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The influence of climate change and extreme weather events on plant invasions

Titel Englisch The influence of climate change and extreme weather events on plant invasions
Gesuchsteller/in Billeter Regula
Nummer 120330
Förderungsinstrument Projektförderung (Abt. I-III)
Forschungseinrichtung Institut für Integrative Biologie Departement Umweltwissenschaften ETHZ
Hochschule ETH Zürich - ETHZ
Hauptdisziplin Oekologie
Beginn/Ende 01.01.2009 - 31.10.2012
Bewilligter Betrag 188'952.00
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Keywords (7)

climate change; extreme weather events; drought; flooding; altitudinal gradients; Swiss alps; alien plant species

Lay Summary (Englisch)

Lead
Lay summary
BackgroundGlobal environmental change is threatening ecosystems and biodiversity worldwide. Important components of global change are, among others, land-use changes, climate change and biological invasions. While the effects of each aspect alone have been studied intensively, the interactions between two or more aspects are much more difficult to assess. However, it is obvious that there are and will be interactions, which will very likely have synergistic effects. An obvious interaction is between climate change and biotic exchange. The chance that this interaction will speed up invasion processes and will threaten biodiversity and ecosystem functioning even more is very high. Climate in Central Europe is projected to become on average warmer, but also more extreme, i.e. there will be a higher occurrence of floods and droughts. Effects of these changes on plants have been documented already. Especially high-altitude ecosystems, which are highly specialized and adapted to the current conditions, seem highly vulnerable to these changes in climate. Whether these changes will favour alien species more than native species, however, has only been discussed in the literature, but experimental tests are lacking so far. Specific AimsThe proposed study aims to assess whether alien species can profit more from the projected climate change than native species, and whether this will enable them to successfully invade native plant communities, especially pristine alpine meadows. In addition the project investigates the effects of extreme weather events on the individual plant species and on the invasion process in general.Methods and Experimental DesignWe will use two approaches to test our hypotheses. We will compare the reaction of native and alien species in a controlled garden experiment under ambient and changed climatic conditions (increased mean temperature and extreme weather events, i.e. drought and flooding). We will assess the invasiveness under these conditions as well as the invasibility of native meadow communities. In a transplant experiment in the field along altitudinal gradients we will test the reaction of in-situ native communities and alien species to increased temperature and drought and quantify the invasion success under these changed conditions.Expected Value of the Proposed ProjectWe expect the proposed project to provide first insights into the proposed synergistic effects of climate change and plant invasions and especially on the effects of extreme weather events on the invasibility of native meadow communities, in particular alpine communities. The results will help to assess the potential combined threats of climate change and biotic invasions to native plant communities and provide a basis for the development of policies to control plant invasions, especially to protect fragile mountain ecosystems.
Direktlink auf Lay Summary Letzte Aktualisierung: 21.02.2013

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Kommunikation mit der Öffentlichkeit

Kommunikation Titel Medien Ort Jahr
Medienarbeit: Printmedien, Online-Medien Pflanzliche Feldzüge Horizonte Westschweiz Italienische Schweiz Deutschschweiz Romanische Schweiz 01.06.2011
Referate/Veranstaltungen/Ausstellungen Von den Alpen bis zum Nordkap: Pflanzen am Limit Deutschschweiz 05.03.2011
Referate/Veranstaltungen/Ausstellungen Von den Alpen bis zum Nordkap - was uns Höhen- und Breitengradienten über Pflanzen erzählen Deutschschweiz 25.09.2010

Abstract

BackgroundGlobal environmental change is threatening ecosystems and biodiversity worldwide. Important components of global change are, among others, land-use changes, climate change and biological invasions. While the effects of each aspect alone have been studied intensively, the interactions between two or more aspects are much more difficult to assess. However, it is obvious that there are and will be interactions, which will very likely have synergistic effects. An obvious interaction is between climate change and biotic exchange. The chance that this interaction will speed up invasion processes and will threaten biodiversity and ecosystem functioning even more is very high. Climate in Central Europe is projected to become on average warmer, but also more extreme, i.e. there will be a higher occurrence of floods and droughts. Effects of these changes on plants have been documented already. Especially high-altitude ecosystems, which are highly specialized and adapted to the current conditions, seem highly vulnerable to these changes in climate. Whether these changes will favour alien species more than native species, however, has only been discussed in the literature, but experimental tests are lacking so far. Main Working Hypotheses(I) Alien plant species will be able to take advantage of changed climatic conditions more than native plant species and therefore invade native communities more easily. (II) Extreme weather events will weaken the plant community and lead to a more open, patchy vegetation, thus opening 'windows' for invasion. (III) Along an altitudinal gradient the magnitude of these effects will increase. High-altitude native species will suffer from higher temperatures. The effects of extreme events will be more pronounced, affecting the highly specialized high-altitude plants most. This will enhance invasion into mountain systems.Specific AimsThe proposed study aims to assess whether alien species can profit more from the projected climate change than native species, and whether this will enable them to successfully invade native plant communities, especially pristine alpine meadows. In addition the project investigates the effects of extreme weather events on the individual plant species and on the invasion process in general.Methods and Experimental DesignWe will use two approaches to test our hypotheses. We will compare the reaction of native and alien species in a controlled garden experiment under ambient and changed climatic conditions (increased mean temperature and extreme weather events, i.e. drought and flooding). We will assess the invasiveness under these conditions as well as the invasibility of native meadow communities. In a transplant experiment in the field along altitudinal gradients we will test the reaction of in-situ native communities and alien species to increased temperature and drought and quantify the invasion success under these changed conditions.Expected Value of the Proposed ProjectWe expect the proposed project to provide first insights into the proposed synergistic effects of climate change and plant invasions and especially on the effects of extreme weather events on the invasibility of native meadow communities, in particular alpine communities. The results will help to assess the potential combined threats of climate change and biotic invasions to native plant communities and provide a basis for the development of policies to control plant invasions, especially to protect fragile mountain ecosystems.
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