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Gridlock and beltways: the genetic context of urban invasions

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The rapid expansion of urban land across the globe presents new and numerous opportunities for invasive species to spread and flourish. Ecologists historically rejected urban ecosystems as important environments for ecology and evolution research but are beginning to recognize the importance of these systems in shaping the biology of invasion. Urbanization can aid the introduction, establishment, and spread of invaders, and these processes have substantial consequences on native species and ecosystems. Therefore, it is valuable to understand how urban areas influence populations at all stages in the invasion process. Population genetic tools are essential to explore the driving forces of invasive species dispersal, connectivity, and adaptation within cities. In this review, we synthesize current research about the influence of urban landscapes on invasion genetics dynamics. We conclude that urban areas are not only points of entry for many invasive species, they also facilitate population establishment, are pools for genetic diversity, and provide corridors for further spread both within and out of cities. We recommend the continued use of genetic studies to inform invasive species management and to understand the underlying ecological and evolutionary processes governing successful invasion.

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We thank M. Zuckerberg, M. H. Reiskind, and N. M. Haddad for comments on drafts of this manuscript. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments that greatly improved this manuscript.

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All authors conceived of the idea for the review. EMXR led the writing with significant contributions from MES and ASM. MOBR provided extensive editorial advice.

Correspondence to E. M. X. Reed.

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Communicated by Kendi Davies.

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Reed, E.M.X., Serr, M.E., Maurer, A.S. et al. Gridlock and beltways: the genetic context of urban invasions. Oecologia (2020).

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  • Synthesis
  • Population genetics
  • Landscape genetics
  • Invasive species
  • Urban ecosystems