Biological invasions occur when species spread rapidly outside of their native range. Our work seeks to understand what makes some introduced species invasive, when other introduced species fail to invade.
Some of our work on the demography of invasive and noninvasive species suggests that invasive species have higher projected population growth rates and greater vegetative reproduction than noninvasive species (Burns 2008). Ongoing collaborative work with Tiffany Knight's lab at Washingon University in St. Louis will focus on the mechanisms driving invasiveness in a demographic context. This work has been funded by NSF (DEB 1145274). Our comparison of the demogaphy of invasive and less invasive species in the phylogenetic framework recently came out in the journal Ecology (Burns et al. 2013).
Community assembly and phylogeny.
Understanding the mechanisms influencing community assembly is of increasing importance, as factors such as global climate change, biological invasions, and species range shifts threaten to alter species assemblages. All communities share phylogenetic history amongst the community members, and to the extent that phylogeny reflects ecological traits related to community assembly, we may be able to use phylogenetic information to better understand the assembly process. Some of our recent work, in collaboration with Sharon Strauss at the University of California, Davis, suggests that there is a correlation between phylogeny and ecological similarity (Burns and Strauss 2011) and that phylogenetic signal depends on enviromental context (Burns and Strauss 2012). This work has been funded by NSF (DEB 1120387).