Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Harmonising the fields of invasion science and forest pathology.

Abstract

Invasive alien species are widely recognised as significant drivers of global environmental change, with far reaching ecological and socio-economic impacts. The trend of continuous increases in first records, with no apparent sign of saturation, is consistent across all taxonomic groups. However, taxonomic biases exist in the extent to which invasion processes have been studied. Invasive forest pathogens have caused, and they continue to result in dramatic damage to natural forests and woody ecosystems, yet their impacts are substantially underrepresented in the invasion science literature. Conversely, most studies of forest pathogens have been undertaken in the absence of a connection to the frameworks developed and used to study biological invasions. We believe this is, in part, a consequence of the mechanistic approach of the discipline of forest pathology; one that has been inherited from the broader discipline of plant pathology. Rather than investigating the origins of, and the processes driving the arrival of invasive microorganisms, the focus of pathologists is generally to investigate specific interactions between hosts and pathogens, with an emphasis on controlling the resulting disease problems. In contrast, central to the field of invasion science, which finds its roots in ecology, is the development and testing of general concepts and frameworks. The lack of knowledge of microbial biodiversity and ecology, speciation and geographic origin present challenges in understanding invasive forest pathogens under existing frameworks, and there is a need to address this shortfall. Advances in molecular technologies such as gene and genome sequencing and metagenomics studies have increased the "visibility" of microorganisms. We consider whether these technologies are being adequately applied to address the gaps between forest pathology and invasion science. We also interrogate the extent to which the two fields stand to gain by becoming more closely linked.