Background Documents: Major Issues
Since their founding over 120 years ago, ARS systematics labs have been involved in research on invasive species. The description, classification, characterization, and identification of new pests were a major issue for agriculture long before the problems wrought by invasives entered the public conscience.
Over the years systematics has been vital to not only preventing the introduction of new invasives through our partnerships with regulatory agencies, but has been vital to the mitigation and control of already introduced pest species.
Today, systematics data is being used not only to identify possible new invaders, but to predict which among the thousands of potential new invaders are the most likely to become established and where they might originate from. Nonetheless, the loss of positions and other resources has resulted in significant gaps in our research programs that leave us vulnerable to a numerous suites of organisms for which ARS no longer has scientific expertise.
As globalization of trade and biosecurity threats increase, systematics will be at the leading edge of our efforts to stop the plague of invasives.