Invasive species and climate change: Conyza canadensis (L.) Cronquist as a tool for assessing the invasibility of natural plant communities along an aridity gradient
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The predicted reduction in precipitation in the eastern Mediterranean due to climate change may expose the natural plant communities to invasive species. We assessed whether natural plant communities along an aridity gradient in Israel were resistant to invasion by considering differences in abiotic conditions and community characteristics in these regions. We considered Conyza canadensis as a model plant as it is a common invader in the region. We examined the mechanisms and functional traits of both the plant communities and C. canadensis that promote or discourage invasion. Study sites represented a rainfall gradient with four ecosystem types: mesic Mediterranean, Mediterranean, semiarid and arid. Our results showed that the mechanisms of community invasion resistance varied along the aridity gradient. At the arid and semiarid sites, water deficiency impaired the establishment of C. canadensis. At the mesic Mediterranean site, plant competition had a negative effect on C. canadensis performance, thus greatly reducing the likelihood of its establishment. We conclude that a decrease in regional precipitation due to climate change may not affect intrinsic resistance characteristics of natural plant communities to invasion in the area.
KeywordsAridity Climate change Climatic gradient Competition Invasibility Invasion Mediterranean
This research was carried out as part of the M.Sc. studies of the first author. This study was funded within the framework of the project GLOWA Jordan River by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in collaboration with the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). We thank the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University for providing financial support to this project. We are grateful to Ranit Kirshenbaum and Carly Golodets for the English editing of the manuscript and Hillary Voet for statistical advice.
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