Conceptual Frameworks and Methods for Advancing Invasion Ecology

Abstract

Invasion ecology has much advanced since its early beginnings. Nevertheless, explanation, prediction, and management of biological invasions remain difficult. We argue that progress in invasion research can be accelerated by, first, pointing out difficulties this field is currently facing and, second, looking for measures to overcome them. We see basic and applied research in invasion ecology confronted with difficulties arising from (A) societal issues, e.g., disparate perceptions of invasive species; (B) the peculiarity of the invasion process, e.g., its complexity and context dependency; and (C) the scientific methodology, e.g., imprecise hypotheses. To overcome these difficulties, we propose three key measures: (1) a checklist for definitions to encourage explicit definitions; (2) implementation of a hierarchy of hypotheses (HoH), where general hypotheses branch into specific and precisely testable hypotheses; and (3) platforms for improved communication. These measures may significantly increase conceptual clarity and enhance communication, thus advancing invasion ecology.

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Acknowledgments

This paper summarizes the results of many fruitful discussions during the workshop “Tackling the emerging crisis of invasion biology: How can ecological theory, experiments, and field studies be combined to achieve major progress?” (March 2010 in Benediktbeuern, Germany; workshop of the specialist group “Theory in Ecology” of the Ecological Society of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, GfÖ), organized by TH, SH, ATP, and JMJ. We thank Laura Aquiloni, Silvia Bertocchi, Sara Brusconi, Alberto Inghilesi, Christiane Koch, Giuseppe Mazza, Roberto Merciai, Gabriele Orioli, and Elena Tricarico for their valuable contributions during this workshop. Katharina Dehnen-Schmutz as well as anonymous reviewers provided many critical comments that helped to improve the manuscript. The manuscript was reviewed through Peerage of Science (http://www.peerageofscience.org). Stella Copeland provided language corrections. JMJ acknowledges financial support from the DFG (JE 288/4-1).

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Correspondence to Tina Heger.

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Heger, T., Pahl, A.T., Botta-Dukát, Z. et al. Conceptual Frameworks and Methods for Advancing Invasion Ecology. AMBIO 42, 527–540 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-012-0379-x

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Keywords

  • Communication platforms
  • Definitions and terminology
  • Hierarchy of hypotheses
  • Invasive alien species
  • Synthesis
  • Transdisciplinarity