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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Translational Invasion Ecology--Bridging Research and Practice to Address One of the Greatest Threats to Biodiversity

Tuesday, July 27, 2021
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Invasive Plant

Effective natural resource management and policy is contingent on information generated by research. Conversely, the applicability of research depends on whether it is responsive to the needs and constraints of resource managers and policy makers. However, many scientific fields including invasion ecology suffer from a disconnect between research and practice. Despite strong socio-political imperatives, evidenced by extensive funding dedicated to addressing invasive species, the pairing of invasion ecology with stakeholder needs to support effective management and policy is lacking.

As a potential solution, a team of NE CASC researchers including Toni Lyn Morelli and Bethany Bradley have published an article in Biological Invasions proposing the concept of Translational Invasion Ecology (TIE). An extension of translational ecology, this framework is designed to increase collaboration among scientists, practitioners, and policy makers in hopes of reducing negative impacts of invasive species. Like translational ecology, TIE is an approach that embodies an intentional and inclusive process in which researchers, stakeholders, and decision makers collaborate to develop and implement ecological research via joint consideration of the ecological, sociological, economic, and/or political contexts in order to improve invasive species management. TIE ideally results in improved outcomes as well as shared benefits between researchers and managers.

In this article, the authors delineate the steps of their proposed TIE approach and describe successful examples of ongoing TIE projects from the US and internationally. They also suggest practical ways to begin incorporating TIE into research and management practices, including supporting boundary-spanning organizations and activities, expanding networks, sharing translational experiences, and measuring outcomes. They conclude that there is a need for strengthened boundary spanning, as well as funding and recognition for advancing translational approaches. As climate change and globalization exacerbate invasive species impacts, TIE provides a promising approach to generate actionable ecological research while improving outcomes of invasive species management and policy decisions.

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