Nature Out of Balance
How Invasive Species are Changing the Planet
by Merrie-Ellen Wilcox
Orca Book Publishers, 2021
ISBN 978-1-4598-2395-2 (hc)
$19.95, 48 pp, ages 9 – 12
Victoria, BC author Merrie-Ellen Wilcox has written a fascinating account of the complicated world of invasive species. Mostly we tend to think of non-native examples (trillions of zebra mussels in the Great Lakes or millions of cane toads in Australia) that become established in a new region and then adversely affect the local ecosystem. But Wilcox shows that many invasive species actually fail to gain a foothold, and others might fill a niche that previous extinctions have created. For example, Tamarisk shrubs now provide habitat for the southwestern willow flycatchers in the continental US, and African tulip trees are helping rejuvenate the soil of Puerto Rico that had been severely eroded by sugar cane monoculture. The ability to create novel ecosystems where the worst impacts of invasive species are managed by culls, biological controls, or restoration may be our best path forward. Aimed at junior/intermediate-aged readers, Wilcox’s book offers common-sense ideas for students to follow (be careful of what you plant in your own garden, ensure your cat is kept indoors, take precautions to prevent accidental spread when moving firewood or minnow buckets) and some unexpected paths as well (learning about new smartphone apps that
are being used to identify emerald ash borers, for example).
Classroom Connections: Nature out of Balance is part of Orca’s “Footprint” series and, like previous works, it boasts fine writing, more than forty beauti- ful, colour photographs and maps, and dozens of short “eco-facts” sprinkled throughout. In addition, the resources listed at the end include print and online sites, and there is a short glossary and index. The Orca website has a teacher guide available for the “Footprint” series to assist with building inquiry-based unit plans.
Review by George Sheppard.
This review is featured in Canadian Teacher Magazine’s 2021 issue.