Humans changing ttrajectory of evolution in the Galapagos Islands
The outstanding biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands, a remote oceanic archipelago, is the result of gradual colonization and adaptive radiation taking place on timescales of hundreds of thousands of years. As humans alter the frequency and pathways of species introductions through accelerating global trade and travel though, these processes can no longer be understood as exclusively a response to “natural” events. The late onset of human settlement (1830’s) and its designation as both a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can explain the comparatively lower number of introduced species in Galapagos among oceanic islands; many are low-threat plants with limited dispersal capacity and agricultural benefit. However, a smaller number of introduced species have become invasive, such as the rapidly spreading blackberry (Rubus niveus) and a deadly parasitic nest fly, Philornis downsi.
The trajectory of Galapagos ecosystems is being shaped not only by the resulting changes to community structure, but also changes to underlying evolutionary processes of speciation. An increase in annual visitation to 280,000 tourists/year has altered the pathways of alien species to and within Galapagos, threatening to eliminate geographic isolation between species. Here is the tale of Jekyll and Hyde: just as human activity is the source of the problem, it is also the solution. Since the 1970s, efforts have been underway to mitigate the impacts of the most invasive species (goats, rats, plants and scale insects) and restore native assemblages, and in 1999 a biosecurity system was established to prevent new introductions. Conserving the unique biota of Galapagos requires not only an active role in ecosystem management, but also a greater understanding and preservation of the underlying processes which generate diversity in the first place.
Bethany A. Bradley
Translating Science into Practice and Practice into Science – Northeast RISCC Management Network
Since the advent of invasion science, we have made great strides in understanding the patterns, processes, and impacts of plant invasions. Invasion science has also identified policy and management solutions to reduce current and future risk. Nonetheless, invasive species managers report that they are losing ground to invasive species and a wide disconnect between science and practice continues to persist. Translational invasion ecology is a new term for an old idea that managers and scientists need to solve invasive species problems together. Based on manager requests to understand how climate change will impact invasive species management, we created the Northeast Regional Invasive Species & Climate Change (RISCC) Management Network. The RISCC Network aims to reduce the compounding effects of invasive species and climate change by synthesizing relevant science, communicating the needs of managers to researchers, building stronger scientist-manager communities, and conducting priority research. To identify stakeholder needs, we surveyed 200 invasive species managers across the east coast of the U.S. to assess barriers to management in the context of climate change. We gathered additional feedback and ideas through directed workshops. Based on manager needs, we started new applied science projects, including identifying invasive plants likely to shift into each state with climate change and prioritizing range-shifting species based on potential impacts. We have also synthesized existing information through biweekly summaries of targeted recent scientific literature and by crafting two-page ‘management challenge’ documents that translate the state of the science for a manager audience. Over time, RISCC has also assumed the role of a boundary spanning organization, facilitating the interactions of relevant stakeholders and building dialogue between scientists and managers through webinars, symposia, and workshops. Translational invasion ecology is an intentional approach of connecting scientists and managers to address priority needs and build broader networks. Scientists have the tools to be a larger part of the solution.
Jonathan M. Jeschke
Towards an open and interactive atlas of invasion biology
Invasion biology is a thriving discipline. Many research groups worldwide are investigating biological invasions, achieve important insights and publish their findings in increasing numbers of papers. Similarly, key concepts have been postulated that allow for a better understanding of the success and impacts of invasive species.
The flipside of this success story is that it has become increasingly hard to get and keep an overview of the field. Common literature search tools are good for finding publications on narrow topics that can be well specified with keywords. They do not provide a big picture, though, nor do they allow to easily connect topics with each other. On the other hand, textbooks give a good introduction to and overview of the field, but they tend to be already outdated on the day they are published, especially in thriving research fields. We thus need new complementary tools for synthesis and navigation in invasion biology – tools that provide an overview of the field, “connect the dots” and remain up-to-date.
To achieve these goals, we are envisioning an open and interactive atlas of invasion biology. It consists of maps providing an overview of the field, for example in the form of a network connecting the discipline’s major hypotheses or research questions. Importantly, these maps are interactive and zoomable, so that users can quickly find specific hypotheses related to a major, overarching hypothesis or research question, and studies and datasets addressing them. This is possible due to the hierarchy-of-hypotheses (HoH) approach. Finally, information is kept up-to-date thanks to a machine-learning algorithm combined with a community-driven wiki approach. If such an atlas can be realized and proves useful for invasion biology, it may grow and cover other disciplines as well, so that it eventually becomes an open and interactive atlas of knowledge.
The massive economic costs of biological invasions worldwide
In addition to biodiversity loss, biological invasions are responsible for substantial losses of goods, services and production capacity as well as monetary expenditures for their management. Until now, a reliable global synthesis of the economic costs of invasive alien species has been lacking, despite being required for research and management. We have now addressed this problem by producing the first analysis of the new InvaCost database — a global, comprehensive, and easily updatable compilation of the recorded monetary impacts of invasions worldwide to human society. We found that biological invasions costs since 1970 are shockingly high, with an annual average cost of several dozen billion of US$. In addition, these staggering economic costs have shown a regular increase estimated as 10-fold per decade, with no sign of slowing down. Yet, these costs are still massively underestimated and underreported. This financial burden of invasions is widely, but unevenly, distributed at regional and taxonomic scales. Our pioneering study is a compelling call for international policy agreements for the coming decades and the necessity of improving research on the consequences of biological invasions.
The role of citizen science as a tool for early detection, monitoring, and managing impacts of invasive species
Citizen science is an approach that has a long history, but is growing in importance in environmental research and monitoring. This growth is recognition of the potential of citizen science in data collection and public engagement. But citizen science is diverse and it is important to consider the best citizen science approach for the question of interest. Here I consider how different citizen science approaches may be particularly useful at different stages in the progress of invasion by non-native species: in some cases it appears that particular citizen science approaches are not used as much as their potential suggests that they could be. Whenever citizen science is used we have to consider data quality, and there are two aspects to this: accuracy of data points and fit-for-purpose of the dataset. The data points should be of known and sufficient accuracy, for example having been subject to a form of quality assurance before or after their collection. The dataset needs to be fit to answer the question of concern, and so this requires researchers to consider issues such as uneven spatial coverage by recorders, which is especially important when considering citizen science for early detection of invasive species (that is, the absence of a record is not evidence of absence of the species). The use of citizen science or professional science for invasive species is not an either/or and some of the most valuable applications are the ways in which citizen science can be blended with ‘professional’ monitoring. Combining different datasets may require use of new statistical techniques, but the potential is huge. Finally, because people are the ‘data generating process’ in citizen science, it is important to have an understanding of how people are motivated and how they record in order to ensure that the citizen science is as effective as possible. This raises the concern about ethical challenges raised by the different expectations of recorders and data users. Overall, citizen science when used thoughtfully and creatively can be even more impactful for science and engagement than it already is.