Integrating species interactions into risk assessment

Quentin J Groom, Tim Adriaens, Sonia Vanderhoeven

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper/Powerpoint/Abstract


Predicting how the introduction of a new species might impact native ecosystems is extremely difficult. Bioclimatic niche modelling is widely used to predict future distributions of invasive species based on climate suitability. These models are used to evaluate establishment potential but they tell us very little about the impact the species will have on the biodiversity locally. The difficulty of predicting impact is the result of the myriad of potential interactions an organism might have in its new environment and the potential for secondary effects as the network of ecological interactions is perturbed. As a result of the innate complexity, impact assessments are performed by experts who base their evaluations on the best available evidence, inference from similar species or other. Still, even the most experienced impact assessor finds it difficult to imagine all the potential impacts of a species, particularly when the incoming species might be unfamiliar and the knowledge of potential interactions is diffused within the corpus of biodiversity literature. In order to grasp this complexity, data on the known interactions of native and introduced species can support impact assessors. We have created an open source, open data workflow that takes interaction data for a species from the GloBI database of biotic interactions and combines it with distribution and occupancy data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to create a species interaction network for any species in any country. The visualized interaction network can be used to trigger the knowledge of impact assessors and to point them to potential secondary impacts of invasions. These networks are only as good as the available data, which is poor for some species and locations, however, a secondary function of generating these interactions is to highlight knowledge gaps.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 15-Sep-2020

Thematic List 2020

  • Invasive species
  • Data & infrastructure

EWI Biomedical sciences

  • B003-ecology

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