An Assessment of Invasive Species Range Shifts in the Southeastern U.S. and Actions to Manage Them

Examples of invasive species Scheffers may model include the gold tegu, feral hog and Burmese python (photos courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission).


Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center

Award Dates

January 2021 –  December 2022


Project Lead: Brett Scheffers (University of Florida)

Project Participants: Wesley M Daniel, Deborah M Epperson (USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center); Beth Stys, Brittany Bankovich, Sarah Funck (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission); Rua Mordecai, Cindy Williams (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Goals and Objectives

Species are on the move as they respond to climate change. This includes many native species, but also species with high costs to society such as disease vectors, pests, and nonnative invasive species (an invasive species is a species that is not native to a specific location but is spreading with the tendency of causing damage to native plants and animals). Currently there are hundreds of invasive species with relatively restricted ranges in the southeastern U.S., but as the climate changes these species are expected to expand their ranges to new regions. It is important to understand if and how these species might move and what actions we can take to lessen their impact on species and habitats. To achieve this goal, the project researchers will use statistical models to predict the spread of invasive species under different scenarios of future climate change severity to understand where they will spread, how they will get there, and when they are expected to arrive. Working with scientists, managers, and wildlife biologists, the team will also consider how management strategies can be used to stop or slow the spread of invasive species.

Detecting invasive species early on and responding quickly to manage their established populations are essential to minimizing their impact. This research is a critical first step to ensure that these responses are informed and based on the best available science so that managers can continue to protect and conserve valuable natural areas for people and wildlife.

Anticipated Project Outputs

Project researchers will work with managers to generate the following outputs: 1) expert-elicited list of priority invasive species and ecological traits important for informing models of invasion dynamics, 2) habitat suitability maps and connectivity maps that inform intervention points and strategic actions for single- and multi-species management, such as when and where to focus resources, and 3) data-driven management recommendations to mitigate the spread of invasive species based on management scenarios.