The impact of invasive aquatic plants on ecosystem services and human well-being in Wular Lake, India

Abstract

Alien invasive species cause significant impacts on ecosystems and economies, but the impacts on human well-being and livelihoods are less well known. Negative impacts can be particularly severe when caused by floating aquatic plants, which can reduce access to freshwater for extraction and navigation, reduce the harvest of fish and other resources, and change water cycling and chemistry. This paper reviews and discusses some of these impacts globally and then concentrates on the case study of Wular Lake, India. Wular is the largest freshwater lake in Jammu and Kashmir state and is highly important for local livelihoods through the provision of a range of services, including fish and edible aquatic plants, and water to local communities. The supply of these services has decreased due to a long history of environmental degradation, and recent invasions by the floating plants Azolla cristata and Alternanthera philoxerodies (alligator weed) have further impacted human well-being. Here, we review the published literature about these invasions, present information from interviews with locals living near Wular Lake, and review the global literature about invasive floating plant species to assess the present and predict the future impacts of these species. We find that the implications of these invasions for livelihoods reliant on lake resources and services provide good justification for management efforts. We discuss some options and challenges to such a management program.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Reana Thomas for her work interviewing locals in Kashmir. Two anonymous reviewers provided comments and suggestions that helped us to greatly improve the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Reuben P. Keller.

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Editor: James Pittock

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Keller, R.P., Masoodi, A. & Shackleton, R.T. The impact of invasive aquatic plants on ecosystem services and human well-being in Wular Lake, India. Reg Environ Change 18, 847–857 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-017-1232-3

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Keywords

  • Alligator weed
  • Alternanthera philoxeroides
  • Azolla cristata
  • Biological invasions
  • Ecosystem services
  • Kashmir
  • Livelihoods, poverty