Ecology Invasive Species
Peter Alpert
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 March 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0171


An invasive species arrives in a region or habitat where it has not previously occurred and negatively affects species already there (see also Definitions). Most but not all species considered invasive are also introduced (i.e., arrived in their new habitat) as a result of intentional or unintentional transport by humans. The term “invasive species” is often used to refer specifically to introduced species whose negative effects have been inferred from their spread and increase in abundance following introduction. Invasions by species (or biological invasions) have undoubtedly occurred throughout much of the history of life on earth. However, the rate and intensity of invasions appear generally to be increasing, mostly as a result of increasing rates of species introductions and in concert with other aspects of global change. Invasive species have thus become a focus of scientific research and societal concern. Basic scientific research on invasive species has included studies of pathways of introduction and of the factors that underlie invasiveness (i.e., the degree to which a newly arrived species is likely to have negative effects), invisibility—that is, the susceptibility of a community of existing species, or of a habitat to invasion by a newly arrived species—and impacts, or the effects that newly arrived species have on other species including humans and on ecological processes such as the cycling of nutrients. Applied research has included studies of the efficacy of different methods of preventing the introduction of species and of eradicating invasive species or controlling their spread following introduction. Governmental bodies and nongovernmental organizations have responded to and promoted this basic and applied research with legislation, other policy initiatives, and management plans. The literature on invasive species is now varied and voluminous. General overviews in the form of review articles and scholarly and semi-popular books have appeared regularly since about 1990 and textbooks since about 1995. Thousands of peer-reviewed articles on invasive species have been published in dozens of scientific journals over the last two decades; at least three journals devote themselves largely to invasive species. A number of governments and organizations sponsor websites and regional to international, online databases on invasive species. This bibliography focuses on the more recent literature, in which references to earlier work can be found, and on some seminal, widely cited works that illustrate the development of the topic.

General Overviews

Although some current hypotheses in invasion biology can be traced back to Darwin, the first scholarly book devoted to the ecology of invasive species is Elton 1958, which emphasized animals. Baker and Stebbens 1965 complemented this in an edited volume on the evolutionary biology of invasive plants. The beginning of invasion biology as a subfield and of invasive species as a widely recognized environmental problem can likely be traced to the Program on the Ecology of Biological Invasions of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment, which was chaired by Harold Mooney. The program produced a series of volumes, culminating with Drake, et al. 1989. A clear report on the following decade of study and of the practical issues it raised was Mack, et al. 2000 for the Ecological Society of America. Among the more recent overviews of invasive species, Nentwig 2007 and Richardson 2011 each contain chapters with extensive reviews of the major aspects of study; Perrings, et al. 2010 aims to provide a basis for policy and management; and Simberloff and Rejmánek 2011 provides a literally encyclopedic treatment.

  • Baker, H. G., and G. L. Stebbens, eds. 1965. The genetics of colonizing species. New York: Academic.

    Although not styled as a book on invasive species, this volume helped form the basis for understanding the role of evolution in biological invasions, particularly those by plants.

  • Drake, J. A., H. A. Mooney, F. Di Castri, eds. 1989. Biological invasions: A global perspective. Chichester, UK: Wiley.

    This final synthesis of the Program on the Ecology of Biological Invasions of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment marks the beginning of a period of intensive research and public attention to invasive species that has accelerated into the 21st century.

  • Elton, C. S. 1958. The ecology of invasions by plants and animals. London: Methuen.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4899-7214-9

    This book is often credited with having launched the study of invasive species. It advances hypotheses that remain current and provides case studies.

  • Mack, R. N., D. Simberloff, W. M. Lonsdale, H. Evans, M. Clout, and F. A. Bazzaz. 2000. Biotic invasions: Causes, epidemiology, global consequences, and control. Ecological Applications 10:689–710.

    DOI: 10.1890/1051-0761(2000)010[0689:BICEGC]2.0.CO;2

    This review offers an accessible assessment of invasive species as an issue in ecology and policy. Although superseded by subsequent overviews, it remains a good, brief introduction to the topic.

  • Nentwig, W., ed. 2007. Biological invasions. Berlin: Springer.

    This collection of reviews follows others in covering pathways of invasion, patterns of invasiveness and invasibility, and ecological and economic impacts. However, the list of authors and the foci of many chapters complement those in other volumes that offer an overview.

  • Perrings, C., H. Mooney, and M. Williamson, eds. 2010. Bioinvasions and globalization: Ecology, economics, management and policy. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Uses chapters on the drivers of biological invasions and on the economics of controlling them to set the stage for discussions of how best to manage invasive species. It could thus be a useful resource for policymakers seeking to familiarize themselves with the issue.

  • Richardson, D. M., ed. 2011. Fifty years of invasion ecology: The legacy of Charles Elton. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

    Inspired by a symposium held in 2008 at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, this edited volume aims to sum up the history and current state of invasion ecology. Chapters review patterns, mechanisms, and taxa, with references up to 2009.

  • Simberloff, D., and M. Rejmánek, eds. 2011. Encyclopedia of biological invasions. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    A collection of short treatments of an encyclopedic range of topics in invasion biology, including articles on individual invasive species.

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