“Invasion science” describes the full spectrum of fields of enquiry that address biological invasions. It embraces invasion ecology, but increasingly draws on non-biological fields, including environmental ethics, environmental history, and ecological economics.
This presentation traces the development of invasion science, focussing on the emergence and growth of key themes, controversies and challenges in the field, with special emphasis on more recent developments.
Nineteenth century naturalists and ecologists in the first half of the 20th century published many important contributions on introduced species. Charles Elton’s 1958 book on Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants is, however, widely acknowledged as the starting point for focussed scientific attention on biological invasions. Other milestones were the SCOPE Programme on the Ecology of Biological Invasions in the 1980s, and a 1996 conference in Trondheim, Norway, which spawned the Global Invasive Species Programme.
The three big questions from the SCOPE Programme (what factors determine whether a species will be an invader?; what site properties determine whether an ecosystem will be invaded?; how should management systems be developed?) continue to underpin most work in invasion science.
Substantial progress has been made in developing general models of invasion, merging insights to conceptualize key aspects of invasion dynamics. Major advances have been made in understanding the role of traits in mediating invasiveness, especially using improved conceptual frameworks, global databases and new methods of meta-analysis. There has been progress in unravelling the multiple dimensions of invasions through the careful evaluation of natural experiments, such as the global introductions, usage, and invasions of many taxa. Improved global indicators of the extent of invasions have been derived, and crucial insights have emerged about the extent and types of impacts of invasive species. New global databases are paving the way for elucidating many macroecological patterns, such as the role of socioeconomic factors in driving invasions, and the conceptualization and quantification of the dimensions of invasion debt. Improved methods for modelling invasions are allowing researchers to incorporate multiple drivers, thereby providing tools for explaining current and predicting future invasions. Many questions remain to be answered about the “nuts and bolts” of invasions, but the key challenges for invasion science relate to applying new insights and using new tools to improve our ability to manage invasive species.