Biological invasions are occurring at an increasing rate globally and are coupled with growing costs of control and mitigation. Effective and robust methods are therefore required to enable reliable prediction of impacts of new and emerging invasive species to better inform management decisions. A recent approach for investigating invader impact focuses on the functional response, the intake rate of a consumer as a function of food density. Evidence from short-term experiments suggest that problematic invaders often exhibit higher resource intake at a given food density than natives. Thus, short-term experiments to characterize the functional response may be a useful tool for predicting which invaders will have detrimental impacts in natural ecosystems over longer time scales.

With developments in this field of research gaining momentum, it is an excellent time for synthesis and discussions of the conceptual and empirical applications of the functional response to enhance our understanding of invasion biology and to identify common challenges that must be overcome in order to progress. Through research presentations, roundtable and break out discussions, and opportunities for hands-on skills development, this workshop will assess recent advances in invasion ecology resulting from comparisons of functional responses, develop experimental and analytical protocols to facilitate synthesis of experiments conducted across systems, and identify priority research areas and strategies to tackle current challenges.

Expected output

Planned outputs of this workshop include at least one, multi-authored review paper in a journal such as Biological Invasions, a comparative database of functional response studies as applied to invasive species biology, a guide for conducting functional response experiments that will facilitate comparisons across study systems, and an analysis workshop for different approaches to analysing data from functional response experiments. Nevertheless, the option open to discuss detailed output strategies with all participants before and during the workshop is open. We encourage presentations of ongoing studies that are at an advanced stage based on theoretical and/or experimental approaches related to the research areas described above.

Sponsored by

This workshop is supported by DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology and the University of Stellenbosch

Picture credits: (top left) Dr. James Vonesh; (top right) McCoy et al. 2011 Am. Nat; (bottom left) Dr. Justin Touchon; (bottom right) Dr. Karen Warkentin.