Limiting invasive species may be a better goal than eliminating them, new research suggests

by Katie Willis, University of Alberta

U of A biologist Stephanie Green captures a lionfish for her research on invasive species. Green led a new study suggesting that managing invasive species in specific areas may be more practical and effective than trying to eliminate them altogether. Courtesy of Stephanie Green and the University of Alberta.

Managing invasive species—not eliminating them altogether—is a better use of time and conservation resources in many cases, according to a study led by a University of Alberta biologist.

Every year, hundreds of introduced species cause billions of dollars in damage to ecosystems, agriculture and infrastructure in North America alone. The research, led by Stephanie Green, makes a case for working smarter, not harder, to temper the impact of destructive and widespread invasive species using a strategy called functional eradication.

“Rather than trying to completely eliminate invasive species that have spread over large areas, which is very challenging, functional eradication aims to limit their abundances below levels that damage the ecosystem in priority locations. Resources that might otherwise be wasted on attempting complete eradication can be spread to other areas, protecting more places from impacts,” explained Green, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Global Change Ecology and Conservation.

Green partnered with Edwin Grosholz, an ecologist in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis, to survey 232 natural resource managers and invasive species specialists in Canada and the United States.

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Read the Ecology paper: