Lurking in the water ballast of an ocean-going ship, hiding in a packing crate, or deliberately imported to satisfy a human desire, exotic species are routinely transported into new habitats where they can invade and disrupt native ecosystems. A special news section in the 17 September issue of Science provides an exclusive look at how scientists around the world are learning to predict and fight these biological invasions.
As we shrink the size of the Earth with advances in technology, trade, and travel, our fellow plant and animal inhabitants are coming along for the ride, often with disastrous consequences. Invasive species have already left their mark on the United States, where biological invasions are the second largest cause of biodiversity loss. Will the continued march of exotic species across the globe result in the domination of a few widely successful species? One news article reports on this possibility of a "global McEcosystem," and discusses how ecologists attempt to predict the next invader and invasion site.
A second report highlights how researchers are fighting against exotic species that have already made themselves at home. From poisoning an entire marina in Australia to stop a pesky mussel, to pushing for stricter regulations on imported plants and animals, scientists and governments are using a diverse arsenal in the battle against the invaders. As this story reports, these tactics have had varying success and support.
Some of the special weapons used against eco-invaders are other biological
agents, touted as the "natural" way to combat invasive species. In these cases,
predators from an exotic species' homeland are imported and released to subdue
the invader, like the weevil brought in to take on the tumbleweed in the western
United States. A third news story reports on the increasing demand for
biocontrol and why some scientists are worried that these new recruits will also
run wild and compound the existing problem.
Contact: Francesca Carpenter, AAAS News & Information
American Association for the Advancement of Science