|Abstract:||Invasive, non-native species of plants, animals, and disease organisms adversely affect the ecosystems they enter. Like "biological wildfires," they can quickly spread, and they affect nearly all terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Invasive species have become the greatest environmental challenge of the 21st century in terms of economic, environmental, and human health costs, with an estimated impact in the U.S. of over $138 billion per year. Managers of Department of the Interior and other public and private lands and waters rank invasive species as their top resource management problem.
The Invasive Species Science Branch of the Fort Collins Science Center (FORT) provides research and technical assistance relating to invasive species management concerns, including understanding how these species are introduced, identifying areas vulnerable to invasion, forecasting invasions, and developing control methods. To disseminate this information, FORT scientists are developing the Invasive Species Information Node of the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII), a comprehensive, Web-accessible database of invasive plant and animal species and disease agents. From these data, and in partnership with Colorado State University, the National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA), and others, FORT scientists are constructing models to understand and predict invasive species behavior for more effective management.
FORT is also the administrative home of the National Institute of Invasive Species Science, a growing consortium of partnerships between government and private organizations established by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and its many cooperators. The Institute was formed to develop cooperative approaches for invasive species science that meet the urgent needs of land managers and the public. Its mission is to work with others to coordinate data and research from many sources to predict and reduce the effects of harmful nonnative plants, animals, and diseases in natural areas and throughout the United States, with a strategic approach to information management, research, modeling, technical assistance, and outreach. The Institute research team will develop local-, regional-, and national- scale maps of invasive species and identify priority invasive species, vulnerable habitats, and pathways of invasion. County-level and point data on occurrence will be linked to plot-level and site-level information on species abundance and spread. FORT scientists and Institute partners are working to integrate remote sensing data and GIS-based predictive models to track the spread of invasive species across the country. This information will be linked to control and restoration efforts to evaluate their cost-effectiveness. Understanding both successes and failures will advance the science of invasive species containment and control as well as restoration of habitats and native biodiversity.