BBIB talk: Mediterranean bioinvasions: A magnificent natural experiment for ecological research
Invasive species are rearranging the geography of the earth’s biota and have become a major player in the current biodiversity crisis. The increasing pressure they pose on natural environments motivates the urgency of novel solutions to both monitor and manage this phenomenon, opening new fields for bio-invasion science. Moreover, whilst provoking huge damages to the natural balance, these species provide unique occasions to understand basic ecological patterns and to investigate behavioural, physiological and evolutionary responses at different scales of space and time. Here, using fish invasion of the Mediterranean we will illustrate a few cases of study, which span from theoretical ecology to practical monitoring and management. Charles Darwin was the first to use biological invaders as natural experiments and gave us the stimulus to investigate why some introduced organisms become invasive and why others do not. Species ‘out of place’ are also a precious opportunity to test for climatic niche conservatism, to investigate population dynamics and competitive interactions, but our capacity to track these species on the large spatial scale can be extremely narrow, especially in the marine environment. Due to the colossal efforts needed to survey marine habitats, the impacts and the distribution of these new guests are often under-appreciated, being easily confounded by our varying capability to perceive it. This deep, sometimes inextricable, connection between the nature of a process and its observation represents a critical issue for research but new possibilities are arising from participatory approaches. The undisclosed potential of sea-users, such as fishermen and divers, is presented as a concrete tool to face the challenge of a rapidly changing marine biota at the dawn of the Anthropocene era.
Link to the IGB colloquium