New Resource on Invasive Species

Comprehensive science synthesis about species, impacts, and management

Eastern hemlock, American chestnut, sassafras, redbay, every member of the ash family, and many others are plagued by non-native invasive species.

Invasive species threaten forests and cost billions of dollars every year. Clockwise from top left, Eastern hemlock (Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood); emerald ash borer (Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources); redbay ambrosia beetle (Eickwort); kudzu infestation (Katie Ashdown); and an ash tree (Franz Eugen Köhler).

A new book synthesizes current science on species invading U.S. forests, grasslands, and waterways. The book was published by Springer, and the entire book is available to download. The book covers invasive species of all taxonomic groups from insects and pathogens, to plants, vertebrates, and aquatic organisms.

Over 100 experts wrote the book. USDA Forest Service experts contributed to every chapter and edited the entire book. Other authors represent universities, Native American tribes, federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and many more organizations.

Every year, invasive species cost society an estimated $120 billion. “These costs include lost production and revenue, damage to waterways, harm to human and animal health, lower property values, and the costs associated with managing invasive species,” says Bud Mayfield.

Mayfield is an SRS research entomologist and lead author of a chapter on the Impacts of Invasive Species in Terrestrial and Aquatic Systems in the U.S.

Invasive species can have profound impacts on their neighbors. Invasive species often accelerate carbon cycling. This can have a range of effects, as the chapter on Impacts of Invasive Species in Forest and Grassland Ecosystem Processes in the U.S. explains. This chapter was led by Chelcy Miniat, who is now a program manager with the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS).

Programs like Forest Inventory and Analysis have an important role in slowing the spread of invasive species. FIA systematically samples forests and natural areas across the entire country. Sonja Oswalt, lead author of the chapter on Inventory and Monitoring of Invasive Species, developed a national map of invasive plants in U.S. forests using FIA data. The map was first developed in 2012 and has been refined over the years, in collaboration with research partners.

National monitoring programs can spotlight invasions that are spreading quickly. These programs can also pinpoint areas at risk of invasion.

a map of invasive species across the U.S.
A national map of invasive species, developed with Forest Inventory and Analysis data. USFS image.

However, managing and preventing invasions can be complex – and may involve people changing their behavior. John Schelhas and coauthors examine these issues in the chapter Social and Cultural Dynamics of Non-native Species.

“People form complex relationships with the plants around them,” says Schelhas. “Plants like honeysuckle, kudzu, and other naturalized invasive species are pests at times. But they are also incorporated into foods, crafts, and community events.”

Most invasive species are present in their new homes because of humans. Humans are in constant motion, and many plant and animals species hitchhike along. For example, recent SRS research shows that plant seeds can get stuck on the air intakes of refrigerated shipping containers and survive the journey to a new land.

“Managing invasive species is a complex issue that spans social and ecological systems,” says Schelhas.

The 16 chapters of the book also cover invasive species in streams, lakes, and other aquatic systems; the ways that climate change and other disturbances affect invasive species; approaches for preventing new invasions and slowing the spread of existing invasions; the economics of invasive species; and the tools for monitoring the damage they cause.

Download the book.

For more information, contact Bud Mayfield (albert.e.mayfield@usda.gov), Sonja Oswalt (sonja.n.oswalt@usda.gov), or John Schelhas (john.schelhas@usda.gov).

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