New Zealand Journal of Ecology (1997) 21(1): 1- 16

Introduced species: A significant component of human-caused global change

Research Article
Peter M. Vitousek 1
Carla M. D'antonio 2
Lloyd L. Loope 3
Marcel Rejmanek 4
Randy Westbrooks 5
  1. Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
  2. Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
  3. Pacific Islands Ecosystem Research Center, Haleakala National Park Field Station, P.O. Box 369, Makawao, HI 96768, USA
  4. Department of Botany, University California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
  5. Noxious Weed Program, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, P.O. Box 279, Whiteville, NC 28472, USA

Biological invasions are a widespread and significant component of human-caused global environmental change. The extent of invasions of oceanic islands, and their consequences for native biological diversity, have long been recognized. However, invasions of continental regions also are substantial. For example, more than 2,000 species of alien plants are established in the continental United States. These invasions represent a human-caused breakdown of the regional distinctiveness of Earth's flora and fauna—a substantial global change in and of itself. Moreover, there are well- documented examples of invading species that degrade human health and wealth, alter the structure and functioning of otherwise undisturbed ecosystems, and/or threaten native biological diversity. Invasions also interact synergistically with other components of global change. notably land use change. People and institutions working to understand, prevent, and control invasions are carrying out some of the most important—and potentially most effective—work on global environmental change.