Want to Reduce Invasive Species? Manage them Like Networks

Researchers find a network approach to managing invasives can be a useful tool in large ecosystems and when data is limited.

Nichole Angell, a graduate research assistant from the University of Minnesota, evaluates a watercraft inspector completing a boat inspection.

Image Credit: John Gerritsen

August 15, 2022 Kimbra Cutlip

When non-native plants and animals find a foothold in new territories where they don’t naturally live, they can cause severe economic and ecological damage. Known as invasive species, they’re difficult to control, and pose major challenges everywhere around the world. Now, a new study suggests that looking at invasions spreading across landscapes as networked systems—with patches or regions of habitat as nodes connected by pathways for invasions to spread—could improve management strategies in large, complex ecosystems and in cases where data is limited.

“We were surprised when our research showed that network methods performed as well as they did, and that they held up well even with limited information,” said Rebecca Epanchin-Niell, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UMD. “We showed that a network approach could provide really useful tools for managing invasive species.”

Epanchin-Niell and a team of collaborators from around the country published a research paper on their findings in the journal Nature Sustainability on July 14, 2022.

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