Niche dynamics during invasion
Species’ climatic niches are often used to estimate species potential geographic distributions, yet forecasts frequently cannot accurately predict the occurrence of invasive species. To learn what underlies such mismatches between predicted and actual invasive species’ distributions, we study what mechanisms and processes influence niche changes between species’ native and invasive ranges.
While most research so far has focused on quantifying species niches using correlative niche models that rely on species contemporary geographical distributions, our research goes a step further and uses ecophysiological, morphological and behavioral information to quantify species’ fundamental thermal niches.
By leveraging ecophysiological rules and scaling functions coupled with direct empirical measurements of species’ metabolism, we identify which climates are fundamentally tolerable by species, and which functional traits allow species to invade climates that differ from the ones they experience across the native range.
INVASION RISK ASSESSMENTS
Biological invasions rank among the top threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, and changes in climate and land use may further compound invasions risks. We therefore study how global trade networks influence the set of species that get introduced to regions, how climate, habitat and land-use act as filter for invasion success, and which species that are most likely to emerge as high-impact invaders.
We integrate different distribution modeling and machine learning techniques to estimate habitat suitability, and combine this with information on landscape connectivity and species’ dispersal behavior to inform population dynamics models testing different scenarios of invasion success and spread.
We apply this knowledge to aid conservation planning, for example in the TrIAS project where we devised a data-driven open-science framework for predicting the combined effects of climate and land-use changes on species’ invasion risk across Belgium.