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Special section: Invasive species

the New Zealand government decide that the risks of importing the channel catfish for aquaculture were too great. This work is by Colin Townsend of the University of Otago in New Zealand.

  • Invasions often owe their success to fundamental biological differences between introduced populations and the original populations in their native range. A prime example is Argentine ants, which are now found on six continents. In their native range Argentine ant colonies attack outsiders, which are distinguished via chemical cues based on genetic differences. But the introduced colonies generally don't attack each other because they can't distinguish each other -- they are quite similar genetically because they descended from a small number of introduced ants. The result is that the introduced colonies cooperate with each other, forming "supercolonies" that outnumber and wipe out native ants. "A single supercolony occupies virtually all [of the Argentine ant's] California range," say Neil Tsutsui of the University of California at Davis and Andrew Suarez of the University of California at Berkeley.

  • While only a small percentage of introduced species actually become invasive, it's hard to predict which ones will. One of the reasons is that some species rapidly adjust to or evolve in new environments. "With the introduction of non-native species, evolution is our largest source of uncertainty and therefore our largest source of anxiety," say Ingrid Parker, Joseph Rodriguez and Michael Loik of the University of California at Santa Cruz. "We lose the ability to predict where an introduced species will end up and what sort of impact it will have."

  • Biocontrol should be a last resort because it can do more harm than good. The problem is that the natural enemies introduced to control invasive non-native species can also harm native species. And more often than not, biocontrol doesn't even work. One reason is that the tests to predict the effectiveness an
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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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