Climate change reduces risk of plant invasion

Study of impact of climate change shows reduction of invasive species richness in most of the continental USA

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 317,063 species occurrences
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) currently growing invasively in all but eight US states. Photo by Sara Rall licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Invasive species represent a serious threat to ecosystems, and identifying species and areas of risk is critical for management prioritization, however, it’s equally important to consider how changing climates may alter the risk picture.

In this study, researchers assembled a database of invasive plant occurrences in the continental United States from variety of sources including GBIF. Using climate data, they modelled the potential distributions of each species and find that the current observed richness of invasive plants is much lower than the predicted potential.

Under future climate scenarios, however, the potential richness is predicted to decline significantly, in some areas up to 50 per cent. Only in northern regions did the researchers find predicted increases in invasive richness, albeit up to 175 per cent. Most predicted invasion hotspots (areas with potential richness in the top 25th percentile) remained stable through the year 2050.

Allen JM and Bradley BA (2016) Out of the weeds? Reduced plant invasion risk with climate change in the continental United States. Biological Conservation. Elsevier BV 203: 306–312. Available at: