Keys to enhancing the value of invasion ecology research for management

Abstract

Invasion ecology has grown to include scientists with diverse skill sets who focus on a range of taxa and biomes. These researchers have the capacity to contribute to practical management solutions while also answering fundamental biological questions; however, scientific endeavors often fail to meet the perceived needs of practitioners involved in on-the-ground invasive plant management. One way that researchers have sought to bridge the gap between research and practice is by surveying managers to identify areas of study that are underexplored in invasion ecology. In this paper, we build on these efforts by reviewing the current state of knowledge and suggesting new directions for research in seven areas of plant invasion ecology that are highly relevant to management: seedbanks, dispersal and spread, life history, impacts, climate change, distribution, and succession. These topics were previously identified as urgent research priorities by land managers and are underrepresented in the invasion ecology literature. In addition to highlighting key knowledge gaps for these seven areas of research, we propose steps that academics can take to cultivate academic–practitioner relationships and remove barriers to conducting management-focused research, such as co-producing research questions with managers, addressing issues of working at management-appropriate spatial and temporal scales, and considering non-traditional funding and labor sources for long-term monitoring. Greater communication and collaborative selection of basic research questions will ensure that the goals of management and invasive species research remain aligned.

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Fig. 1

Figure adapted from Matzek et al. (2015)

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Acknowledgements

We thank J. Burger, S. DeWalt, B. Leung, W. Lewis, K. Wasson, and S. Welles for contributions on this and earlier drafts of the manuscript.

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Funk, J.L., Parker, I.M., Matzek, V. et al. Keys to enhancing the value of invasion ecology research for management. Biol Invasions 22, 2431–2445 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-020-02267-9

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Functional traits
  • Impacts
  • Knowing-doing gap
  • Life history
  • Restoration
  • Seedbank
  • Succession