Climate key to species invasion by air

Apr 11, 2007
Climate key to species invasion by air
Global air network showing hotspots for invasion of foreign species.

Far-flung regions with similar climates that are suddenly linked by a busy flight route are at an increased risk of an invasion of foreign species, according to scientists at Oxford University.

The new research also identified an ‘invasion window’ across the global air network from June to August when climatic conditions at regions linked by long haul routes are most similar to one another and the higher number of flights increases the chances of exotic species hitching a ride to somewhere new. A report of the study is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

While the spread of invading species once they reach a new area has been extensively studied relatively little work has been done on how such organisms might initially be dispersed and survive. Recently, international air travel has been pinpointed as a significant factor in the movement of economically damaging pest species, with 73% of recorded pest interceptions in the US occurring at airports. For example: the Mediterranean fruit fly has been consistently imported in airline luggage, plant pathogens are often found in air cargo and disease-carrying mosquitoes have survived long haul flights in aircraft cabins.

The Oxford scientists analysed data from over 800 airlines for 12 months (from 1 May 2005 to 30 April 2006) detailing over 3 million flights. They then examined the mean temperature, rainfall and humidity at each region linked by a flight route to see how the global air network provides seasonal links to places with similar climates.

‘When we combined this monthly climate data with information on how busy flight routes were in particular months the results were striking,’ said Dr Andy Tatem of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, who led the work with Dr Simon Hay, ‘the June to August period stood out as the time when the busiest flight routes connect geographically distant but climatically similar locations. This combination potentially increases the overall chances of dispersal and successful invasion of foreign species.’

The research will help airport and government personnel to identify where and when a heightened risk of an invasion of foreign species may occur; enabling them to target their surveillance and control efforts more effectively.

Source: Oxford University

Explore further: Bribery 'hits 1.6 billion people a year'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

What makes the feather soar

Feb 11, 2015

Dinosaurs may have gone extinct some 66 million years ago, but that's hardly the end of their story. One group of their modern-day progeny, the class Avia—namely, birds—is a spectacular evolutionary success ...

Stepping stones to NASA's human missions beyond

Jan 21, 2015

"That's one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind." When Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon, many strides came before to achieve that moment in history. The same is true for a human ...

Recommended for you

Bribery 'hits 1.6 billion people a year'

Feb 27, 2015

A total of 1.6 billion people worldwide – nearly a quarter of the global population – are forced to pay bribes to gain access to everyday public services, according to a new book by academics at the Universities of Birmingham ...

How music listening programmes can be easily fooled

Feb 26, 2015

For well over two decades, researchers have sought to build music listening software that can address the deluge of music growing faster than our Spotify-spoilt appetites. From software that can tell you ...

Nature journal to begin offering double-blind peer review

Feb 23, 2015

Well known and respected journal, Nature, will begin next month offering researchers who submit their work for peer review, the option of having it done via the double-blind method—whereby both submitters and re ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.