Advertisement

Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 373–393 | Cite as

The problem of prediction in invasion biology

  • Alkistis Elliott-Graves
Article

Abstract

Invasion biology is a relatively young discipline which is important, interesting and currently in turmoil. Biological invaders can threaten native ecosystems and global biodiversity; they can incur massive economic costs and even introduce diseases. Invasion biologists generally agree that being able to predict when and where an invasion will occur is essential for progress in their field. However, successful predictions of this type remain elusive. This has caused a rift, as some researchers are pessimistic and believe that invasion biology has no future, whereas others are more optimistic and believe that the key to successful prediction is the creation of a general, unified theoretical framework which encompasses all invasion events. Although I agree that there is a future for invasion biology, extensive synthesis is not the way to better predictions. I argue that the causes of invasion phenomena are exceedingly complex and heterogeneous, hence it is impossible to make generalizations over particular events without sacrificing causal detail. However, this causal detail is just what is needed for the specific predictions which the scientists wish to produce. Instead, I show that a limited type of synthesis (integration of data and methods) is a more useful tool for generating successful predictions. An important implication of my view is that it points to a more pluralistic approach to invasion biology, where generalization and prediction are treated as important yet distinct research goals.

Keywords

Invasion biology Ecology Prediction Integration Philosophy of science Philosophy of ecology 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Author would like to thank Michael Weisberg, Carlos Santana, Adrian Curry, Eric Desjardins, Dan Hicks, Maureen O' Malley, Kim Sterelny and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

References

  1. Bever JD (2003) Soil community feedback and the coexistence of competitors: conceptual frameworks and empirical tests. New Phytol 157(3):465–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blackburn TM, Pyšek P, Bacher S, Carlton JT, Duncan RP, Jarošík V et al (2011) A proposed unified framework for biological invasions. Trends Ecol Evol 26(7):333–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Buckley YM, Bolker BM, Rees M (2007) Disturbance, invasion and re-invasion: managing the weed-shaped hole in disturbed ecosystems. Ecol Lett 10(9):809–817CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Callaway RM, Thelen GC, Rodriguez A, Holben WE (2004) Soil biota and exotic plant invasion. Nature 427(6976):731–733CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cartwright N (1994) Nature’s capacities and their measurement. OUP, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Catford JA, Jansson R, Nilsson C (2009) Reducing redundancy in invasion ecology by integrating hypotheses into a single theoretical framework. Divers Distrib 15(1):22–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Civeyrel L, Simberloff D (1996) A tale of two snails: is the cure worse than the disease? Biodivers Conserv 5(10):1231–1252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Colyvan M, Ginzburg LR (2003) Laws of nature and laws of ecology. Oikos 101(3):649–653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cooper G (1998) Generalizations in ecology: a philosophical taxonomy. Biol Philos 13(4):555–586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Daehler CC (2003) Performance comparisons of co-occurring native and alien invasive plants: implications for conservation and restoration. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 34(1):183–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davidson AM, Jennions M, Nicotra AB (2011) Do invasive species show higher phenotypic plasticity than native species and, if so, is it adaptive? A meta-analysis. Ecol Lett 14(4):419–431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davis MA (2011) Invasion biology. In: Simberloff D, Rejmanek M (eds) Encyclopedia of biological invasions. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 364–369Google Scholar
  13. Davis MA, Grime JP, Thompson K (2000) Fluctuating resources in plant communities: a general theory of invasibility. J Ecol 88(3):528–534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dunstan PK, Johnson CR (2007) Mechanisms of invasions: can the recipient community influence invasion rates? Bot Mar 50(5/6):361–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Geng Y-P, Pan X-Y, Xu C-Y, Zhang W-J, Li B, Chen J-K et al (2006) Phenotypic plasticity rather than locally adapted ecotypes allows the invasive alligator weed to colonize a wide range of habitats. Biol Invasions 9(3):245–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gundale MJ, Pauchard A, Langdon B, Peltzer DA, Maxwell BD, Nuñez MA (2013) Can model species be used to advance the field of invasion ecology? Biol Invasions 16(3):591–607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gurevitch J, Fox GA, Wardle GM, Inderjit, Taub D (2011) Emergent insights from the synthesis of conceptual frameworks for biological invasions. Ecol Lett 14(4):407–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hayes KR, Barry SC (2007) Are there any consistent predictors of invasion success? Biol Invasions 10(4):483–506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hempel CG, Oppenheim P (1948) Studies in the logic of explanation. Philos Sci 15(2):135–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Holle B, Delcourt HR, Simberloff D (2003) The importance of biological inertia in plant community resistance to invasion. J Veg Sci 14(3):425–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jarchow ME, Cook BJ (2009) Allelopathy as a mechanism for the invasion of Typha angustifolia. Plant Ecol 204(1):113–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jeschke J, Gómez Aparicio L, Haider S, Heger T, Lortie C, Pyšek P, Strayer D (2012) Support for major hypotheses in invasion biology is uneven and declining. NeoBiota 14:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kennedy TA, Naeem S, Howe KM, Knops JMH, Tilman D, Reich P (2002) Biodiversity as a barrier to ecological invasion. Nature 417(6889):636–638CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kitcher P (1981) Explanatory unification. Philos Sci 48(4):507–531CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Klironomos JN (2002) Feedback with soil biota contributes to plant rarity and invasiveness in communities. Nature 417(6884):67–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kolar CS, Lodge DM (2001) Progress in invasion biology: predicting invaders. Trends Ecol Evol 16(4):199–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lawton JH (1999) Are there general laws in ecology? Oikos 84(2):177–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Levine JM, D’Antonio CM (1999) Elton revisited: a review of evidence linking diversity and invasibility. Oikos 87(1):15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Levins R (1966) The strategy of model building in population biology. Am Sci 54(4):421–431Google Scholar
  30. Lodge DM (1993) Biological invasions: lessons for ecology. Trends Ecol Evol 8(4):133–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Matthewson J (2011) Trade-offs in model-building: a more target-oriented approach. Stud Hist Philos Sci Part A 42(2):324–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Matthewson J, Weisberg M (2009) The structure of tradeoffs in model building. Synthese 170(1):169–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Milbau A, Stout JC, Graae BJ, Nijs I (2008) A hierarchical framework for integrating invasibility experiments incorporating different factors and spatial scales. Biol Invasions 11(4):941–950CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moles AT, Gruber MAM, Bonser SP (2007) A new framework for predicting invasive plant species. J Ecol 96(2):13–17Google Scholar
  35. Moles AT, Flores-Moreno H, Bonser SP, Warton DI, Helm A, Warman L et al (2012) Invasions: the trail behind, the path ahead, and a test of a disturbing idea. J Ecol 100(1):116–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. National Research Council (2002) Predicting invasions of nonindigenous plants and plant pests. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, pp 95–110Google Scholar
  37. O’Malley MA, Soyer OS (2012) The roles of integration in molecular systems biology. Stud Hist Philos Sci Part C Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci 43(1):58–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Perkins LB, Leger EA, Nowak RS (2011) Invasion triangle: an organizational framework for species invasion. Ecol Evol 1(4):610–625CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rejmánek M, Richardson DM (1996) What attributes make some plant species more invasive? Ecology 77(6):1655–1661CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Richardson DM, Pyšek P (2006) Plant invasions: merging the concepts of species invasiveness and community invasibility. Prog Phys Geogr 30(3):409–431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Richardson DM, Rejmánek M (2004) Conifers as invasive aliens: a global survey and predictive framework. Divers Distrib 10(5–6):321–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Richardson DM, Ricciardi A (2013) Misleading criticisms of invasion science: a field guide. Divers Distrib 19(12):1461–1467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Romanuk TN, Zhou Y, Brose U, Berlow EL, Williams RJ, Martinez ND (2009) Predicting invasion success in complex ecological networks. Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 364(1524):1743–1754CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Roughgarden J (2009) Is there a general theory of community ecology? Biol Philos 24(4):521–529. doi: 10.1007/s10539-009-9164-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Scheiner SM, Willig MR (2008) A general theory of ecology. Theor Ecol 1(1):21–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shrader-Frechette K (2001) Non-indigenous species and ecological explanation. Biol Philos 16(4):507–519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Simberloff D (2009) Invasion biologists and the biofuels boom: Cassandras or colleagues. Weed Sci 56(6):867–872CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Simberloff D, Vitule JRS (2013) A call for an end to calls for the end of invasion biology. Oikos 123(4):408–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sousa R, Morais P, Dias E, Antunes C (2011) Biological invasions and ecosystem functioning: time to merge. Biol Invasions 13(5):1055–1058CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Thiengo SC, Faraco FA, Salgado NC, Cowie RH, Fernandez MA (2007) Rapid spread of an invasive snail in South America: the giant African snail, Achatina fulica, in Brasil. Biol Invasions 9(6):693–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Valéry L, Fritz H, Lefeuvre J-C (2013) Another call for the end of invasion biology. Oikos 122(8):1143–1146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. van der Putten WH, Bardgett RD, Bever JD, Bezemer TM, Casper BB, Fukami T et al (2013) Plant-soil feedbacks: the past, the present and future challenges. J Ecol 101(2):265–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Van Kleunen M, Dawson W, Schlaepfer D, Jeschke JM, Fischer M (2010) Are invaders different? A conceptual framework of comparative approaches for assessing determinants of invasiveness. Ecol Lett. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01503.x Google Scholar
  54. Vitousek PM (1990) Biological invasions and ecosystem processes: towards an integration of population biology and ecosystem studies. In: Ecosystem management. Springer, New York, pp 183–191Google Scholar
  55. Weidenhamer JD, Callaway RM (2010) Direct and indirect effects of invasive plants on soil chemistry and ecosystem function. J Chem Ecol 36(1):59–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Weiner J (2004) Allocation, plasticity and allometry in plants. Perspect Plant Ecol Evol Syst 6(4):207–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Williamson M (1999) Invasions. Ecography 22(1):5–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Zenni RD, Nuñez MA (2013) The elephant in the room: the role of failed invasions in understanding invasion biology. Oikos 122(6):801–815CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Rotman Institute of PhilosophyThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

Personalised recommendations