When Invasive Plants Disappear: Transformative Restoration Possibilities in the Western United States Resulting from Climate Change

Authors

  • Bethany A. Bradley,

    Corresponding author
    1. Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, U.S.A.
      B. A. Bradley, email bethanyb@princeton.edu
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  • David S. Wilcove

    1. Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, U.S.A.
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B. A. Bradley, email bethanyb@princeton.edu

Abstract

Most ecologists believe that climate change poses a significant threat to the persistence of native species. However, in some areas climate change may reduce or eliminate non-native invasive species, creating opportunities for restoration. If invasive species are no longer suited to novel climate conditions, the native communities that they replaced may not be viable either. If neither invasive nor native species are climatically viable, a type of “transformative” restoration will be required, involving the translocation of novel species that can survive and reproduce under new climate conditions. Here, we illustrate one approach for restoration planning by using bioclimatic envelope modeling to identify restoration opportunities in the western United States, where the invasive plant cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is no longer climatically viable under 2100 conditions projected by the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL2.1) coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model. We then select one example of a restoration target area and identify novel plant species that could become viable at the site in the wake of climate change. We do so by identifying the closest sites that currently have climate conditions similar to those projected at the restoration target area in 2100. This approach is a first step toward identifying appropriate species for transformative restoration.

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