The spread of invasive species and infectious disease as drivers of ecosystem change



Invasive species, disease vectors, and pathogens affect biodiversity, ecosystem function and services, and human health. Climate change, land use, and transport vectors interact in complex ways to determine the spread of native and non-native invasive species, pathogens, and their effects on ecosystem dynamics. Early detection and in-depth understanding of invasive species and infectious diseases will require an integrated network of research platforms and information exchange to identify hotspots of invasion or disease emergence. Partnerships with state and federal agencies that monitor the spread and impacts of invasive species and pathogens will be critical in developing a national data and research network that can facilitate a full understanding of the resulting effects on ecosystems and society. Citizen science can also play a role; individuals can report new invasions, record phenological changes associated with invasions or disease outbreaks, and can participate in efforts such as the Breeding Bird Survey, which may reveal long-term biotic change following species invasions and disease spread. The ecological and societal impacts of invasive species and pathogens differ across gradients of climate and land use, and in the presence of global climate change may exacerbate both their propagation and impacts. Understanding the interactions of invasive species, disease vectors, and pathogens with other drivers of ecosystem change is critical to human health and economic well-being.