Ain't no mountain high enough: plant invasions reaching new elevations

Year of publication: 2008


Most studies of invasive species have been in highly modified, lowland environments, with comparatively little attention directed to less disturbed, high-elevation environments. However, increasing evidence indicates that plant invasions do occur in these environments, which often have high conservation value and provide important ecosystem services. Over a thousand non-native species have become established in natural areas at high elevations worldwide, and although many of these are not invasive, some may pose a considerable threat to native mountain ecosystems. Here, we discuss four main drivers that shape plant invasions into high-elevation habitats: (1) the (pre-)adaptation of non-native species to abiotic conditions, (2) natural and anthropogenic disturbances, (3) biotic resistance of the established communities, and (4) propagule pressure. We propose a comprehensive research agenda for tackling plant invasions into mountain ecosystems, including documentation of mountain invasion patterns at multiple scales, experimental studies, and an assessment of the impacts of non-native species in these systems. The threat posed to high-elevation biodiversity by invasive plant species is likely to increase because of globalization and climate change. However, the higher mountains harbor ecosystems where invasion by non-native species has scarcely begun, and where science and management have the opportunity to respond in time.

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Cover filmFor hermits and fire salamanders - How municipalities connect habitats in the Alps. DVD, 2012, CIPRA International

 

 

 

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