Before, During and After: The Need for Long-term Monitoring in Invasive Plant Species Management
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The invasion of non-indigenous plants is considered one of the primary threats to rare and endangered species as well as to the integrity and function of North American ecosystems. However, many of the suspected negative ecosystem impacts are based on anecdotal evidence. For example, there is almost unanimous agreement among natural resource managers of the detrimental ecological impacts of species such as Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife), Phragmites australis (common reed) and Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) but convincing documentation is scarce. Experimental and theoretical ecology predicts large ecosystem impacts of the most widespread invasive species. However, it is difficult to prioritize control of species that occur at intermediate densities. Long-term monitoring before and during the invasion as well as before, during and after any control attempts can provide valuable ecological information. In particular, it is important to understand how changes in the abundance of species influence ecosystem properties and processes which, in turn, will help guide management decisions. Ideally, this monitoring has to go beyond 'simple’ impacts on plant communities, involve cross-disciplinary teams of scientists and should incorporate many different taxa and their interactions. Monitoring design and data collection should be sophisticated enough to allow statistically sound data analysis. The available information will be paramount in (1) developing new political and scientific guidelines in invasive species management, (2) helping resolve potential conflicts of interest and (3) helping change public attitudes regarding growth, sale, and control of non-indigenous species.
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