Does invasive species research use more militaristic language than other ecology and conservation biology literature?

Rachel M. Janovsky, Eric R. Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Invasive species research has been criticised for a reliance on hyperbolic or sensationalistic language, including the use of militaristic language that dates to the popularisation of this concept. We sought to evaluate whether the invasive species literature used more militaristic language than other literature across the fields of ecology and conservation biology, given that many research areas in these fields (e.g. competition) may routinely use militaristic language. We compared militaristic language use in journal articles on invasive species or other topics across both applied and basic science journals in the fields of ecology and conservation biology. We further restricted our study to papers where lead-authors were located at institutions in the United States, to evaluate whether militaristic language use varied over peace time and conflict periods for this country. We found no significant differences in the percentage of journal articles that used any militaristic language between either invasive species research or research on other topics, but we did find that invasive species research used a greater frequency (count) of militaristic language per article than research on other topics. We also found that basic rather than applied science journals were more likely to use militaristic language and we detected no significant effect of time period on the usage of militaristic language in the ecology and conservation biology literature. Researchers working on invasive species should continue to be conscientious about their language use on this occasionally controversial topic, particularly in basic science journals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2019


  • Alien species
  • Animal behaviour
  • Competition
  • Exotic species
  • Introduced species
  • Literature review
  • Natural defences
  • Natural enemies
  • Non-native species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Plant Science
  • Insect Science


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