Searching for the Missing Piece of the Invasive Plants Puzzle

by Climate Science Adaptation Centers, USGS
January 11, 2023

Invasive plants, or plants that are introduced and nonnative to an area, can be found in ecosystems across the globe where they have the potential to cause devastating ecological and economic damage. The best way to prevent these effects is to stop invasive plants before they have the chance to take root and spread in an area. However, there is currently a lack of comprehensive knowledge on how many invasive plant species there are in the world and where they have already invaded. This can create barriers for land managers trying to manage and prevent invasive plants from spreading in their region.

Research supported by the Northeast CASC, and recently published in Ecological Applications, has shed light on the knowledge gaps that need to be addressed to effectively manage invasive species. While there are many invasive plants that have been documented by scientists, the research team reviewed 5,893 invasive plant studies going back to 1959 to identify 3,008 reported invasive species and estimated that there could be 1,713 additional species that are yet to be identified.

Recognizing the undercount of invasive species, the research team noted that geographic regions, such as Central and South America and Oceania, were not equally represented in the studies. A comprehensive map of the world’s invasive species should include more field studies in underrepresented countries for a more accurate count of global invasive species numbers.

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Read the Ecological Applications paper: