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 29, 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 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Vietnam Rice Boom Piles Pressure on Farmers and the Environment

Vietnam Rice Boom Piles Pressure on Farmers and the Environment

AFP (Mar. 29, 2015) — Vietnam&apos;s drive to become the world&apos;s leading rice exporter is pushing farmers in the fertile Mekong Delta to the brink, say experts, with mounting costs to the environment. Duration: 02:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lioness Has Rare Five-Cub Litter

Raw: Lioness Has Rare Five-Cub Litter

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) — A lioness in Pakistan has given birth to five cubs, twice the usual size of a litter. Queen gave birth to two other cubs just nine months ago. (March 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) — Using motion tracking technology, researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are trying to establish an optimum horse riding style to train junior jockeys, as well as enhance safety, health and well-being of both racehorses and jockeys. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bear Cubs Tumble for the Media

Bear Cubs Tumble for the Media

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) — Two Andean bear cubs are unveiled at the U.S. National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Alicia Powell reports. Video provided by Reuters
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