Professor Fei-Hai Yu is a global authority on biological invasions, with many publications in impact journals and editor of the prestigious journal ‘Biological Invasions’. Professor at the University of Taizhou (China), he collaborates with the Biocost group of the University of A Coruña.
-Biological invasions are a global problem; in your opinion do we need a global solution also?
-Yes, I do think we need a global solution to prevent biological invasions.
-How basic research can contribute to the management of invasive species?
-To successfully control biological invasions, we need to solve some basic questions, including why some introduced exotic species become invasive while other do not and why some communities are easy to be invaded while other are not. Without such knowledge, it is nearly impossible to efficiently manage invasive species.
-Which is the role that plays clonal reproduction in plant invasions?
-Many invasive plant species are capable of clonal growth and also many of the world’s most invasive species are also clonal plants. For instance, in the list of “100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species” created by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) of IUCN, 36 are plant species. Of these 36 world’s worst invasive alien plant species, about 2/3 are clonal plants. Clonal plants have some special traits associated with clonal growth (i.e. clonal traits) that distinguish them from non-clonal plants. There is clear evidence that clonal traits help exotic clonal plants to become successful invaders.
‘There is clear evidence that clonal traits help to become successful invaders’
-The clonal Alternanthera philoxeroides, your model species, native from Brazil represent an important environmental problem in China. Recently, the presence of this aggressive invader has been reported in Galicia. In your opinion, which is the best way to avoid its expansion?
-The best way to avoid its expansion is to remove it immediately by manual or other measures. Because both root and shoot fragments of this species can easily regenerate and develop into a whole plant, it will be very useful to conduct continuous monitoring after the plants were “removed”. Once some new individuals of Alternanthera philoxeroides come out from the “removed” area, they should also be removed immediately. Also the removed plant materials should be completely destroyed by e.g. fire to avoid their further regeneration. Exotic plants experience several stages before they became a problem. If the measure takes too late, then it will become very hard and also very costly to control it.
-What is your opinion about using biological control as a solution for biological invasions?
-Traditionally, scientists introduce new species into the regions/countries that are invaded to control the invasive species. In my opinion, such a type of biological control is useful if the introduced agents that are used to control invasive species are harmless to native species. But we do need to carefully evaluate the impacts of these introduced agents to make sure that they will not cause problems in future. An alternative way of biological control is to select native species in the invaded regions/countries as an agent to control invasive species, which, of course, is not easy to achieve.
-Which are the projects that your group develop in collaboration with the BioCost group of the UDC?
-We have finished a project in which we tested how clonal traits contribute to the defense of a clonal invasive plant to different herbivores. For this project, a student from the BioCost group of the UDC had been working in China for about half a year. We have discussed to initiate three more projects on invasive clonal plant research. We also would like to act as a bridge for the potential student and staff exchange program between the two universities in future.