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Think Outside the Box: Predicting the Spread of Invasive Species

This article is from Issue Ecosystem Services - Vol. 12 No. 1.

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Globalization causes many things to happen. For the scientists in this study, globalization has increased the spread of invasive species. If scientists can predict the spread of invasive species, the spread may be slowed or stopped. The question the scientists in this study wanted to answer is: How can scientists better predict the spread of invasive species?

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"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
Sometimes scientists examine existing data in a new way to figure out a problem or understand what should be done next. They might also look at the way other scientists have done research in the past to see if trying a new way might provide more useful information. One way scientists do these things is to read, discuss, and observe what has already been done. In this study, scientists wanted to better understand and predict the spread of invasive species. Invasive species are usually nonnative species that change the environment, the economy, or human health. To make better predictions about where invasive species will spread, the scientists looked at how scientists currently predict the spread of invasive species. After the scientists studied how predictions are currently made, they made suggestions for improving the method. Making more accurate predictions about the future will help scientists better understand the environment, manage ecosystems and the economy, and protect human health. No matter what they are studying, scientists always look for better ways to do their research.
"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
The scientists in this study were concerned with the spread of invasive species and their impact on the natural environment. To understand the spread of invasive species, the scientists needed to study the problem at many different levels in the natural environment. In science, we call the different levels scales. Studying invasive species in a local community would be an example of a small scale study. In a small scale study, scientists study the habitat immediately surrounding the plant or animal. Studying invasive species by State, region, or the whole world would be a much larger scale study. As the scale of a study gets larger, less detail is examined. Environmental scientists sometimes focus on the larger scale to examine how large areas containing plants and animals interact with the land. Think of something you have studied in school that could be examined at several different scales.