Research Topic

Non-Native Species and Biodiversity Change in River Ecosystems: A Historical Perspective

About this Research Topic

Currently, the spread of non-native species affects riverine landscapes at an unprecedented pace. Invasive fish or benthic invertebrates have started to dominate communities in several river systems. Direct and indirect human interventions such as stocking, shipping canals and global trade are major drivers of the introduction, establishment and spread of non-native species. While non-native species expand currently at exceptional speed, this phenomenon is not new. In fact, aquatic biodiversity has been modified by new species for centuries. But with few exceptions, little is known about the long-term change of aquatic communities due to non-native species.

The objective of this Research Topic is to compile and advance knowledge on the long-term alteration of river biodiversity by non-native species. Contributions can cover all animal and plant groups and relate to rivers, including all components (e.g. backwaters), transition zones to terrestrial ecosystems (floodplains) and estuaries. Contributions may focus on a range of timescales and go back centuries or only a few decades, but preferably include the period before the onset of the Great Acceleration in the 1950s. Due to such a long-term historical perspective, species for which appropriate data exist (written sources, herbaria, archaeological remains, indigenous knowledge, etc.) will be in the foreground. We envisage a focus on the effects of non-native species on entire communities and biodiversity at the ecosystem level. Papers can also deal with methodological aspects. A main target of the Research Topic is to gather contributions from different disciplines, i.e. from ecology as well as from the social sciences and the humanities, especially when it comes e.g. to the causes of non-native species spread or to guiding concepts of conservation and biodiversity research.

Topics of contributions can include, for instance:

• Background and causes of “introductions”, e.g. purposeful or unintended; major societal and/or ecological targets of purposeful introductions (e.g. nutrition, display of power, biomanipulation); major pathways of unintended spread of non-native species against the background of human interventions into river systems (e.g. shipping, shipping canals, forest management, wood production, trading); effects of historical climate change might be also considered as driver of unintended species spread and as a factor influencing the change of aquatic species assemblages.
• Case studies of the (successful or unsuccessful) establishment of non-native species and their effects on aquatic communities and the role of human modifications of rivers and floodplains.
• Dissimilarity and homogenization of species assemblages due to the large scale (and even global) spread of non-native species.
• Studies with biogeographical context, for example, related to the last glaciation as a rigorous long-term “disturbance” in Europe and North America, including e.g. the vacant/empty niche concept.
• The specificity of rivers in comparison with lakes or terrestrial ecosystems.
• Native and non-native species as a societal concept; origins and backgrounds of the concept; definitions and their changes; implementation in law, politics, river ecology and river management.

This Research Topic is complementary to the Research Topic “Understanding the Impact and Invasion Success of Aquatic Non-native Species: How they Interact with Novel Environments and Native Biota”, which explores, in particular, the present effects of invasive species and methods to identify invasion success.


Keywords: rivers, historical biodiversity, long-term biodiversity change, non-native species


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Currently, the spread of non-native species affects riverine landscapes at an unprecedented pace. Invasive fish or benthic invertebrates have started to dominate communities in several river systems. Direct and indirect human interventions such as stocking, shipping canals and global trade are major drivers of the introduction, establishment and spread of non-native species. While non-native species expand currently at exceptional speed, this phenomenon is not new. In fact, aquatic biodiversity has been modified by new species for centuries. But with few exceptions, little is known about the long-term change of aquatic communities due to non-native species.

The objective of this Research Topic is to compile and advance knowledge on the long-term alteration of river biodiversity by non-native species. Contributions can cover all animal and plant groups and relate to rivers, including all components (e.g. backwaters), transition zones to terrestrial ecosystems (floodplains) and estuaries. Contributions may focus on a range of timescales and go back centuries or only a few decades, but preferably include the period before the onset of the Great Acceleration in the 1950s. Due to such a long-term historical perspective, species for which appropriate data exist (written sources, herbaria, archaeological remains, indigenous knowledge, etc.) will be in the foreground. We envisage a focus on the effects of non-native species on entire communities and biodiversity at the ecosystem level. Papers can also deal with methodological aspects. A main target of the Research Topic is to gather contributions from different disciplines, i.e. from ecology as well as from the social sciences and the humanities, especially when it comes e.g. to the causes of non-native species spread or to guiding concepts of conservation and biodiversity research.

Topics of contributions can include, for instance:

• Background and causes of “introductions”, e.g. purposeful or unintended; major societal and/or ecological targets of purposeful introductions (e.g. nutrition, display of power, biomanipulation); major pathways of unintended spread of non-native species against the background of human interventions into river systems (e.g. shipping, shipping canals, forest management, wood production, trading); effects of historical climate change might be also considered as driver of unintended species spread and as a factor influencing the change of aquatic species assemblages.
• Case studies of the (successful or unsuccessful) establishment of non-native species and their effects on aquatic communities and the role of human modifications of rivers and floodplains.
• Dissimilarity and homogenization of species assemblages due to the large scale (and even global) spread of non-native species.
• Studies with biogeographical context, for example, related to the last glaciation as a rigorous long-term “disturbance” in Europe and North America, including e.g. the vacant/empty niche concept.
• The specificity of rivers in comparison with lakes or terrestrial ecosystems.
• Native and non-native species as a societal concept; origins and backgrounds of the concept; definitions and their changes; implementation in law, politics, river ecology and river management.

This Research Topic is complementary to the Research Topic “Understanding the Impact and Invasion Success of Aquatic Non-native Species: How they Interact with Novel Environments and Native Biota”, which explores, in particular, the present effects of invasive species and methods to identify invasion success.


Keywords: rivers, historical biodiversity, long-term biodiversity change, non-native species


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 September 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 September 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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