Biological Invasions in Changing Ecosystems
When organisms are deliberately or accidentally introduced into a new ecosystem a biological invasion may take place. These so-called ‘invasive species’ may establish, spread and ecologically alter the invaded community. Biological invasions by animals, plants, pathogens or vectors are one of the greatest environmental and economic threats and, along with habitat destruction, a leading cause of global biodiversity loss.
In this book, more than 50 worldwide invasion scientists cover our current understanding of biological invasions, its impacts, patterns and mechanisms in both aquatic and terrestrial systems.
Invasion ecology has been a growing discipline in recent decades, with good reason, as the consequence of nonnative invasive species thriving outside of their native ranges can be extremely detrimental ecologically and economically.
Biological Invasions in Changing Ecosystems covers the topic logically with sections on the pathways, impacts and management of invasions, as well as future directions. Contributions from over 50 scientists provide a neat snapshot of current understanding through expert discussion and case studies. These cover a variety of topics, albeit with an emphasis on aquatic systems, including an interesting account of the history of avian invasions. Inevitably, writing style is a little inconsistent between authors but chapters are grouped well and each has a useful bulleted summary, making this an easy book in which to find and read about specific topics. The book is suited to people studying biology, who are the primary intended audience.
Possibly the greatest positive of this book is the openaccess publishing (of the digital copy), which benefits those students who may be based in countries or institutions without endless resources, as well as any interested individual who takes a professional or personal interest in biological invasions and wants to understand more.
Sometimes the difficulty with books like this is that there is no real synthesis, tying together all the chapters from different authors. Nonetheless, there are some clear messages that come through when reading, such as the dynamic nature of the field (hence the benefit of periodical books summarizing knowledge such as this) as well as invasions resulting from an indirect effect of our actions, as in the example of deer ked responding to managed moose populations in Scandinavia.
The closing remarks of the final chapter I think do set the tone for one of the main messages. There is talk of the need for ‘reconciliation ecology’, whereby solutions are sought that integrate biodiversity into humandominated landscapes and acknowledge that return to pristine conditions is unlikely in many cases. While this may not sit well with more optimistic readers, it is an important point, that reducing the detrimental effects of non-native invasive species is often more likely to succeed when approached this way. In short, this book is a nice addition to the invasion ecology literature and, although not all of the chapters may be essential reading for everyone, J. Canning-Clode has done a good job to ensure that there is still a wide appeal.
Gary Clewley, British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford, Norfolk, UK