Parker, Ingrid M. Department of Biology, Earth and Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, California.
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The study of the establishment, spread, and ecological impact of species translocated from one region or continent to another outside their normal range, particularly when the translocation is the result of human activity (intentional or otherwise). When organisms establish new, enduring populations in areas outside their native ranges, they are called invasive species (also called nonindigenous, exotic, alien, or nonnative species). Because invasive species often disrupt the sensitive interactions within the ecology of preexisting communities, they can pose a significant threat to the integrity and maintenance of ecosystems (Fig. 1). In particular, the invasion of nonindigenous species is a serious concern for those charged with managing and protecting natural as well as managed ecosystems. Therefore, the study of biological invasions, termed invasion ecology, has gained much attention as a basic research tool, investigating the ecology and evolution of populations and of novel biotic interactions. It also encompasses conservation and is tied to the preservation of biodiversity. For example, invasive species negatively affect more than 40% of all endangered species. Invasion ecology must therefore be understood properly to prevent the elimination of native species whose populations are threatened. See also: Biodiversity; Biogeography; Conservation (species); Ecological communities; Ecology; Ecosystem; Endangered species; Invasive species and their effects on native species; Population ecology
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