The Epidemiological Framework for Biological Invasions (EFBI): an interdisciplinary foundation for the assessment of biosecurity threats

Philip E. Hulme, Richard Baker, Robert Freckleton, Rosemary S. Hails, Matt Hartley, John Harwood, Glenn Marion, Graham C. Smith, Mark Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emerging microparasite (e.g. viruses, bacteria, protozoa and fungi) epidemics and the introduction of non-native pests and weeds are major biosecurity threats worldwide. The likelihood of these threats is often estimated from probabilities of their entry, establishment, spread and ease of prevention. If ecosystems are considered equivalent to hosts, then compartment disease models should provide a useful framework for understanding the processes that underpin non-native species invasions. To enable greater cross-fertilisation between these two disciplines, the Epidemiological Framework for Biological Invasions (EFBI) is developed that classifies ecosystems in relation to their invasion status: Susceptible, Exposed, Infectious and Resistant. These states are linked by transitions relating to transmission, latency and recovery. This viewpoint differs markedly from the species-centric approaches often applied to non-native species. It allows generalisations from epidemiology, such as the force of infection, the basic reproductive ratio R0, super-spreaders, herd immunity, cordon sanitaire and ring vaccination, to be discussed in the novel context of non-native species and helps identify important gaps in the study of biological invasions. The EFBI approach highlights several limitations inherent in current approaches to the study of biological invasions including: (i) the variance in non-native abundance across ecosystems is rarely reported; (ii) field data rarely (if ever) distinguish source from sink ecosystems; (iii) estimates of the susceptibility of ecosystems to invasion seldom account for differences in exposure to non-native species; and (iv) assessments of ecosystem susceptibility often confuse the processes that underpin patterns of spread within -and between- ecosystems. Using the invasion of lakes as a model, the EFBI approach is shown to present a new biosecurity perspective that takes account of ecosystem status and complements demographic models to deliver clearer insights into the dynamics of biological invasions at the landscape scale. It will help to identify whether management of the susceptibility of ecosystems, of the number of vectors, or of the diversity of pathways (for movement between ecosystems) is the best way of limiting or reversing the population growth of a non-native species. The framework can be adapted to incorporate increasing levels of complexity and realism and to provide insights into how to monitor, map and manage biological invasions more effectively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-192
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2020


  • Alien
  • Climate change
  • COVID-19
  • Eradication
  • Exotic
  • Metapopulation
  • SEIR
  • State-andtransition models
  • Vectors


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