Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Better models to understand invasive alien species

In Europe and worldwide, native ecosystems are increasingly becoming dominated by invasive species. Researchers are developing better statistical models to anticipate future invasions in plant communities.
Better models to understand invasive alien species
Invasive alien species (IASs) have caused severe environmental changes by altering species composition and ecosystem function; they are considered a major threat to biodiversity.

The EU-funded IASIMOV (Invasive alien species: Towards improved modeling tools through virtual ecology) initiative aimed to model plant evolution and ecology to better understand plant invasions. The researchers wanted to produce a more reliable model of how native plants influence invasion patterns through competition.

Project researchers found that average functional dissimilarity between invaders and native communities served as the best metric for their model. They also found that competition metrics were more influenced by data bias than environmental filtering metrics were.

By relying on simulated data IASIMOV wanted to test current statistical methods to make sense of patterns from overlaying ecological filters and so improve future invasion predictions. They then tested the theoretical predictions from the statistical methods by performing experiments involving the alien plants under controlled conditions in a common garden and by analysing current patterns of invasions in French grasslands across large environmental gradients.

The researchers found they needed to consider the species traits to see how the similarity of the alien to the natives affects the natives. By quantifying trait differences between aliens and natives, the team understood better how the aliens spread at regional and local scales.

Finally, to find the impact of environmental and biotic filters in successful invasions, they used a novel statistical tool. They used the FATE-HD simulation model in the Ecrins National Park in the French Alps and modelled the future spread of two sets of alien species.

IASIMOV expects these simulations to show how the alien invasions are affected by factors such as climate change and the intensity of land use.

Overall, the final outcome of the project will be important for invasion ecology and influencing policymakers working on invasion management.

Related information


Invasive alien species, ecosystems, biodiversity, IASIMOV, ecology
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