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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 29, Issue 1, 2001

Claus Emmeche
Pages 237-261

Bioinvasion, globalization, and the contingency of cultural and biological diversity
Some ecosemiotic observations

The increasing problem of bioinvasion (the mixing up of natural species characterising the planet's local ecosystems due to globalisation) is investigated as an example of an ecosemiotic problematic. One concern is the scarcity of scientific knowledge about long term ecological and evolutionary consequences of invading species. It is argued that a natural science conception of the ecology of bioinvasion should be supplemented with an ecosemiotic understanding of the significance of these problems in relation to human culture, the question of cultural diversity, and what it means to be indigenous or foreign. Bioinvasion, extinction of native species, and overall decrease in biodiversity, may go along with decreased cultural diversity; as when the loss of local agricultural traditions lead to genetic erosion. There are possible ecosemiotic parallels between language extinction and species extinction, both being related to globalisation. It is argued that the case of bioinvasion reveals the existence of two kinds of ecosemiotic contingency, (1) evolutionary openended and partly random generation of new species and extinction of old ones; (2) the historicity of culture in general and "culture's nature" specifically in the demarcation of a set of landscapes characteristic to a particular nation and piece of human history.

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