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Biological Invasions in Changing Environments

Introduction:

Climate change and environmental degradation, together with increased global trade, increase opportunities for the introduction, spread and persistence of invasive species. Non-native invasive species pose significant threats to natural and agricultural ecosystems worldwide and often have very severe, though difficult to quantify, economic impacts.

This module will introduce students to the basic principles of invasion ecology. These principles will be illustrated with a number of case studies which will examine examples of invasive plants, pathogens, microbes and insects in agricultural and natural terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments. These more detailed studies will investigate the economic and environmental impacts of invasive species and will consider potential impacts on human health. Throughout, the current and future impacts of environmental change on invasive species will be considered.

This module will enable students to evaluate the threats posed by invasive species in agricultural and natural ecosystems that are subject to increased environmental change and disturbance.

Objectives:

On completion of this module participants will be able to:

  • Understand the biological characteristics of invasive species and the ecological principles that underpin the invasion process.
  • Evaluate critically the agricultural, environmental, economic and human health impacts of invasive species.
  • Test and evaluate avoidance and management strategies for invasive species.
  • Show critical awareness of the potential impacts of climate and environmental change on biological invasions.

Contents:

  • Principles of Invasion Ecology – terminology and definitions, mode and source of introduction, ecology and evolution of invasive species.
  • Ecology of plant invasions – biological characteristics of invasive plants, evolution of invasiveness, the invasion process, impact.
  • Management of invasive plant populations – detection, surveying, risk assessment, biological, chemical and physical control.
  • Invasive plants and climate change – niche envelopes, biogeography, local adaptation, changing distributions.
  • Plant diseases caused by invasive and emerging pathogens: examples and impact.
  • Management strategies for control of invasive plant pathogens.
  • Ecology of invasive plant pathogens and other plant-associated fungi.
  • Arthropod invasive species – economic, environmental and agricultural damage.
  • Dealing with arthropod invasions I.
  • Dealing with arthropod invasions II - Classical biological control of invasive arthropod species.
  • Invasive species in marine environments – ballast water, effects of changing ocean temperature on species distributions, algal blooms.