Biological invasions are a population-level rather than a species-level phenomenon

Biological invasions pose a rapidly expanding threat to the persistence, functioning and service provisioning of ecosystems globally, and to socio-economic interests. The stages of successful invasions are driven by the same mechanism that underlies adaptive changes across species in general-via natural selection on intraspecific variation in traits that influence survival and reproductive performance (i.e., fitness). Surprisingly, however, the rapid progress in the field of invasion science has resulted in a predominance of species-level approaches (such as deny lists), often irrespective of natural selection theory, local adaptation and other population-level processes that govern successful invasions. To address these issues, we analyse non-native species dynamics at the population level by employing a database of European freshwater macroinvertebrate time series, to investigate spreading speed, abundance dynamics and impact assessments among populations. Our findings reveal substantial variability in spreading speed and abundance trends within and between macroinvertebrate species across biogeographic regions, indicating that levels of invasiveness and impact differ markedly. Discrepancies and inconsistencies among species-level risk screenings and real population-level data were also identified, highlighting the inherent challenges in accurately assessing population-level effects through species-level assessments. In recognition of the importance of population-level assessments, we urge a shift in invasive species management frameworks, which should account for the dynamics of different populations and their environmental context. Adopting an adaptive, region-specific and population-focused approach is imperative, considering the diverse ecological contexts and varying degrees of susceptibility. Such an approach could improve and refine risk assessments while promoting mechanistic understandings of risks and impacts, thereby enabling the development of more effective conservation and management strategies. Biological invasions increasingly threaten global ecosystems and socio-economic interests, advancing through mechanisms like natural selection that enhance survival and reproductive traits. Our study focuses on population-level analyses of non-native European freshwater macroinvertebrates to better understand their spread and impact. We found significant variability in invasion dynamics across populations and regions, suggesting that current species-level risk assessments may overlook crucial population-specific factors.image


Europe, freshwater macroinvertebrates, long-term trends, non-native species, population spread, population-level dynamics, risk assessments

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Haubrock Phillip J., Soto Ismael, Ahmed Danish A., Ansari Ali R., Tarkan Ali Serhan, Kurtul Irmak, Macedo Rafael L., Lazaro-Lobo Adrian, Toutain Mathieu, Parker Ben, Blonska Dagmara, Guareschi Simone, Cano-Barbacil Carlos, Almela Victoria Dominguez, Andreou Demetra, Moyano Jaime, Akalin Sencer, Kaya Cuneyt, Baycelebi Esra, Yogurtcuoglu Baran, Briski Elizabeta, Aksu Sadi, Emiroglu Ozgur, Mammola Stefano, de Santis Vanessa, Kourantidou Melina, Pincheira-Donoso Daniel, Britton J. Robert, Kouba Antonin, Dolan Ellen J., Kirichenko Natalia I., Garcia-Berthou Emili, Renault David, Fernandez Romina D., Yapici Sercan, Giannetto Daniela, Nunez Martin A., Hudgins Emma J., Pergl Jan, Milardi Marco, Musolin Dmitrii L., Cuthbert Ross N. (2024). Biological invasions are a population-level rather than a species-level phenomenon. Global Change Biology. 30 (5). e17312 (20p.).,

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