Saturday, December 31, 2005
Invasive species are second only to habitat destruction in causing loss of biodiversity. However, scientists have found it difficult to prevent the spread of invasive species because spread dynamics are poorly understood. A study by Arim, et al., was published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science suggests that the spread of invasive species is not idiosyncratic and follows general patterns. PNAS Abstract
Species invasions are a principal component of global change, causing large losses in biodiversity as well as economic damage. Invasion theory attempts to understand and predict invasion success and patterns of spread. However, there is no consensus regarding which species or community attributes enhance invader success or explain spread dynamics. Experimental and theoretical studies suggest that regulation of spread dynamics is possible; however, the conditions for its existence have not yet been empirically demonstrated. If invasion spread is a regulated process, the structure that accounts for this regulation will be a main determinant of invasion dynamics. Here we explore the existence of regulation underlying changes in the rate of new site colonization. We employ concepts and analytical tools from the study of abundance dynamics and show that spread dynamics are, in fact, regulated processes and that the regulation structure is notably consistent among invasions occurring in widely different contexts. We base our conclusions on the analysis of the spread dynamics of 30 species invasions, including birds, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, plants, and a virus, all of which exhibited similar regulation structures. In contrast to current beliefs that species invasions are idiosyncratic phenomena, here we provide evidence that general patterns do indeed exist.