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Neobiota: Toward a Synthesis
5th European Conference on Biological Invasions (23-26 Sept 2008)

Prague in late September is enticing. It was made even more so by this exceptional meeting arranged by the European ‘NEOBIOTA’ group at Czech University of Life Sciences of Prague, organized by a remarkable team led by Petr Pyšek, and supported by a variety of institutions and donors. The meeting was attended by 274 researchers from 39 countries and, on the basis of the talks and posters, focussed on five themes: patterns of invasion > determinants of invasiveness > management interventions > impacts of invasions > evolutionary change, in order of theme popularity. The meeting was opened by Marcel Rejmánek’s plenary examining progress across all areas of invasion biology. Daily keynotes introduced each major session, with Tom Stohlgren discussing the ‘rich get richer’ hypothesis (with plenty of empirical support), Steven Chown the lessons to be learned from invasions on Southern Ocean islands, Tim Blackburn the role of invasions in driving extinctions on islands, and Piero Genovesi the European policy responses to biological invasions. The contributed papers were nothing less than superb, covering topics from the role of physiological differences and evolution thereof in invasion success of clonal and sexual populations of the small fire ant, to the calculated costs of invasions for Europe. Demonstrations of successful management interventions, and documentation of strong positive relationships between aquatic invasions and both aquaculture and sport fishing were especially fascinating from a management and regulation perspective. Many of the contributions made use of the DAISIE database of alien and invasive species in Europe. It is clear that this is an exceptional resource. Other countries could well take lessons from the initiative, and a similar SADC or NEPAD approach would certainly be of considerable value for Africa. Advances in research and management made in South Africa were mentioned frequently in presentations from elsewhere. Clearly we have much to contribute and we should strive for better representation at future meetings.