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Special section: Invasive species

Invasive non-native species are among the greatest threats to biodiversity worldwide. There are about 50,000 non-native species in the U.S. alone, costing about $125 billion each year in environmental damage and economic losses. While there are no easy answers, a new analysis shows that current approaches often just make the problem worse.

"Management and control of [non-native] species is perhaps the biggest challenge that conservation biologists will face in the next few decades," says Fred Allendorf of the University of Montana in Missoula, who edited a six-paper special section called "Population Biology of Invasive Species" in the February issue of Conservation Biology.

Key points in the special section include:

  • Arguments that species invasions are natural and so acceptable are false. While it is true that invasions have occurred throughout evolutionary history, people have greatly accelerated the rate of introductions so that there are far more invasions today than there were only a few hundred years ago. Similarly, arguments that new species will evolve to replace those lost to invasions are also flawed. Even if this is true and that's a big if -- it would take millions of years. This work is by David Lodge and Kristin Shrader-Frechette of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

  • It's hard to get rid of invasive species that benefit some people economically. For instance, the non-native brown trout has had huge effects on the freshwater ecosystems of New Zealand's South Island. The widespread brown trout eat five times as many mayfly larvae and other stream invertebrates, increasing the algae level six times and decreasing the nutrient levels in the water. Moreover, streams with brown trout often do not have native fish. But there is little support for eradicating the brown trout because the sport fishery is so popular, generating more than $300 million per year. On the positive side, the story of the brown trout helped
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Contact: Fred Allendorf
fred.allendorf@mso.umt.edu
406-243-5503
Society for Conservation Biology
28-Jan-2003


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