Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Exotic plant species alter ecosystem productivity

11.03.2014

Researchers from the UFZ warn that ecosystems will change dramatically

In their joint publication in the journal „Ecology Letters" German and American biologists have reported an increase in biomass production in ecosystems colonised by non-native plant species. In the face of climate change, these and other changes to ecosystems are predicted to become more frequent, according to the researchers.


Invasive exotic plant species, such as the Turkish Rocket (Bunias orientalis), are often fast-growing and competitive. They may alter ecosystems by gaining dominance, increasing productivity and replacing native plant species. The current study shows that in grassland ecosystems, native generalist herbivores such as voles – which are usually considered as a pest – may provide substantial resistance to plant invasions.

Photo: Harald Auge/UFZ

All over the world, plant and animal species are increasingly encroaching upon ecosystems where they don't belong as a result of human influence. This phenomenon is known as a biological invasion. Observational studies on biological invasions show that the invasion of non-native plant species can alter ecosystems. One important aspect of this is biomass production: compared to intact ecosystems, the productivity of ecosystems with non-native species is considerably higher.

„In such purely observational studies however, it is not possible to differentiate between cause and effect", says Dr. Harald Auge from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ). „The question is whether exotic plant species prefer to colonise more productive ecosystems, or whether increased productivity is a result of the invasion."

... more about:
»ecosystem »species

To get to the bottom of this question, UFZ researchers joined forces with colleagues from the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the University of Montana, the University of California and the US Forest Service and staged invasions by setting up experimental sites in three disparate grassland regions -in Central Germany, Montana and California, on which 20 native plant species (from the respective region) and 20 exotic plant species were sown.

Researchers investigated whether and to which extent herbivorous small mammals such as mice, voles or ground squirrels as well as mechanical disturbance to the soil would influence exotic plant species colonizing ability.

The experimental design was exactly the same for all three regions to ensure comparability. We wanted to find out whether superordinate relationships were playing a role, irrespective of land use, species compositions and climate differences", explains Dr Auge. When the experimental sites were not subject to any mechanical disturbance and when herbivorous small mammals had open access to the sites, then no differences could be found between the three regions in their reaction to the sowing of exotic species: biomass production was found to be only slightly higher than for ecosystems with exclusively native plant species, and susceptibility to invasions was low.

„The herbivorous small mammals really surprised us", says Dr Auge. „Their presence and appetite is largely responsible for the resistance of grasslands to exotic plant species invasions". If the herbivorous small mammals were excluded using fences or the soil disturbed mechanically or both, then the results were considerably different: ecosystems proved to be less resistant to invasions and biomass production turned out to be considerably higher.

„It was perplexing that an increase in productivity applied to all three (from a climate perspective) completely disparate regions. Hence, there seems to be a universal phenomenon going on: exotic plant species do not necessarily prefer more productive ecosystems -their exotic provenance as such leads to an increased production of biomass, which is thus an effect and not the cause of the invasion", Dr Auge resumes.

So far there has been no explanation as to why exotic plant species increase biomass production so dramatically. It is possible that only those non-native species that are particularly productive and competitive are able to establish successfully in a new area. Another cause could be the lack of parasites and pathogens specialised on these species.

To investigate the long-term reactions of grassland ecosystems on the establishment of non-native plant species, the researchers plan future investigations on the further development of the species on the experimental sites. Dr Auge: „We assume that the non-natives will increasingly crowd out the natives from the ecosystem -a reduction in species richness would imply another dramatic change to native ecosystems." Nicole Silbermann

Photos & links: http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=32498
 

Publication: Maron, J.L.; Auge, H.; Pearson, D. E.; Korell, L.; Hensen, I.; Suding, K. N.; Stein, C. (2014) Staged invasions across disparate grasslands: effects of consumers, disturbance and seed provenance on productivity and species richness. Ecology Letters 17: 499-507. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ele.12250

Further information:

Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research - UFZ

Dr. Harald Auge

Tel.: +49-(0)345-558-5309

http://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=1153

or Tilo Arnhold, Susanne Hufe (UFZ Press)

Tel.: +49-(0)341-235-1635, -1630

http://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=640

In the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), scientists conduct research into the causes and consequences of far-reaching environmental changes. Their areas of study cover water resources, biodiversity, the consequences of climate change and possible adaptation strategies, environmental technologies and biotechnologies, bio-energy, the effects of chemicals in the environment and the way they influence health, modelling and social-scientific issues. Its guiding principle: Our research contributes to the sustainable use of natural resources and helps to provide long-term protection for these vital assets in the face of global change. The UFZ employs more than 1,100 staff at its sites in Leipzig, Halle and Magdeburg. It is funded by the federal government, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. http://www.ufz.de/

The Helmholtz Association contributes to solving major and urgent issues in society, science and industry through scientific excellence in six research areas: Energy, earth and environment, health, key technologies, structure of matter as well as aviation, aerospace and transportation. The Helmholtz Association is the largest scientific organisation in Germany, with 35,000 employees in 18 research centres and an annual budget of around €3.8 billion. Its work is carried out in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894). http://www.helmholtz.de/

Nicole Silbermann/Tilo Arnhold | UFZ News

Further reports about: ecosystem species

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Molecular libraries for organic light-emitting diodes

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Research sheds new light on forces that threaten sensitive coastlines

24.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

24.04.2017 | Machine Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>