Biological Invasions

Volume 193 of the series Ecological Studies pp 197-211

Will Climate Change Promote Alien Plant Invasions?

  • Wilfried ThuillerAffiliated withLaboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine, Université Joseph Fourier
  • , David M. RichardsonAffiliated withCollege of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University
  • , Guy F. MidgleyAffiliated withClimate Change Research Group, National Biodiversity Institute

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Invasive alien plant species pose significant challenges to managing and maintaining indigenous biodiversity in natural ecosystems. Invasive plants can transform ecosystems by establishing viable populations with growth rates high enough to displace elements of the native biota (Rejmánek 1999) or to modify disturbance regimes (Brooks et al. 2004), thereby potentially transforming ecosystem structure and functioning (Dukes and Mooney 2004). Because the numbers of invasive plant species and the extent of invasions are increasing rapidly in many regions, concern has grown about the stability of these novel,emerging ecosystems (Hobbs et al. 2006). The question of how climate change will interact in this global process of ecosystem modification is becoming highly relevant for natural resource management.

Although many studies have addressed the potential threats to ecosystems from invasive alien plants and climate change separately, few studies have considered the interactive and potentially synergistic impacts of these two factors on ecosystems (but see Ziska 2003). Climatic and landscape features set the ultimate limits to the geographic distribution of species and determine the seasonal conditions for establishment, recruitment, growth and survival (Rejmánek and Richardson 1996; Thuiller et al. 2006b). Human-induced climate change is therefore a pervasive element of the multiple forcing functions which maintain, generate and threaten natural biodiversity.