those consuming 3 tablespoons (30 grams) of flax seeds daily experienced a 10 and 7 mm Hg reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respectively.
People with a systolic level — the top number in a blood pressure reading — greater than 140 mm Hg at the start of the study observed an even greater reduction of 15 mm Hg (56).
Flax seeds may help fight heart disease by lowering blood pressure, regulating blood cholesterol, and increasing your levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Other Health Benefits of Flax Seeds
Flax seeds have been shown to benefit many aspects of human health.
Diarrhea and constipation cause major distress and may even threaten your health.
About 2–7% of people in the United States experience chronic diarrhea, while recurring constipation affects 12–19% of the population. Constipation rate can be as high as 27% in Europe, with women at twice the risk of men (62, 63).
Soluble fiber is also thought to bind to water in your digestive tract. This causes it to swell and increase the bulk of your stool, preventing diarrhea (65).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 10 adults had diabetes in 2012 (68).
However, not all studies find flax seeds to be effective in regulating blood glucose and insulin levels (71).
Though the link between flax seeds and type 2 diabetes is still unclear, they may be considered a safe and healthy addition to your diet if you have type 2 diabetes (72).
Flax seeds may improve digestion by relieving diarrhea and constipation. They may also reduce fasting blood sugar in people with diabetes and lower your risk of several cancers.
Adverse Effects and Individual Concerns
Dry flax seeds are usually well tolerated, and allergy is rare (82).
Still, it's recommended to drink plenty of water when eating these seeds.
Flax seeds naturally contain plant compounds called cyanogenic glycosides. These substances can bind with sulfur compounds in your body to form thiocyanates.
Excessive amounts of thiocyanates may impair the function of your thyroid gland (83).
Moderate portions are highly unlikely to cause any adverse effects in healthy individuals. However, those with thyroid problems should consider avoiding high amounts of flax seeds (84).
Though the safe upper limit of flaxseed intake has not been determined, one study concluded that 5 tablespoons (50 grams) per day is safe and beneficial for most healthy people (14).
Similar to other seeds, flax seeds contain phytic acid.
Phytic acid is often referred to as an antinutrient, as it may reduce the absorption of minerals like iron and zinc (85).
Still, phytic acid doesn't cause any lasting reduction in mineral absorption and does not affect any subsequent meals.
Therefore, this should not be a major concern — except for people who are deficient in minerals like iron and/or follow an imbalanced diet.
For people who are not used to eating a lot of fiber, incorporating flax seeds too quickly can cause mild digestive problems. These include bloating, gas, abdominal pain and nausea.
It's best to start with small doses and work your way up to 1–2 tablespoons (10–20 grams) daily.
Adding flax seeds to your diet may also increase bowel movement frequency, as flax seeds are a natural laxative.
Risks During Pregnancy
Though human studies are limited, many health professionals fear that consuming flax seeds during pregnancy may have undesirable effects.
This is due to the phytoestrogens in the seeds, which may act similarly to the female sex hormone estrogen.
Animal studies show that flax seeds and flaxseed lignans may cause lower birth weight and affect the development of the offspring's reproductive system — especially if consumed during early pregnancy (86, 87).
It's unlikely that smaller doses of flax seeds will have an adverse effect.
However, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, it's recommended to limit your intake of flax seeds and other dietary sources of phytoestrogens. This also includes some soy products.
Large doses of omega-3 fatty acids may have blood-thinning effects (88).
Flax seeds may cause mild digestive issues. They contain plant compounds that may adversely affect some people and are not considered safe for high-dose consumption in early pregnancy.
The Bottom Line
Flax seeds have become popular due to their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and other plant compounds, which are responsible for many of the seeds' benefits.
They may aid weight loss and improve blood sugar control, as well as heart and digestive health.
If you want to boost your health with these tiny powerhouses, you can buy them locally or online.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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As Biden Embraces More Ambitious Climate Plan, Fossil Fuel Execs Donate to Trump 'With Greater Zeal' Than in 2016
By Jake Johnson
With presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's climate platform becoming increasingly ambitious thanks to nonstop grassroots pressure, fossil fuel executives and lobbyists are pouring money into the coffers of President Donald Trump's reelection campaign in the hopes of keeping an outspoken and dedicated ally of dirty energy in the White House.
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While the nation overall struggles with rising COVID cases, New York State is seeing the opposite. After peaking in March and April and implementing strict shutdowns of businesses, the state has seen its number of positive cases steadily decline as it slowly reopens. From coast-to-coast, Governor Andrew Cuomo's response to the crisis has been hailed as an exemplar of how to handle a public health crisis.
By Gavin Naylor
Sharks elicit outsized fear, even though the risk of a shark bite is infinitesimally small. As a marine biologist and director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, I oversee the International Shark Attack File – a global record of reported shark bites that has been maintained continuously since 1958.
A Big, Diverse Family<p>Not all sharks are the same. Only a dozen or so of the roughly 520 shark species pose any risk to people. Even the three species that account for almost all shark bite fatalities – the <a href="https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/carcharodon-carcharias/" target="_blank">white shark</a> (<em>Carcharodon carcharias</em>), <a href="https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/galeocerdo-cuvier/" target="_blank">tiger shark</a> (<em>Galeocerdo cuvier</em>) and <a href="https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/carcharhinus-leucas/" target="_blank">bull shark</a> (<em>Carcharhinus leucas</em>) – are behaviorally and evolutionarily very different from one another.</p><p>The tiger shark and bull shark are genetically as different from each other as a dog is from a rabbit. And both of these species are about as different from a white shark as a dog is from a kangaroo. The evolutionary lineages leading to the two groups split 170 million years ago, during the age of dinosaurs and before the origin of birds, and <a href="https://www.ck12.org/book/CK-12-Human-Biology/section/7.2/" target="_blank">110 million years before the origin of primates</a>.</p>
White, tiger and bull sharks are distinct species that diverged genetically tens of millions of years ago. Gavin Naylor / CC BY-ND<p>Yet many people assume all sharks are alike and equally likely to bite humans. Consider the term "shark attack," which is scientifically equivalent to "mammal attack." Nobody would equate dog bites with hamster bites, but this is exactly what we do when it comes to sharks.</p><p>So, when a reporter calls me about a fatality caused by a white shark off Cape Cod and asks my advice for beachgoers in North Carolina, it's essentially like asking, "A man was killed by a dog on Cape Cod. What precautions should people take when dealing with kangaroos in North Carolina?"</p>
Know Your Species<p>Understanding local species' behavior and life habits is one of the best ways to stay safe. For example, almost all shark bites that occur off Cape Cod are by white sharks, which are a large, primarily cold-water species that spend most of their time in isolation feeding on fishes. But they also aggregate near seal colonies that provide a reliable food source at certain times of the year.</p><p>Shark bites in the Carolinas are by warm-water species like bull sharks, tiger sharks and <a href="https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/carcharhinus-limbatus/" target="_blank">blacktips</a> (<em>Carcharhinus limbatus</em>). Each species is associated with particular habitats and dietary preferences.</p><p>Blacktips, which we suspect are responsible for most relatively minor bites on humans in the southeastern United States, feed on schooling bait fishes like menhaden. In contrast, bull sharks are equally at home in fresh water and salt water, and are often found near estuaries. Their bites are more severe than those of blacktips, as they are larger, more powerful, bolder and more tenacious. Several fatalities have been ascribed to bull sharks.</p><p>Tiger sharks are also large, and are responsible for a significant fraction of fatalities, particularly off the coast of volcanic islands like Hawaii and Reunion. They are tropical animals that often venture into shallow water frequented by swimmers and surfers.</p>
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Humans Are Not Targets<p>Sharks do not "hunt" humans. Data from the International Shark Attack File compiled over the past 60 years show a tight association between shark bites and the number of people in the water. In other words, shark bites are a simple function of the probability of encountering a shark.</p><p>This underscores the fact that shark bites are almost always cases of mistaken identity. If sharks actively hunted people, there would be many more bites, since humans make very easy targets when they swim in sharks' natural habitats.</p><p>Local conditions can also affect the risk of an attack. Encounters are more likely when sharks venture closer to shore, into areas where people are swimming. They may do this because they are following bait fishes or seals upon which they prey.</p><p>This means we can use environmental variables such as temperature, tide or weather conditions to better predict movement of bait fish toward the shoreline, which in turn will predict the presence of sharks. Over the next few years, the Florida Program for Shark Research will work with colleagues at other universities to monitor onshore and offshore movements of tagged sharks and their association with environmental variables so that we can improve our understanding of what conditions bring sharks close to shore.</p>
More to Know<p>There still is much to learn about sharks, especially the 500 or so species that have never been implicated in a bite on humans. One example is the tiny <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/one-worlds-rarest-sharks-also-one-most-adorable-325280" target="_blank">deep sea pocket shark</a>, which has a strange pouch behind its pectoral fins.</p><p>Only two specimens of this type of shark have ever been caught – one off the coast of Chile 30 years ago, and another more recently in the Gulf of Mexico. We're not sure about the function of the pouch, but suspect it stores luminous fluid that is released to distract would-be predators – much as its close relative, the <a href="https://sharkdevocean.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/second-ever-pocket-shark-discovered-in-gulf-of-mexico/" target="_blank">tail light shark</a>, releases luminous fluid from a gland on its underside near its vent.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5783b39d0838d6e410344a852ed0dcc3"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UTO5debfmsg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Sharks range in form from the bizarre <a href="https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/mitsukurina-owstoni/" target="_blank">goblin shark</a> (<em>Mitsukurina owstoni</em>), most commonly encountered in Japan, to the gentle filter-feeding <a href="https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/rhincodon-typus/" target="_blank">whale shark</a> (<em>Rhincodon typus</em>). Although whale sharks are the largest fishes in the world, we have yet to locate their nursery grounds, which are likely teeming with thousands of <a href="https://www.earthtouchnews.com/oceans/sharks/baby-whale-shark-rescued-from-gillnet-in-india-video/" target="_blank">foot-long pups</a>. Some deepwater sharks are primarily known from submersibles, such as the giant <a href="https://twitter.com/gavinnaylor/status/1146144452681113601" target="_blank">sixgill shark</a>, which feeds mainly on carrion but probably also preys on other animals in the deep sea.</p><p>Sharks seem familiar to almost all of us, but we know precious little about them. Our current understanding of their biology barely scratches the surface. The little we do know suggests they are profoundly different from other vertebrate animals. They've had 400 million years of independent evolution to adapt to their environments, and it's reasonable to expect they may be hiding more than a few tricks up their gills.</p>
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Current efforts to curb an infectious disease show the potential we have for collective action. That action and more will be needed if we want to stem the coming wave of heat-related deaths that will surpass the number of people who die from all infectious diseases, according to a new study, as The Guardian reported.
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By Jenny Morber
Caribbean corals sprout off Texas. Pacific salmon tour the Canadian Arctic. Peruvian lowland birds nest at higher elevations.
Known and anticipated changes in species distribution due to climate change around the world have implications for culture, society ecosystems, governance and climate change. Figure used with permission from Gretta T. Pecl, originally published on 31 Mar 2017 in Science 355(6332).<p>How we define species is critical, because these definitions influence perceptions, policy and management. The U.S. National Invasive Species Council (NISC) defines a biological invasion as "the process by which non-native species breach biogeographical barriers and extend their range" and states that "preventing the introduction of potentially harmful organisms is … the first line of defense." But some say excluding newcomers is myopic.</p><p>"If you were trying to maintain the status quo, so every time a new species comes in, you chuck it out," says Camille Parmesan, director of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, you could gradually "lose so many that that ecosystem will lose its coherence." If climate change is driving native species extinct, she says, "you need to allow new ones coming in to take over those same functions."</p><p>As University of Florida conservation ecologist Brett Scheffers and Pecl warned in a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0526-5" target="_blank">2019 paper in <em>Nature Climate Change</em></a>, "past management of redistributed species … has yielded mixed actions and results." They concluded that "we cannot leave the fate of biodiversity critical to human survival to be randomly persecuted, protected or ignored."</p>
Existing Tools<p>One approach to managing these climate-driven habitat shifts, suggested by University of California, Irvine marine ecologist Piper Wallingford and colleagues in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0768-2" target="_blank">a recent issue of Nature Climate Change</a>, is for scientists to adapt existing tools like the <a href="https://www.iucn.org/theme/species/our-work/invasive-species/eicat" target="_blank">Environmental Impact Classification of Alien Taxa (EICAT)</a> to assess potential risks associated with moving species. Because range-shifting species pose impacts to communities similar to those of species introduced by humans, the authors argue, new management strategies are unnecessary, and each new arrival can be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.</p><p>Karen Lips, a professor of biology at University of Maryland who was not associated with the study, echoes the idea that each case is so varied and nuanced that trying to fit climate shifting species into a single category with broad management goals may be impractical. "Things may be fine today, but add a new mosquito vector or add a new tick or a new disease, and all of a sudden things spiral out of control," she says. "The nuance means that the answer to any particular problem might be pretty different."</p>
In recent years, northern flying squirrels in Canada have found themselves in the company of new neighbors — southern flying squirrels expanding their range as the climate warms. Public Domain / USFW<p>Laura Meyerson, a professor in the Department of Natural Resources Science at the University of Rhode Island says scientists should use existing tools to identify and address invasive species to deal with climate-shifting species. "I would like to operate under the precautionary principle and then reevaluate as things shift. You're sort of shifting one piece in this machinery; as you insert a new species into a system, everything is going to respond," she says. "Will some of the species that are expanding their ranges because of climate change become problematic? Perhaps they might."</p><p>The reality is that some climate-shifting species may be harmful to some conservation or economic goals while being helpful to others. While sport fisherman are excited about red snapper moving down the East Coast of Australia, for example, if they eat juvenile lobsters in Tasmania they could harm this environmentally and economically important crustacean. "At the end of the day … you're going to have to look at whether that range expansion has some sort of impact and presumably be more concerned about the negative impacts," says NISC executive director Stas Burgiel. "Many of the [risk assessment] tools we have are set up to look at negative impact." As a result, positive effects may be deemphasized or overlooked. "So that notion of cost versus benefit … I don't think it has played out in this particular context."</p>
Location, Location, Location<p>In a <a href="https://www-nature-com.ezp3.lib.umn.edu/articles/s41558-020-0770-8" target="_blank">companion paper</a> to Wallingford's, University of Connecticut ecology and evolutionary biology associate professor Mark Urban stressed key differences between invasive species, which are both non-native and harmful, and what he calls "climate tracking species." Whereas invasive species originate from places very unlike the communities they overtake, he says, climate tracking species expand from largely similar environments, seeking to follow preferred conditions as these environments move. For example, an American pika may relocate to a higher mountain elevation, or a marbled salamander might expand its New England range northward to seek cooler temperatures, but these new locations are not drastically different than the places they had called home before.</p><p>Climate tracking species may move faster than their competitors at first, Urban says, but competing species will likely catch up. "Applying perspectives from invasion biology to climate-tracking species … arbitrarily chooses local winners over colonizing losers," he writes.</p>
The marbled salamander, a native of the eastern U.S., is among species whose range could expand northward to accommodate rising temperatures. Seánín Óg / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>Urban stresses that if people prevent range shifts, some climate-tracking species may have nowhere to go. He suggests that humans should even <a href="https://ensia.com/features/time-for-trees-to-pack-their-trunks/" target="_blank">facilitate movement</a> as the planet warms. "The goal in this crazy warming world is to keep everything alive. But it may not be in the same place," Urban says.</p><p>Parmesan echoes Urban, emphasizing it's the distance that makes the difference. "[Invasives] come from a different continent or a different ocean. You're having these enormous trans-global movements and that's what ends up causing the species that's exotic to be invasive," she says. "Things moving around with climate change is a few hundred miles. Invasive species are moving a few thousand miles."</p><p>In 2019 University of Vienna conservation biology associate professor Franz Essl published a similar argument for species classification beyond the native/non-native dichotomy. Essl uses "neonatives" to refer to species that have expanded outside their native areas and established populations because of climate change but not direct human agency. He argues that these species should be considered as native in their new range.</p>
They Never Come Alone<p>Meyerson calls for caution. "I don't think we should be introducing species" into ecosystems, she says. "I mean, they never come alone. They bring all their friends, their microflora, and maybe parasites and things clinging to their roots or their leaves. … It's like bringing some mattress off the street into your house."</p><p>Burgiel warns that labeling can have unintended consequences. We in the invasive species field … focus on non-native species that cause harm," he says. "Some people think that anything that's not native is invasive, which isn't necessarily the case." Because resources are limited and land management and conservation are publicly funded, Burgiel says, it is critical that the public understands how the decisions are being made.</p><p>Piero Genovesi, chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Invasive Species Specialist Group, sees the debate about classification — and therefore about management — as a potential distraction from more pressing conservation issues.</p><p>"The real bulk of conservation is that we want to focus on the narrow proportion of alien species that are really harmful," he says. In Hawaii "we don't discuss species that are there [but aren't] causing any problem because we don't even have the energy for dealing with them all. And I can tell you, no one wants to remove [non-native] cypresses from Tuscany. So, I think that some of the discussions are probably not so real in the work that we do in conservation."</p><p>Indigenous frameworks offer another way to look at species searching for a new home in the face of climate change. According to <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11625-018-0571-4" target="_blank">a study</a> published in Sustainability Science in 2018 by Dartmouth Native American studies and environmental studies associate professor Nicholas Reo, a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and Dartmouth anthropology associate professor Laura Ogden, some Anishnaabe people view plants as persons and the arrival of new plants as a natural form of migration, which is not inherently good or bad. They may seek to discover the purpose of new species, at times with animals as their teachers. In their paper Reo and Ogden quote Anishnaabe tribal chairman Aaron Payment as saying, "We are an extension of our natural environment; we're not separate from it."</p>
The Need for Collaboration<p>The successful conservation of Earth's species in a way that keeps biodiversity functional and healthy will likely depend on collaboration. Without global agreements, one can envision scenarios in which countries try to impede high-value species from moving beyond their borders, or newly arriving species are quickly overharvested.</p><p>In Nature Climate Change, Sheffers and Pecl call for a Climate Change Redistribution Treaty that would recognize species redistribution beyond political boundaries and establish governance to deal with it. Treaties already in place, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which regulates trade in wild plants and animals; the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; and the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora, can help guide these new agreements.</p><p>"We are living through the greatest redistribution of life on Earth for … potentially hundreds of thousands of years, so we definitely need to think about how we want to manage that," Pecl says.</p><p>Genovesi agrees that conservationists need a vision for the future. "What we do is more to be reactive [to known threats]. … It's so simple to say that destroying the Amazon is probably not a good idea that you don't need to think of a step ahead of that." But, he adds, "I don't think we have a real answer in terms of okay, this is a threshold of species, or this is the temporal line where we should aim to." Defining a vision for what success would look like, Genovesi says, "is a question that hasn't been addressed enough by science and by decision makers."</p><p>At the heart of these questions are values. "All of these perceptions around what's good and what's bad, all [are based on] some kind of value system," Pecl says. "As a whole society, we haven't talked about what we value and who gets to say what's of value and what isn't."</p><p>This is especially important when it comes to marginalized voices, and Pecl says she is concerned because she doesn't "think we have enough consideration or representation of Indigenous worldviews." Reo and colleagues <a href="https://cpb-us-e1.wpmucdn.com/sites.dartmouth.edu/dist/9/52/files/2012/10/Reo_etal_AIQ_invasive_species_2017.pdf" target="_blank">wrote in American Indian Quarterly in 2017</a> that climate change literature and media coverage tend to portray native people as vulnerable and without agency. Yet, says Pecl, "The regions of the world where [biodiversity and ecosystems] are either not declining or are declining at a much slower rate are Indigenous controlled" — suggesting that Indigenous people have potentially managed species more effectively in the past, and may be able to manage changing species distributions in a way that could be informative to others working on these issues.</p><p>Meanwhile, researchers such as Lips see species classification as native or other as stemming from a perspective that there is a better environmental time and place to return to. "There is no pristine, there's no way to go back," says Lips. "The entire world is always very dynamic and changing. And I think it's a better idea to consider just simply what is it that we do want, and let's work on that."</p>
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