Progress towards global networks in invasion science

An international team, including several C·I·B researchers, recently developed and published a framework for the establishment of global networks between researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in invasion science.

The paper, led by Jasmin Packer (University of Adelaide, Australia) and co-authored by Laura Meyerson (C·I·B Science Advisor), Dave Richardson (C·I·B Director), Petr Pyšek (C·I·B Research Associate) and Susan Canavan (C·I·B PhD student), was the product of an international workshop hosted by the PhragNet group and the University of Sassari in Italy, April 2016.

One way to move towards studies that embrace a broader geographical context is through global networks. Global networks can provide better infrastructure for studies attempting to answer big-picture questions, especially those that address biogeographic questions. For example, trying to understand the influence of climate-change, post-invasion adaption and evolution, environmentally influenced genetic traits, or species interactions associated with invasions, would all benefit greatly from this approach.

In their paper, which was published in Biological Invasions, the authors suggest that a ‘global network’ should cover gradients (latitudinal and longitudinal from natural to human-dominated ecosystems) with nodes (partners and sites) spanning biogeographic zones over both hemispheres, and include at least three continents.

The paper also provides practical discussions surrounding the collection of data, coordination between researchers, development of protocols, and time-frames for long-term data collection.

“The formation of global networks offers a valuable tool to help study and understand biological invasions, which would otherwise be a challenge for research groups who often work in isolation,” said Susan Canavan. “Global networks provide a collective capacity to better understand, predict and manage facets of biological invasions across multiple localities and geographic scales.”

PhragNet group is a network of scientists studying the common reed (Phragmites australis).

Structure of a global network on invasive species

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Structure of a global network on invasive species: The core project (in green) involves all partners and addresses big picture research questions at the global scale through: collection of primary data; use of standardized protocols and metrics; and commitment to long-term global data. Knowledge, and iterative global research questions, are generated by the core project and are exchanged (green arrows) with all partners through mutual dialogue. Satellite projects (in blue) that are performed by individual partners, or among partners, focus on questions that are biogeographically restricted to certain partner contexts or priorities (e.g., the competition of the focal taxa with a locally present congener, or addressing the effect of Mediterranean climates only). Satellite projects contribute (blue line) to the overall knowledge base within the core project; these inform the iteration of hypotheses and questions, some of which are addressed by other satellite projects. (Graphic by Packer et al. 2016)

Read the paper in Biological Invasions

Packer, J.G., Meyerson, L.A., Richardson, D.M. Global networks for invasion science: benefits, challenges and guidelines. Biological Invasions (2016). doi:10.1007/s10530-016-1302-3

For more information, contact Susan Canavan at