Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Invasive species alter habitat to their benefit

11.08.2006
When scientists study habitats that alien species have invaded, they usually find predictable patterns. The diversity of native species declines, and changes occur in natural processes such as nutrient cycling, wildfire frequency and the movement of water through the system.

But simply observing such changes doesn't prove that the invaders are responsible.

University of Michigan researchers Emily Farrer and Deborah Goldberg, however, came up with a way to tease out the cause of environmental changes in northern Michigan wetlands where invasive cattails have taken hold. The cattails, they found, alter the environment in ways that hinder native species but benefit the invaders. Farrer and Goldberg will present their results Aug. 9 at a meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Memphis, Tenn.

"When you have an invasion, you typically see three things happening at once: the invasion, the change in environment and the decrease in diversity," said Farrer, a graduate student in Goldberg's laboratory group. "But they're all happening concurrently, so you can't really tell which is causing the other." Other factors may enter in. For example, human activity, such as the use of fertilizers and road salt and the suppression of natural wildfires, also may result in environmental changes that affect species diversity.

"My question was, are humans causing the changes, or are the invaders?" Farrer said. "Finding the answer has practical implications: if you're trying to restore a natural habitat, you have to know the cause of the decline in native species. Do you target the invader or try to minimize human interference?"

Farrer began by surveying marshes in northern Michigan to find out what kinds of cattails were there. The state is home to three cattail species: the native broad-leaf cattail; the invasive narrow-leaf cattail, which was introduced on the east coast in the early 19th century and eventually found its way inland; and a hybrid of the two species that is larger than either parent and tolerates a wider range of environmental conditions.

In the marshes she studied, Farrer found that hybrids were more common than native cattails. She also noted that the areas of each marsh with lots of hybrid cattails had higher nutrient levels and heavier mats of dead cattail stems than areas with only native wetland plants. The plants growing in these invaded areas also were different, with fewer classic wetland species, such as bulrushes, rushes, and sedges, and more typical land plants like grasses, asters, and goldenrods.

Next, Farrer did transplant experiments to figure out whether the invaders were causing the changes she observed. She set up four study plots in a previously uninvaded section of marsh. In one, she transplanted live hybrid cattails; in the second she added litter---the mats of dead stems that accumulate around hybrids. A third plot received both live hybrids and litter, and the fourth was left alone.

Litter accumulation was the deciding factor, she found. "Plots with the litter treatment had higher levels of nitrogen in the soil and higher turnover rates of nitrogen, along with much lower light levels and lower soil temperatures," Farrer said. "So the litter was creating a pretty different environment."

When she tallied other plants in the experimental plots, she found that both the diversity and the density of native species were lower when litter was present. But while native plants suffered, invaders prospered. "The hybrid plants performed better with litter addition," Farrer said. "They obviously aren't hindered by the litter, and the increase in nutrients may help them grow larger."

The results suggest that invasive cattails set in motion a feedback loop that helps them gain a stronghold. "The invasive cattails change the ecosystem through litter accumulation, producing an environment in which native plants don't perform well but the invaders do," said Farrer. "As the environment changes, the cattails get more abundant and change the environment even more, resulting in even more cattails. It's interesting---and sobering---to think that it's not just humans that go out and mess up the habitat; invasive species can actually initiate that cycle."

Nancy Ross-Flanigan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

nachricht Species Richness – a false friend? Scientists want to improve biodiversity assessments
01.08.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

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: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

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,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

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...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

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...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

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...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>