Spatial ecology in a changing world

New article: TEASIng apart alien species risk assessments

Members of the ECOLAND group have participated in a new article in the journal Ecology Letters in which a rigorous, conceptual risk assessment framework to assess risks posed by invasive species has been proposed.

The European Science Foundation (ESF) and the Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR) of the Government of Catalonia jointly funded a workshop on methods and applications of risk assessment analysis in managing biological invasions. The workshop was hosted at the University of Girona during April 2011. The meeting brought together 21 researchers from around the world with expertise in various aspects of invasion ecology and an interest in contributing to the development of a more robust framework for and standard protocols for effective risk assessment.

Much research is focussing on developing risk assessment protocols that identify species that pose a high risk of becoming established, spreading and having negative impacts. Formal risk analysis for invasive species aims to provide systematic and comprehensive methodologies for evaluating risks and uncertainties associated with the introduction/spread of organisms, based on the magnitude of possible adverse consequences and the likelihood of occurrence of these consequences. In many countries, legislation relating to invasive species calls for the implementation of formal risk assessment tools to reduce further invasions.

A sub-group of workshop participants lead by Prof. Brian Leung (McGill University, Montreal, Canada) was tasked with producing a rigorous conceptual risk assessment framework by reviewing more than 300 published risk assessment studies. The paper, published in the journal Ecology Letters, defined risk in relation to each of the major stages in the invasion process: Transport, Establishment, Abundance, Spread, and also with regard to Impact — the “TEASI” framework. TEASI components, subcomponents, dependencies, and relationships among these elements are discussed, and combined mathematically into a quantitative RA structure.

By mapping each risk assessment in the conceptual TEASI framework, the authors illustrate that the qualitative/semi-quantitative scoring methods are special cases of quantitative models. This framework thus provides the skeleton structure and serves as a starting point for advances in risk modelling. Importantly, the aim in promoting such an integrative approach was not to suggest that all elements need to be estimated to yield a useful risk assessment, but rather to identify opportunities for improvement, by explicitly demonstrating how different processes in invasion are linked. Most implementations of risk analysis do not cover all elements of the invasion process and the new framework provides guidance on which elements should be included in risk assessments and how they should be combine

Leung, B., Roura-Pascual, N., Bacher, S., Heikkilä, J., Brotons, L., Burgman, M.A., Dehnen-Schmutz, C. Essl, F., Hulme, P.E., Richardson, D. M., Sol, D. & Vilà, M. (2012) TEASIng apart alien species risk assessments: a framework for best practices. Ecology Letters, in press.

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