The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Global perspectives help scientists to understand why and how invasive species move around the world

Published: 6 September 2017
Delegates at NOCS
Delegates at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Scientific links between the UK and China have been strengthened at the University of Southampton during an international workshop supported by the Newton Fund Researcher Links programme of the British Council and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. Researchers at this three-day event at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton examined the global threat of invasive species and discussed ways to detect and prevent them.

Delegates presented evidence on how ships crossing the oceans may inadvertently be carrying many species a long way from their natural habitats. Transported to distant environments, these animals and plants can replace native species in their new surroundings. As most of the world’s major ports are currently in China, this workshop was a timely event to bring together Chinese and UK scientists at the forefront of invasion science research to share their knowledge and discuss future directions for research.

This workshop involved 30 researchers based in the UK and China who are all studying non-indigenous species in their new homes. Research highlighted included many topics such as for example the discovery of hybrid fish in east Africa, new developments in environmental DNA analysis to detect invasive species, the growth of agricultural pests in China or the use of satellite imaging to monitor how non-indigenous species expand.

Dr Marc Rius, Lecturer within Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton, organised the workshop with Professor Aibin Zhan from the Key Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Marc says: “We need global perspectives to tackle this global problem. Scientists in the UK and China are currently addressing these issues in different ways and it has been very valuable to interact and learn from each other.”

Many of the researchers are employing new genomic techniques to sequence the entire DNA content of invasive species to find out more about them, where they originally came from and which pathways they have followed to reach their new locations. Climate change is also playing a part as many of the newcomers may more easily adapt to changing conditions, including extreme temperatures.

Learning more about invasive species and how they move around the world is an increasingly important area of research and we hope this will be the first of many such gatherings” adds Marc.

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