OOS 18-3 - Plant invasion of forests: Divergent narratives and possible explanations

Tuesday, August 9, 2011: 2:10 PM
14, Austin Convention Center
James O. Luken, Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC

Factors affecting the appropriation of ecological knowledge are not well understood.  For example, over the last 25 years, two different narratives of plant invasion have emerged, one from the research arena and one from the management arena.  Researchers initially interpreted plant invasions of forests as anomalous.  Subsequent work by numerous researchers demonstrated in sequence that successful invaders can assume high importance in the ground layer and understory, can arrive with unique combinations of traits, can compete successfully and can have numerous feedbacks on ecosystem function. Most recently, however, research suggests a forest invader (i.e., garlic mustard) can lose competitive dominance due to selective pressures on key traits and thus today’s invader may be tomorrow’s community associate.  Forest managers have generally focused on detection and eradication of invaders with the assumption that management fixes broken systems.  This interpretation has facilitated broad recruitment of citizen volunteers and dedicated invasion managers, but has also created a public view of invasion that diverges from current research findings. 


Research and management do indeed interact and both involve complex social systems, but the factors driving these systems are different.  As such, it is important for invasion ecologists to more carefully parse the written or spoken management recommendations emerging from basic research.  It is also important for managers to more accurately convey the impetuses of management plans and decisions.     

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