The worldwide airline network and the dispersal of exotic species: 2007-2010.
Investigators: Andrew Tatem
Published in: Ecography 32 (1): 94-102. (PDF version)
Funding acknowledgement: Royal Geographical Society
Abstract: International air travel has played a significant role in driving recent increases in the rates of biological invasion and spread of infectious diseases. By providing high speed, busy transport links between spatially distant, but climatically similar regions of the world, the worldwide airline network (WAN) increases the risks of deliberate or accidental movements and establishment of climatically sensitive exotic organisms. With traffic levels continuing to rise and climates changing regionally, these risks will vary, both seasonally and year-by-year.Here, detailed estimates of air traffic trends and climate changes for the period 2007-2010 are used to examine the likely directions and magnitudes of changes in climatically sensitive organism invasion risk across the WAN.
Analysis of over 144 million flights from 2007-2010 shows that by 2010, the WAN is likely to change little overall in terms of connecting regions with similar climates, but anticipated increases in traffic and local variations in climatic changes should increase the risks of exotic species movement on the WAN and establishment in new areas. These overall shifts mask spatially and temporally heterogenous changes across the WAN, where, for example, traffic increases and climatic convergence by July 2010 between parts of China and northern Europe and North America raise the likelihood of exotic species invasions, whereas anticipated climatic shifts may actually reduce invasion risks into much of eastern Europe.