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Keywords:

  • Canada;
  • invasive species;
  • public spaces;
  • Toronto

ABSTRACT. Environmentalists and ecologists typically regard invasive species as ecologically detrimental and undesirable. Although the ecological impacts of invasive species are well documented, less attention has been devoted to the sociocultural contexts guiding responses to species invasion. In this study the roles of invasive species are reconsidered through three prominent green spaces in Toronto, Canada: the Don Valley Brick Works, High Park, and the Leslie Street Spit. The case studies challenge popular negative assumptions about invasive species and suggest that they can serve important functions both for local ecosystems and for human communities. The case studies also provide lessons on the tension between and within different environmental imaginaries informing invasive species management. Invasives are often compatible with recreational interests, whereas naturalization efforts are ecologically sensitive and costly. Invasives can help restore human-made wastelands, and naturalization efforts often benefit wealthy rather than poor neighborhoods.