Research Topic

Three Decades of Marine Invasion Science - Achievements and Challenges

About this Research Topic

Marine invasion science has been steadily growing in the past three decades, achieving notable advances in both baseline research and technical tools, and eventually resulting in innovative policies.



Inventories of marine non-indigenous species (NIS) have been produced for several countries and regions, hotspots of introduction identified, techniques for identification of NIS improved, impacts of NIS on environment and economy quantified, major vectors of introductions recognized. Integration of disciplines (biogeography, taxonomy, molecular biology, experimental ecology and biology, environmental economy) has been activated and increasing. The progress of science has prompted national and international regulations and agreements, that have addressed the threat posed by NIS in the marine realm and promoted monitoring surveys.



Yet, the problem is far from being comprehensively understood and correctly managed, and trends of new introductions are still increasing. First, the advancement of knowledge on marine bioinvasions is geographically non-homogeneous, thus a global phenomenon is only known from patches of coastal regions. Second, most small-sized taxa (meiofauna, unicellular taxa, microbes and viruses) are very poorly known and studied, and the pattern of their global dispersion is largely ignored. Even many larger-sized taxa are affected by unresolved taxonomic and uncertain origin, and muddle the picture of marine bioinvasions. Impacts of marine invaders on ecosystems and economy are known only from a very tiny subset of all marine NIS, often confounding the understanding and quantification of impacts. As a result, the issue of marine bioinvasions is poorly acknowledged by the civil society and faces negationism, thus suffering delays or impediments in developing effective policies and control strategies.



While we have a still fragmented and incomplete knowledge of what has happened in the past, future scenarios promise new challenges. Global environmental change, novel or strengthened transportation networks, and political instability, are expected to alter rates of invasion. National or regional regulations should aim towards international agreements and homogeneous policies, while implementation of policies has to be supported by the most recent scientific and technological advancements. This process, accompanied by an increased citizen awareness, will be achieved through adequate communication actions as summarized in the following table.



3 decades of invasion science Knowledge gaps Policy indications
Monitoring, taxonomic evidence, Hotspot evidence, Biogeographical interpretation Uneven geographical coverage, taxonomic revisions, molecular tools, especially for small sized taxaFunding of monitoring surveys, strengthening of scientific collaboration
Vector and routes analysisPathways of introductions Spatial analysisBorder surveillance through harbor and navigation rules
Impacts of introduced species Cause–effect relationships, magnitude and quantification Rigorous case histories, generalizationEconomy, Health and Ecosystem regulation
IAwarenessCitizen science, media communicationStakeholder collaboration, outreach and contrast to negationismPublic opinion consciousness leading to consensus on rules
Concurrent trendsClimatic change, navigation routesInterpretation of time scale trends of introductions, ecophysiology and environmental matchingGlobal change international agreements


The aim of this research topic is to synthesize the main achievements obtained so far by marine invasion science, address current gaps and future challenges, and propose trends for policy action.


Keywords: non-indigenous species, policy, management, vectors of introduction, ecological impacts


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.

Marine invasion science has been steadily growing in the past three decades, achieving notable advances in both baseline research and technical tools, and eventually resulting in innovative policies.



Inventories of marine non-indigenous species (NIS) have been produced for several countries and regions, hotspots of introduction identified, techniques for identification of NIS improved, impacts of NIS on environment and economy quantified, major vectors of introductions recognized. Integration of disciplines (biogeography, taxonomy, molecular biology, experimental ecology and biology, environmental economy) has been activated and increasing. The progress of science has prompted national and international regulations and agreements, that have addressed the threat posed by NIS in the marine realm and promoted monitoring surveys.



Yet, the problem is far from being comprehensively understood and correctly managed, and trends of new introductions are still increasing. First, the advancement of knowledge on marine bioinvasions is geographically non-homogeneous, thus a global phenomenon is only known from patches of coastal regions. Second, most small-sized taxa (meiofauna, unicellular taxa, microbes and viruses) are very poorly known and studied, and the pattern of their global dispersion is largely ignored. Even many larger-sized taxa are affected by unresolved taxonomic and uncertain origin, and muddle the picture of marine bioinvasions. Impacts of marine invaders on ecosystems and economy are known only from a very tiny subset of all marine NIS, often confounding the understanding and quantification of impacts. As a result, the issue of marine bioinvasions is poorly acknowledged by the civil society and faces negationism, thus suffering delays or impediments in developing effective policies and control strategies.



While we have a still fragmented and incomplete knowledge of what has happened in the past, future scenarios promise new challenges. Global environmental change, novel or strengthened transportation networks, and political instability, are expected to alter rates of invasion. National or regional regulations should aim towards international agreements and homogeneous policies, while implementation of policies has to be supported by the most recent scientific and technological advancements. This process, accompanied by an increased citizen awareness, will be achieved through adequate communication actions as summarized in the following table.



3 decades of invasion science Knowledge gaps Policy indications
Monitoring, taxonomic evidence, Hotspot evidence, Biogeographical interpretation Uneven geographical coverage, taxonomic revisions, molecular tools, especially for small sized taxaFunding of monitoring surveys, strengthening of scientific collaboration
Vector and routes analysisPathways of introductions Spatial analysisBorder surveillance through harbor and navigation rules
Impacts of introduced species Cause–effect relationships, magnitude and quantification Rigorous case histories, generalizationEconomy, Health and Ecosystem regulation
IAwarenessCitizen science, media communicationStakeholder collaboration, outreach and contrast to negationismPublic opinion consciousness leading to consensus on rules
Concurrent trendsClimatic change, navigation routesInterpretation of time scale trends of introductions, ecophysiology and environmental matchingGlobal change international agreements


The aim of this research topic is to synthesize the main achievements obtained so far by marine invasion science, address current gaps and future challenges, and propose trends for policy action.


Keywords: non-indigenous species, policy, management, vectors of introduction, ecological impacts


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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28 February 2018 Manuscript

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28 February 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

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

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