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In an era when the decline in biodiversity is widely presented as an extinction crisis, there exists the converse problem of overabundance both of native species and alien invading species. Exotic pest species are one of the main threats to the conservation of Australia's biodiversity. Some arrived as welcome guests, such as cane toads or deer, when the ecology of invasions had been little studied. The 2005 forum of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales was entitled: "Pest or Guest: The Zoology of Overabundance". It has remained as the title of this book.
With cane toads there is now no ambiguity. They are a pest, they are reviled and they are conspicuously non-Australian, yet in 1935 they entered as a guest species in became a failed attempt at the control of a beetle in the sugar cane crops. By contrast, many native species have been regarded as a pest in some locations at some periods, but here the definition of pest is more problematic, at the very least it generates a robust discussion. At the outer extreme is the concept of too many people. It is one of the world's most pressing ecological problems, yet one where there is the least satisfactory resolution. The ecological reasoning is the same for cane toads, native species or people. The issue is the concept of overabundance.