50 years of invasion ecology – the legacy of Charles Elton

Listen to a podcast of Professor Dave Richardson presenting the Science Series Seminar, 50 years of invasion ecology – the legacy of Charles Elton. Invasion ecology is the study of the human-mediated introduction of organisms, especially to areas outside the potential range of given organisms as defined by their natural dispersal mechanisms and biogeographical barriers. Early naturalists (Darwin, De Candolle, Hooker, Lyell, etc) made interesting observations on the ecology of alien species. Early 20th century ecologists such as Herbert Baker, Marston Bates, Frank Egler and Carl Huffaker made important contributions to the emerging study of biological invasions. The publication, in 1958, of Charles Elton’s book The ecology of invasions by animals and plants was a milestone in the literature on biological invasions. Other contributions in this symposium discuss whether Elton deserves the mantle of “ father of invasion ecology” and his book accolades such as “the bible of invasion biology”. This presentation explores trajectories and trends in the systematic study of biological invasions over the last 50 years. It discusses key events and the driving forces that are shaping the field, seminal publications, key topics and the main challenges that face invasion ecologists.

Dave Richardson is Deputy Director: Science Strategy at the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (CIB) in South Africa and is professor of ecology in Stellenbosch University’s Department of Botany and Zoology. His research focuses on the ecology of biological invasions, and in particular the dynamics of plant invasions, especially trees. He has worked predominantly on invasive species in southern Africa, but has also published on invasive species in many other parts of the world and on global patterns and trends in biological invasions. Much of his work is directed at providing guidelines for the improved management of invasions, but he is also interested in contributing to a theoretical framework for understanding invasions. He has a long-standing interest in formulating practical solutions for biological invasions in commercial forestry and agroforestry.

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