Consideration of definitions of ‘biological invasion’ and ‘biodiversity’ shows why invasions have recently generated great interest among conservationists. Many studies show that invasion numbers have increased drastically over the last five centuries, that this exponential increase is not levelling off, and that human activities are the only reason for the phenomenon. Many mechanisms are portrayed in an evolutionary framework and their consequences for biodiversity are described at three levels of life – gene, species and ecosystem. Examples from islands show that insular ecosystems are especially prone to damage from invasions; they also serve as ‘laboratories’ to elucidate the nature of invasion impacts. An important management approach – eradication – is discussed. Eradicating invaders not only aids understanding of their impacts on native species but also in understanding how ecosystems function. In fact, biological invasions can be seen as ‘experiments’, providing a rare opportunity to help answer certain fundamental scientific questions.
Alien invasive species – Biodiversity – Biological conservation – Biological invasion – Eradication – Evolution – Invasive species – Islands – Science and society.