Restoration of Ecological Function in Terrestrial Systems Impacted by Invasive Species

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Invasive species are responsible for the decline or extirpation of many species around the world. When those lost species provide essential ecological functions, the system may further degrade over time. Restoration ecology aims to restore these systems and associated ecological functions. It is important to first understand the invaders and their direct and indirect impacts to the native ecosystems. This requires a thorough understanding of the system and functions pre-invasion. Once these links and mechanisms are understood, managers must decide on a course of action to control or halt the spread of the invasive species and prevent further ecological degradation. Managers must determine what types of control are most appropriate for their systems as well as to what levels an invader must be controlled before restoration actions lead to improved ecological function. Deciding on specific restoration actions will vary considerably from system to system, but must involve considerations such as topography, landcover, feasibility, scale, social impacts, and timing. Specific details about habitats and species natural history are important to incorporate into planning models. Finally, monitoring and adaptive management throughout the course of the restoration and beyond are crucial to long-term success.

Related Article(s):

Contributors: Dr. Hugo Thierry, McKayla M. Spencer, Ann Marie Gawel, and Dr. Haldre Rogers

Key Resources:

Introduction- Invasion Biology

Because of the increased ease and frequency of transportation of people and goods across the globe, almost all ecosystems have species introduced by humans that do not share an evolutionary history with the native members of the ecosystem. Only some of these species survive to reproduce, and even fewer cause harm[4]. Invasive species are recognized as having been transported to a novel geographic area, establishing in that area, and then causing ecological or economic harm to the systems in that geographic region[5][6][7]. Several attempts have been made by researchers in the field to distinguish “invasive” from “non-native,” “alien” and “exotic”[8][9]. Invasive species were defined in The President's Executive Order 13112 (1999) as, “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health”. The Global Invasive Species Program of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature accepts a similar definition of “invasive alien species” as “This subset of alien species that become established in a new environment, then proliferate and spread in ways that are destructive to native ecosystems, human health, and ultimately human welfare…”[10]. Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to ecological and economic well-being of the planet. Developing common definitions was essential given the prevalence and urgency of the impacts.

Efforts focused on early detection and rapid response are preferable to trying to control a species once it has established[11]. However, in many cases, it can be difficult to identify potential invasive species until they have started causing obvious detrimental effects.


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  2. ^ Rogers, H.S., Buhle, E.R., HilleRisLambers, J., Fricke, E.C., Miller, R.H., and Tewksbury, J.J., 2017. Effects of an invasive predator cascade to plants via mutualism disruption. Nature Communications, 8:14557. doi: 10.1038/ncomms14557 Media:Rogers2017.pdf Article pdf
  3. ^ Thierry, H., and Rogers, H., 2020. Where to rewild? A conceptual framework to spatially optimize ecological function. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287:20193017. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.3017 Article pdf
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  9. ^ Richardson, D.M., Pyšek, P., Rejmánek, M., Barbour, M.G., Panetta, F.D., and West, C.J., 2000. Naturalization and invasion of alien plants: concepts and definitions. Diversity and Distributions, 6(2), pp. 93–107. doi: 10.1046/j.1472-4642.2000.00083.x Article pdf
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