Legacies, hard boundaries and adaptation to temperature extremes explain the variation of temperature tolerance across the tree of life

Ectothermic organisms rely on their surrounding conditions to maintain temperatures within a range that optimizes essential activities such as running, foraging and reproducing. Beyond this range, their performance or fitness decreases with a particularly fast loss of performance at high temperatures. Therefore, the temperature limits (also known as critical thermal limits) that encapsulate animal performance are expected to be good predictors of cold and warm boundaries delimiting the geographic distributions of species.

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Retooling invasion science to deal with rapid global change
Figure 2. The “bridgehead effect” of the global spread of the harlequin ladybird beetle Harmonia axyridis, based on genetic analyses by Lombaert and colleagues (2010; PLoS ONE 5: e9743). The beetle was introduced intentionally as an insect biocontrol agent in some regions (shown in green). From these bridgehead regions, the beetle was transported inadvertently to other continents. Most of the global spread of this species has originated from non-native populations in Eastern North America.

Retooling invasion science to deal with rapid global change

Invasion science must adapt to meet growing societal demands and biosecurity challenges in the face of rapid global environmental change. This task was addressed at a workshop during the NEOBIOTA conference in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, in September 2018 that was attended by several researchers affiliated with the Centre for Invasion Biology (C∙I∙B).

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Insights into the future distribution of invasive alien plants in the Heuningnes catchment
Invasive Port Jackson (Acacia saligna) growing along a gravel road in Heuningnes catchment (Photo credit: Bhongolethu Mtengwana)

Insights into the future distribution of invasive alien plants in the Heuningnes catchment

A recent study by former C∙I∙B student, Bongolethu Mtengwana, demonstrated the advantage of combining different species distribution models to identify areas that are at risk of future invasions by Invasive Alien Plants (IAPs).

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The lesser of two weevils? How insect thermal traits can help to understand biocontrol success and failure
Neochetina eichhorniae - outstanding in its field. Photo credit: Centre for Biological Control

The lesser of two weevils? How insect thermal traits can help to understand biocontrol success and failure

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a widespread invasive species impacting a range of ecosystem services in South Africa, especially water quality and availability. To better control this aquatic weed, several biocontrol agents have been released – unfortunately with mixed success.

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Invasive plants are more phytochemically diverse than native counterparts
Triffid weed (Chromolaena odorata) - one of the invasive alien plants that pose severe ecological threats in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. (Photo credit: Llewellyn Foxcroft)

Invasive plants are more phytochemically diverse than native counterparts

When comparing three invasive alien plants (IAP) in South Africa to their native counterparts in the United States, a clear increase in phytochemical diversity in the invaded region was found, highlighting the role of secondary metabolites in plant invasions.

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