Ecological observations across multiple continents can give us insights into patterns and mechanisms that may allow for broad generalizations in ecology. In the book, Rafe and I discuss how data can come from everywhere and how networks of observers can really push the limits of ecology by using very simple observational protocols across multiple temporal and spatial scales. International networking can also help us to face the many challenges of global change using local information in a global context.
I think one successful example of these broad global approaches has been the Mountain Invasion Research Network (MIREN) (http://www.miren.ethz.ch/). MIREN was founded in 2005 as a group of researchers, including me, interested in basic and applied questions on plant invasion in mountains. Seven years later, MIREN has become an interesting example of international networking in ecology. It includes 11 regions and 38 researchers (see the map). Using simple observational and experimental approaches, MIREN has published several papers in internationally recognized journals (e.g. (Pauchard et al. 2009, Alexander et al. 2011, Seipel et al. 2012)and several book chapters. The network has also informed managers in several countries and has promoted preventive management in mountains globally (McDougall et al. 2011).
Last week, a group of MIRENers met in the Andes of South Central Chile to plan for collaborations in a new phase. The amount of information and literature on invasion biology has grown exponentially in the last ten years, so has the literature on mountain plant invasions. Thus, the scenario for new interesting questions has changed and requires a new scope. We will continue our efforts using observational approaches, specifically using a very simple transect to study native and introduced plant across elevational gradients (see T transect in Seipel et al. 2012). We think by using these transects we can set up a monitoring system to study how species move up and down these gradients and explore the role of climate change on these migrations. We are also adding a new layer of complexity using experimental approaches that nicely complement the survey data. Experiments will clearly target much more specific questions but by doing this at a global scale, we expect to see generalities emerging from this research.
In our book, we highlight the endless possibility of international scientific networking, especially when more developed countries join forces with countries where science is not the main priority. MIREN has proven that this is not a chimera, but a very realistic endeavor. Discussing and learning between scientists across continents and across different school of thoughts is also an important benefit of networking. We hope you get enthusiastic about this and take full advantage of this bright side of a globalized world.
- Alexander, J. M., C. Kueffer, C. C. Daehler, P. J. Edwards, A. Pauchard, T. Seipel, and M. Consortium. 2011. Assembly of nonnative floras along elevational gradients explained by directional ecological filtering. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108:656-661.
- McDougall, K. L., J. M. Alexander, S. Haider, A. Pauchard, N. G. Walsh, and C. Kueffer. 2011. Alien flora of mountains: global comparisons for the development of local preventive measures against plant invasions. Diversity and Distributions 17:103-111.
- Pauchard, A., C. Kueffer, H. Dietz, C. C. Daehler, J. Alexander, P. J. Edwards, J. R. Arevalo, L. A. Cavieres, A. Guisan, S. Haider, G. Jakobs, K. McDougall, C. I. Millar, B. J. Naylor, C. G. Parks, L. J. Rew, and T. Seipel. 2009. Ain’t no mountain high enough: plant invasions reaching new elevations. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7:479-486.
- Seipel, T., C. Kueffer, L. J. Rew, C. C. Daehler, A. Pauchard, B. J. Naylor, J. M. Alexander, P. J. Edwards, C. G. Parks, J. R. Arevalo, L. A. Cavieres, H. Dietz, G. Jakobs, K. McDougall, R. Otto, and N. Walsh. 2012. Processes at multiple scales affect richness and similarity of non-native plant species in mountains around the world. Global Ecology and Biogeography 21:236-246.