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Measuring the Effects of Invasive Plants on Ecosystem Services: Challenges and Prospects

  • Valerie T. Eviner (a1), Kelly Garbach (a2), Jill H. Baty (a2) and Sarah A. Hoskinson (a2)

Plant invasions can have large effects on ecosystem services. Some plant invaders were introduced specifically to restore key services to ecosystems, and other invaders are having unintended, detrimental effects on services, such as the quantity and quality of water delivered, flood control, erosion control, and food production. Many ecosystem services are difficult to measure directly, and although there are extensive studies on plant invaders and ecosystem processes, a number of challenges prevent us from confidently extrapolating those processes as proxies for services. To extrapolate local, short-term measures of processes to ecosystem services, we must: (1) determine which processes are the key contributors to a service, (2) assess how multiple processes interact to provide a given service, (3) determine how vegetation types and species affect those processes, and (4) explicitly assess how ecosystem services and their controls vary over space and time, including reliance of ecosystem services on “hot spots” and “hot moments” and a minimum size of a vegetation type in the landscape. A given invader can have positive effects on some services and negative effects on others. It is important to consider that, in some systems, shifting environmental conditions may no longer support native species and that invasive species may be critical contributors to the resilience of ecosystem services.

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Invasive Plant Science and Management
  • ISSN: 1939-7291
  • EISSN: 1939-747X
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