Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Invasive Species On The March: Variable Rates Of Spread Set Current Limits To Predictability

Date:
September 21, 2009
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Whether for introduced muskrats in Europe or oak trees in the United Kingdom, zebra mussels in United States lakes or agricultural pests around the world, scientists have tried to find new ways of controlling invasive species by learning how these animals and plants take over in new environs.

The red flour beetle.
Credit: Peggy Greb/USDA Agricultural Research Service

Whether for introduced muskrats in Europe or oak trees in the United Kingdom, zebra mussels in United States lakes or agricultural pests around the world, scientists have tried to find new ways of controlling invasive species by learning how these animals and plants take over in new environs.

Related Articles


In a paper published in this week's issue of the journal Science, biologists Brett Melbourne of the University of Colorado and Alan Hastings of the University of California at Davis report a previously unknown high variability in the rates of invasive species spread.

To reach their conclusions, they studied red flour beetles--beetles attracted to wheat flour--in experimental, enclosed landscapes with patches of habitat linked together.

They collected data from 30 landscapes composed of identical patches of land, all maintained under the same conditions, each initially home to 20 red flour beetles.

Although the landscapes were identical, there were considerable differences in how the beetles spread. By the end of the 13-beetle-generation experiment, the distance the beetles ranged spanned 10 to 31 "landscape patches."

"Scientists have struggled to understand why some species spread rapidly, while others don't," says Saran Twombly, acting deputy division director of the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research. "Once ecologists identified the key factors, it was thought, they could predict species spread with some certainty.

"Melbourne and Hastings have showed the opposite: intrinsic variability that could be random or have a genetic basis appears to have a large influence on species' spread. Researchers must now incorporate uncertainty in future approaches to 'ecological forecasting.'"

Everyone's familiar with uncertainty in weather forecasts, says Melbourne. "How often have we heard, 'there is a 75 percent chance of rain today?'"

As in weather systems, there's a degree of unpredictability in ecological systems.

The uncertainty arises because of randomness in both environmental and biological processes. "Ecologists have rarely measured it, however, so we haven't known how big it is," states Melbourne.

"We need to know more about how this affects the specific case of biological invasions," says Melbourne, "and how it changes ecosystem responses generally."

Ecologists will increasingly be called on to make the biological equivalent of weather forecasts: how will ecological systems respond to climate change, habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity?

Will species be able to migrate fast enough to keep pace with climate change?

Although more research is needed, the uncertainty Melbourne and Hastings found may place more species at risk in a changing climate: flora and fauna may not be able to march one step ahead of the pace of global warming.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Invasive Species On The March: Variable Rates Of Spread Set Current Limits To Predictability." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090917170914.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2009, September 21). Invasive Species On The March: Variable Rates Of Spread Set Current Limits To Predictability. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090917170914.htm
National Science Foundation. "Invasive Species On The March: Variable Rates Of Spread Set Current Limits To Predictability." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090917170914.htm (accessed March 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

AP (Feb. 28, 2015) Researchers following endangered killer whales spotted a baby orca off the coast of Washington state, the third birth documented this winter but still leaving the population dangerously low. (Feb. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Drinks for Your Health

The Best Drinks for Your Health

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) When it comes to health and fitness, there&apos;s lots of talk about what foods to eat, but there are a few liquids that can promote good nutrition. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the healthiest drinks to boost your health! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cherries, Snap Peas and More Tasty Spring Produce

Cherries, Snap Peas and More Tasty Spring Produce

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) From sweet cherries to sugar snap peas, spring is the peak season for some of the tastiest and healthiest produce. Krystin Goodwin (@Krystingoodwin) has the best seasonal fruits and veggies to spring in to good health! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods to Battle Stress

The Best Foods to Battle Stress

Buzz60 (Feb. 26, 2015) If you&apos;re dealing with anxiety, there are a few foods that can help. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the best foods to tame stress. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins