researcher aims to uncover details of plant invasions in tropics
Credit: Biological Invasions (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s10530-022-02968-3

Invasive species of plants have a knack for settling in new settings and making big changes to an ecosystem, even leading to extinctions of native species.

Assistant Research Professor in UConn’s Institute of the Environment Julissa Rojas-Sandoval explains that invasive plants are non-native species that have been introduced into new areas generally as a result of human activities, and that they are actively spreading, causing harm to the environment, the economy, and human health. Invasive plants may have significant long-term implications for the conservation of native biodiversity, but to combat the problem, we need to know which plants are invasive, where they’re from, and how they got there.

Rojas-Sandoval leads an international collaboration including researchers from all Central American countries, working together to compile the most comprehensive databases of invasive plant species in Central America. The collaboration is called FINCA: Flora Introduced and Naturalized in Central America, and their first paper was published this week in Biological Invasions.

The collaboration arose to meet a need, says Rojas-Sandoval. “While we have a good understanding of the processes and mechanisms of plant invasions in temperate regions, there is a huge gap in our knowledge about biological invasions in the tropics, and this lack of information is limiting our ability to respond to invasive plants.”

Remediation and the impact on the conservation of biodiversity is an important focus, but invasive plants also threaten the social and economic impact aspects of the region. Rojas-Sandoval points out that for places like her native Costa Rica, which relies on eco-tourism and agriculture, the impacts of not dealing with the invasive species could be significant.

It has been suggested that the huge diversity of plants in tropical regions may provide resistance to invasions, meaning that these ecosystems could be less threatened by invasive species because of the competition between so many different plants, but Rojas-Sandoval has studied this topic for the last 15 years and says the problem is greater than is widely understood.

“Across the tropics, the acceleration in the rates of introduction of non-native plants, as well as increments in the rates of habitat loss and forest degradation, are transforming tropical forests and making them more susceptible and less resistant to invasions,” she says.

Rojas-Sandoval explains that, as the juncture between North and South America, Central America is a regional hotspot of biodiversity, home to about 7% of the world’s plant and animal species. The region is also very vulnerable to climate change, she says:

“Climate models predict more extreme events for Central America, more and stronger hurricanes, droughts, and other impacts related to climate change. But we don’t know how climate change is already impacting both native and invasive plant species across this region. That information is necessary to be able to start doing something.”

Rojas-Sandoval and co-author Eduardo Chacón-Madrigal from the University of Costa Rica seized the opportunity and decided to start collecting and compiling any available information to make a comprehensive checklist necessary to address the challenges posed by invasive plants.

They also reached out to other researchers from across Central America to see if they would be interested in collaborating and the timing was fortunate, says Rojas-Sandoval.

“Due to COVID, people were stuck at home and, despite the many difficulties, we all had extra time to collaborate revising lists of species and providing crucial information for the project,” she says.

The team gathered data from herbarium collections in Central America and from collections around the world as well as references from existing botanical surveys, lists of alien species, and other literature.

“We compiled all this information into a list and then sent it to the experts in different countries so they could evaluate it. Then we did a second verification process because we wanted to be completely sure that we were dealing with species that were 100% alien to the region and to validate the occurrence and classification performed by the experts.

“We were able to identify that species from all over the world have been introduced to different countries in Central America, and more than 60% of them have been introduced for ornamental purposes. It is good that we can identify those species, so we know where to focus for later studies.”

The team also determined that invasive plants have made their way into all the major habitats in Central America, and the trend is steadily increasing. This information can now be used to generate specific recommendations for the governments or for the local authorities, to use their resources in the best ways possible to have an impact in controlling the invasive species, says Rojas-Sandoval, adding that the best remedy is prevention—alerting people to the issues before the plants even arrive.

For invasive plants that have already been established, it will take education, persistence, and resources to deal with the problem. However, another important aspect of the problem is that developing countries often don’t have the additional resources needed to fully address the situation.

“The local authorities and people in Central America and other regions in the tropics are already dealing with so many issues, including poverty, climate change, pollution, and over-exploitation of natural resources that it is even more important to optimize the use of any resources available to mitigate the impact of invasive species,” she says. “This is more bad news for many people dealing with so many problems, and it is crucial to increase awareness and support for the issue of biological invasions in the tropics.”

“The sooner we start doing something, the better the results will be.”

More information: Julissa Rojas-Sandoval et al, Flora introduced and naturalized in Central America, Biological Invasions (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s10530-022-02968-3

Journal information: Biological Invasions

Provided by University of Connecticut

Citation: Researcher aims to uncover details of plant invasions in tropics (2022, December 8) retrieved 8 December 2022 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.


TikTok EU ban on the table if social network doesn’t comply with new laws

TikTok is one of the most popular social networks out there. But TikTok is also a cause of concern for western governments that worry about the company’s ties to the Chinese government. TikTok can’t run on most devices the US government issues, and there has been talk of a ...

View more: TikTok EU ban on the table if social network doesn’t comply with new laws

Don’t Buy a Foldable Until Samsung Brings This Prototype to Life

Samsung Display via The Verge The world of foldable phones is surprisingly stagnant. The Galaxy Z Fold gets a tiny little upgrade every year, and rival phone brands loosely copy Samsung’s homework. But a new Samsung Display prototype called the “Flex In & Out” could turn this narrative on ...

View more: Don’t Buy a Foldable Until Samsung Brings This Prototype to Life

Best free sports streaming apps in 2023

Cutting the cord on cable television is something tons of people have done over the past five years. But that hasn’t proven to be the smartest way to continue to watch sports. Whether it comes from premium sports website subscriptions to keep tabs on your favorite players, or even fantasy ...

View more: Best free sports streaming apps in 2023

Avengers 5 might have Ant-Man in it, Quantumania star teases

The first MCU Phase 5 movie will be Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the third installment in the Ant-Man franchise and a film with much higher stakes than the previous episodes. The sequel will deliver the MCU’s first Kang (Jonathan Majors) villain after we met a somewhat good He Who ...

View more: Avengers 5 might have Ant-Man in it, Quantumania star teases

Sharing a Netflix Account? Get Ready to Pay For It

DANIEL CONSTANTE/ Netflix is about to get serious in its efforts to eliminate freeloaders. If you share a Netflix account with family or friends outside your household, get ready to pay for it. A new “paid sharing” system could roll out starting next month, and you’ll have to pay a ...

View more: Sharing a Netflix Account? Get Ready to Pay For It

‘7 Wonders’ Board Game Gets a New ‘Edifice’ Expansion

Asmodee and Repos Production Board game lovers have a wonderful reason to celebrate today. Board game makers Asmodee and Repos Production announced their latest collaboration: 7 Wonders Edifice, an expansion to the popular board game 7 Wonders. The game launches on February 24th for $29.99. 7 Wonders: Edifice adds ...

View more: ‘7 Wonders’ Board Game Gets a New ‘Edifice’ Expansion

T-Mobile Kicks Off 2023 With Another Data Breach

r.classen / In a press release, T-Mobile confirms that it detected a data breach in its systems on January 5th. A “bad actor” managed to steal personal information (but not financial data) from around 37 million customers. This is the eighth T-Mobile data breach since 2018. The hacker ...

View more: T-Mobile Kicks Off 2023 With Another Data Breach

Apple appeals to UK competition watchdog investigation about mobile browser dominance

Apple has filed an appeal against the UK’s competition watchdog regarding its dominance of mobile browsers in the cloud gaming market, reports Reuters. The Competition and Markets Authority started investigating this dominance by the Cupertino firm and Google. Lawyers representing Apple believe the investigation should be reviewed as CMA ...

View more: Apple appeals to UK competition watchdog investigation about mobile browser dominance

Galaxy S23 Ultra release date and specs leak finally reveals everything about the new model

WhatsApp for iOS rolling out the ability to create a chat with yourself

Amazon Prime Music Unlimited changes streaming prices, now matches Apple Music

Deadpool 3 and Secret Wars to feature Fox’s X-Men, according to Marvel insider

Report: OLED iPad Pro still on track for 2024 release, 2026 for MacBook Pro

How to negotiate over practically anything

HomePod 2 praised in exclusive hands-on before launch

M2 Pro MacBook Pro Amazon preorder deal gives you $50 off

What “choice” means for millions of women post-Roe

Singapore FinTech firm Pilon secures $5.2M seed funding led by Wavemaker Partners

Capital Square Partners and Basil Technology team up for $700M tech fund in Asia

This feel-good movie about man’s best friend is dominating Netflix


Top Car News Car News