Climate key to species invasion by air

April 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: Predators learn to identify prey from other species

Related Stories

Predators learn to identify prey from other species

March 21, 2018

Wolves purportedly raised Romulus and Remus, who went on to rule Rome. Is there good scientific evidence for learning across species? Researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama wanted to know ...

Bird senses can improve drone navigation

February 8, 2018

South American oilbirds combine echolocation and extremely sensitive vision to find their way through dark caves. Decoding how they do this could help develop autonomous drones.

Five things to know about Elon Musk's space projects

February 6, 2018

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk on Tuesday plans to send his own Tesla roadster into space aboard the world's most powerful rocket in operation, the Falcon Heavy—to the tune of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."

Recommended for you

New ancestor of modern sea turtles found in Alabama

April 18, 2018

A sea turtle discovered in Alabama is a new species from the Late Cretaceous epoch, according to a study published April 18, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Drew Gentry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, ...

New study improves 'crowd wisdom' estimates

April 18, 2018

In 1907, a statistician named Francis Galton recorded the entries from a weight-judging competition as people guessed the weight of an ox. Galton analyzed hundreds of estimates and found that while individual guesses varied ...

Team discovers mysterious head of a pharaoh

April 17, 2018

Swansea University Egyptology lecturer Dr Ken Griffin has found a depiction of one of the most famous pharaoh's in history Hatshepsut (one of only a handful of female pharaohs) on an object in the Egypt Centre stores, which ...

0 comments

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.