November 8, 2019 at 4:47 pm

Stigall Publishes a Hierarchical Framework for Species Invasions

Dr. Alycia Stigall, portrait

Dr. Alycia Stigall

Not all invasions are equal. Dr. Alycia Stigall proposes a new framework to understand species invasions using the fossil record in a new review, “The Invasion Hierarchy: Ecological and Evolutionary Consequences of Invasion in the Fossil Record” published in the Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics.

Stigall is Professor of Geological Sciences at Ohio University.

Invasive species are common—and a multi-billion dollar problem—in the modern world. However, ecologists and biologists can only study the short-term impacts (days to decades) that invasive species have on ecosystems. Studying ancient invasions preserved in the fossil record provides complementary data to better understand the long-term impacts of invasive species.

Species invasions, in which a species evolves in one area but then subsequently moves and becomes established in a different region within a novel community, are common in both the modern world and the fossil record.

In this paper, Stigall reviews well-studied species invasions in the geologic past—such as the Beringian Land Bridge, the Great American Biotic Interchange, the Late Devonian Mass Extinction, and the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event—and presents a novel hierarchical framework for understanding how different levels of species invasion have different ecological and evolutionary consequences.

From the perspective of the fossil record, some invasions matter greatly. Globally pervasive invasive regimes can contribute to mass extinctions and alter the evolutionary trajectory of life on earth. Other invasions, such as one or a few species, don’t appear to matter at all on ecological and evolutionary scales.

Better understanding and constraining the attributes of different levels of invasion in the geologic past can help scientists better prepare and adapt to the current influx of invaders.

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