Gauging the extent of ecosystem novelty: measuring levels of biological invasion

The Quantitative & Applied Ecology Group

By Jane Catford (This article was first published in the July 2013 issue of Decision Point, The Monthly Magazine of the Environmental Decisions Group)

It is all very well having an academic definition of novel ecosystems, but how do we identify them in practice?

In reality, ecosystems and communities are always in a state of flux—they are never stable—so there will be constant, continuous changes in species assemblages. Species will flicker in and out, and their relative abundance can be as dynamic as environmental conditions are. In Australia, with its great environmental variability, ecosystems can be very dynamic. Consequently, quantifying ecosystem novelty and determining whether a change in community composition is meaningful or not can be a little tricky.

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