Invasive species in the Anthropocene: Help or hindrance?
journal contributionposted on 13.07.2021, 23:13 by PJ McInerney, TM Doody, Christopher Davey
Under predicted climate change scenarios many parts of the world will be hotter. Higher temperature extremes present significant physiological challenges to ectothermic freshwater species that cannot regulate body temperature. Willows (Salix spp.) are highly invasive deciduous northern hemisphere shrubs and trees that have colonised riparian zones of southern hemisphere streams. Non–native willows are criticised for their high consumption of water and their capacity to form dense monostands along the margins and within waterways that limit light to streams in summer, alter the timing and quality of allochthonous inputs and modify ecosystem function. As such, governments invest heavily in the removal of willows from streams in order to preserve ecosystem integrity. Although detrimental effects of non–native willows are well documented, little attention has been focussed on consideration of potential ecosystem services that non–native willow infestation may provide under predicted climate warming. Here, we use a case study to illustrate that shading by non–native willows can provide thermal refugia for temperature sensitive endemic taxa and we provide a holistic approach to non–native willow removal that may provide benefits to aquatic species amid changing climate. We present a simple decision matrix for prioritising willow removal activities that may be applied to other invasive species and we discuss traditional views of invasive species management and river restoration and their relevance in a rapidly warming world. The concepts we discuss are of immediate relevance to environmental managers challenged with maintaining and restoring ecosystems that are rapidly changing in structure and function in response to climate warming.