The study, “Climate change and plant invasions: restoration opportunities ahead?”, was co-authored by Bethany Bradley, a biogeographer, Michael Oppenheimer, a geoscientist, and David Wilcove, a conservation biologist, at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, and will soon be published in the journal Global Change Biology.
The researchers assessed the relationship between climate change and the distribution of five prominent invasive plants in the western United States – known colloquially as the “kudzus of the West” – cheatgrass; spotted knapweed; yellow starthistle; tamarisk; and leafy spurge. Such plants are defined as invasive because they were brought into this country from other lands and now dominate and alter ecosystems in ways that threaten native wildlife, agriculture, and ranching. All have greatly expanded their ranges in recent decades in the western U.S., causing millions of dollars in damage to farmlands and rangelands. Invasive plants are increasingly expensive to control, and it is widely believed that global warming will make the problem worse.
But Bradley and her co-authors find that global warming may also reduce the competitiveness of some invasive plants if conditions become climatically unsuitable to the weeds, “creating opportunities for restoration in areas currently dominated by intractable invasive species,” according to the study.
The five species were selected in part because they represent the most problematic plants in the western U.S. The study authors created “bioclimatic envelope models,” wherein the authors identified where the invasive plant species occurred, and identified critical climate variables such as precipitation patterns and temperature patterns that are associated with the presence of the invasive plants under investigation. The authors then determined what combined set of climate variables best described the distribution of these weeds, and mapped all of the places in the U.S. where these climate conditions occur.
Developing such models is important because scientists can use them to assess how changing climate conditions might affect the distributions of invasive plants. Maps of how invasion risk is likely to change with global warming are also important for land managers designing long-term protocols for fighting invasive plants.
The researchers employed 10 atmosphere-ocean general circulation models (AOGCMs) that predict what climatic conditions in the West are likely to be in 2100 if emissions are not limited, and matched those predicted conditions to the climate conditions associated with each of the invasive plant species. The projected invasive species distributions for each of the models were added together to create a map of invasion risk under future climate conditions.
“Just as native species are expected to shift in range and relative competiveness with climate change,” the authors wrote, “the same should be expected of invasive species.”
Specifically, the researchers concluded that climate change is likely to expand invasion risk from yellow starthistle in California and Nevada – and lands currently occupied by invasive populations of the weed in California, Oregon and Washington are unlikely to become unsuitable for the species; hence, they have low potential for restoration. Tamarisk distribution, they found, is unlikely to be affected by climate change.
Cheatgrass, however, is likely to be affected by climate change, potentially moving northwards into parts of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, but retreating in southern Nevada and Utah. And, according to Bradley and her co-authors, the impacts of climate change will likely shift spotted knapweed, currently distributed throughout the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the Colorado Plateau, to higher elevations, leading to both expanded risk and restoration opportunities in part of Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado.
Leafy spurge, abundant in northern states west of the Mississippi River and some rangeland west of the Rockies, will likely retreat from some places in the face of climate change, creating restoration possibilities in Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota – but potentially expanding into parts of Canada not included in the researchers’ study. In addition, the researchers found that leafy spurge is likely to retreat from Nebraska and parts of Oregon and Iowa, creating strong potential for restoration in these areas.
To better address the impacts of invasive species, the authors note, further modeling and experimental work is needed to determine which species will be able to occupy these sites if the invasive species are reduced or eliminated by climate change. Local native plants (the ones that were there prior to the arrival of the invasive species) may be unable to reoccupy these areas as a result of global warming. If local native plants cannot reoccupy the areas, then native plants from elsewhere in the West will need to be considered for restoration to prevent new invasive species from quickly invading these sites.
“The restoration opportunities associated with the retreat of currently intractable invasive species are vast in the western United States,” the authors wrote. “The uncertainties associated with these changes, as well as the unknown makeup of viable future vegetation… highlight a pressing need for integrated modeling, monitoring, and experimental work to better address the ecological consequences of climate change.”
“The question for policy makers and land managers is, ‘What do we want these lands to be?’” said Wilcove. “These lands will change, and we must decide now – before the window of opportunity closes - whether we do nothing or whether we intervene.”
“Governments need to reduce emissions quickly to avoid a variety of dangerous climate changes, Oppenheimer warned. “At the same time, it will be necessary to adapt to the inevitability of some warming. Proper management of ecosystems to minimize the damages is a key part of any effective adaptation strategy.”
Lucy Collister | alfa
Further reports about: > Climate > Conservation > Perils > Plants > Spotted knapweed > agriculture > alter ecosystems > cheatgrass > damage to farmlands and rangelands > ecological restoration opportunities > global warming > invasive plants > invasive species > kudzus of the West > leafy spurge > native wildlife > plant species > tamarisk > yellow starthistle
Alkaline soil, sensible sensor
03.08.2017 | American Society of Agronomy
New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine
22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.08.2017 | Life Sciences