SPECIES INVASIVENESS-An Ecological Cancer
Comparing ecological invasion with cancer, where many parallels could be made in terms of absolute analogy in many features, like organ system comparable to multiple interacting species in an ecosystem. Similarly, cellular metabolism and cell signalling can be compared to resource cycling in ecosystems and ‘tumor to invasion spread, epithelial to mesenchymal transition analogous to invasion meltdown etc. The process of suppression of tumor suppressor genes and over expression of onco-genes in human system stand analogous to better resource utilization and increased resistance of Invasive species. Escape from immune-surveillance by tumor can be compared to Enemy release approach by invasives. As human body is unable to recover from cancer due to reoccurrence, similarly an ecosystem is unable to recover due to chronic acyclic nutrient cycling. And at last organ failure or death can be compared to ecosystem collapse. Similarly many other analogies can be made to superimpose both the biological processes of invasion and cancer.
As such this analogy can be taken further and some basic clues from the cancer can be made applicable and as such invasion can be somehow combated. This analogy can also work other way round wherein applying various ecological and invasional principles can be used to propose a potential path in the way leading to the treatment of cancer. As we know that one of the basic properties of cancer cells is that they can modify their microenvironment and this modification paves way for cancer cells to establish themselves. Similarly invasive species potentially act in that way and modify their environment by so called process of niche construction. We as humans have our own limitations in controlling cancer in acting that way because of the huge complexity of human body. However we can effectively work towards the way of hampering the invasive species from making that kind of modification and as such to some extent manage invasion. One potential way for this is by limiting the nutrients in ecosystem and providing some kind of stress which is invader specific and as such hindering the invasives from niche construction. Applying Suckers Gambit theory, we could change the selection pressure in an evolving tumor, such that the easier to treat phenotypes would be selected for. With this gambit in ecology we can infer that the species whose numbers need to be controlled, must be predated by atleast two different types of predators.
By using the approach of cellular automata, of cancer in ecology one can investigate population dynamics and role of space in interaction between individuals and can target invasive species, one of the cancer research shows that harsher microenvironments will select for more aggressive tumor phenotypes, applying this thought on invasion, harsher ecosystem conditions can lead to invasional collapse and as such ecosystems can be custom manipulated to control invasion. As we are aware that cancer cells exhibit Warburg effect and as such decreased oxygen leads to decrease in ph of tumor microenvironment which in turn increases metastatic potential in vivo. Similarly the pH change could be providing invasive species an edge. We can target this ph change in ecosystem which can prove effective in combating invasion. Like the dormancy of tumor before metastasis, invasive species also show some kind of lag period from invasion till spread and this phase can provide a window for controlling invasion from further spread. As in cancer the boosting of fitness of healthy cells the malignancy can be made less worse, similarly in ecology by boosting the fitness of native species by one way or other, the invasive spread can be controlled.
These are the few points that can be considered and as such the precious flora of the valley and in general other forms of biodiversity can be protected from the invasion, which indeed is a cancer for ecosystem as such.