Biological Invasions Program

Biological invasions —the introduction and spread of exotic organisms in regions outside of their native range—has emerged as a major environmental, economic and public health problem tied to the rapid, ongoing expansion in international trade and travel. Recent studies have found that exotic organisms constitute the second greatest threat to biological diversity, ranking below habitat loss and degradation but far above pollution and over harvesting. SFEI's Biological Invasions program conducts scientific and policy research and provides information and analyses on the introduction of exotic organisms into marine and freshwater ecosystems.

Program Objectives

  • To assess the extent and impacts of invasions.
  • To identify and characterize the mechanisms that transport and release exotic species.
  • To investigate and report on the scientific and policy aspects of reducing the transport and release of exotic species.
  • To understand how species characteristics and environmental factors affect the success of invasions

Program History

The Biological Invasions Research program started at SFEI in 1997, building upon several years of prior research by Program Director Andrew Cohen on invasions in the San Francisco Estuary. The research has since expanded to include research at numerous sites in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Findings from this research have been published in leading scientific journals and in the Congressional Record, have influenced the shape of federal legislation and of state legislation in California, Washington and Oregon, and have frequently been covered or cited by the major national news media in print, radio and television.

In 2009, Dr. Cohen established the Center for Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions (CRAB), an independent research institute. SFEI and CRAB continue to collaborate on bioinvasion investigation, monitoring, and data management.

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