Lots of research has been conducted on the ecology and biology of invasive plants. But are we really any closer to understanding why some plant invaders succeed and others don’t?

Scientists from Cornell and Texas Western universities say the fragmented information we’ve been working with makes it tough to predict how invasive plants will perform under various conditions. What we’ve been missing is synthesis – a way to bring everything we know together in order to paint a more complete picture.

To solve the synthesis dilemma, the researchers have developed a new “invasion framework” to help us make sense of all the available empirical data on a plant’s strengths and weaknesses. The framework organizes the information around three factors important to any plant’s success: climate, genetic fitness and the characteristics of the ecosystem where the plant is growing.

Once the information is organized, conceptual models are used to help clarify each plant’s strengths and weaknesses. These new insights can support more sustainable weed management strategies and can help to identify where additional research might be needed.

To find out more about the invasion framework and how it can be used, read the article “Climate Dynamics, Invader Fitness, and Ecosystem Resistance in an Invasion-Factor Framework,” which is available in Volume 10, Issue 3 of the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management.

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