Invasive non-native species are now considered to be one of the greatest threats to biodiversity worldwide. Therefore, efficient and cost-effective management of species invasions requires robust knowledge of their demography, ecology and impacts, and genetic-based techniques are becoming more widely adopted in acquiring such knowledge. We focus on the use of genetic tools in the applied management of mammalian invasions globally, as well as on their inherent advantages and disadvantages. We cover tools that are used in: 1) detecting and monitoring mammalian invaders; 2) identifying origins and invasive pathways; 3) assessing and quantifying the negative impacts of invaders; and 4) population management and potential eradication of invasive mammals. We highlight changes in sequencing technologies, including how the use of techniques such as Sanger sequencing and microsatellite genotyping, for monitoring and tracing invasive pathways respectively, are now giving way to the use of high-throughput sequencing methods. These include the emergence of environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding for the early detection of invasive mammals, and single nucleotide polymorphisms or whole genomes to trace the sources of invasive populations. We are now moving towards trials of genome-editing techniques and gene drives to control or eradicate invasive rodents. Genetic tools can provide vital information that may not be accessible with non-genetic methods, for the implementation of conservation policies (e.g. early detection using systematic eDNA surveillance, the identification of novel pathogens). However, the lack of clear communication of novel genetic methods and results (including transparency and reproducibility) to relevant stakeholders can be prohibitive in translating these findings to appropriate management actions. Geneticists should engage early with stakeholders to co-design experiments in relation to management goals for invasive mammals.
- gene drives
- next-generation sequencing