Aliens on the move: transportation networks and non-native species

Fernando Ascensão, César Capinha

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Biological invasions are a major component of global environmental change, threatening biodiversity and human well-being. These invasions have their origin in the human-mediated transportation of species beyond natural distribution ranges, a process that has increased by orders of magnitude in recent decades as a result of accelerating rates of international trade, travel, and transport. In this chapter, we address the role that overland transportation corridors, particularly railways, have in the transport of non-native species. We focus specifically on the role of rail vehicles in dispersing stowaway species, i.e. species that are moved inadvertently and that are not specific to the commodities being transported; we also focus on the natural dispersal and establishment of non-native species along railway edges. We place these processes in the context of biological invasions as a global phenomenon and provide examples from the literature. We also list general management recommendations for biological invasions highlighting the particularities associated with their management in railway transport systems. Following previous studies, we briefly outline four possible management approaches: (1) "Do nothing;" (2) "Manage propagule supply;" (3) "Manage railway environments;" and (4) "Act over the invasive populations directly". These approaches are not mutually exclusive, and they range from an expectation that natural processes (e.g. ecological succession) will drive the invaders out of the ecosystems, to the application of measures to extirpate the invaders directly (e.g. manual removal). We highlight that best practices for the management of invaders in railway-related systems may be difficult to generalize and that they may have to be considered on a case-by-case basis. We end by stressing that research on railways in the context of biological invasions remains scarce, and that fundamental knowledge for understanding the relative importance of this transport system in the dispersal of species and on how this process should be dealt with remains largely lacking.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRailway Ecology
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Pagesp. 65-80
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783319574967
ISBN (Print)9783319574950
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2017


  • Biological invasions
  • Invasibility
  • Stowaway species
  • Verges


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