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      Hurricane Activity and the Large-Scale Pattern of Spread of an Invasive Plant Species

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      PLoS ONE
      Public Library of Science

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          Disturbances are a primary facilitator of the growth and spread of invasive species. However, the effects of large-scale disturbances, such as hurricanes and tropical storms, on the broad geographic patterns of invasive species growth and spread have not been investigated. We used historical aerial imagery to determine the growth rate of invasive Phragmites australis patches in wetlands along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States. These were relatively undisturbed wetlands where P. australis had room for unrestricted growth. Over the past several decades, invasive P. australis stands expanded in size by 6–35% per year. Based on tropical storm and hurricane activity over that same time period, we found that the frequency of hurricane-force winds explained 81% of the variation in P. australis growth over this broad geographic range. The expansion of P. australis stands was strongly and positively correlated with hurricane frequency. In light of the many climatic models that predict an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes over the next century, these results suggest a strong link between climate change and species invasion and a challenging future ahead for the management of invasive species.

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          Most cited references10

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          Biological invasions: Lessons for ecology.

          D. Lodge (1993)
          Anthropogenic introduction of species is homogenizing the earth's biota. Consequences of introductions are sometimes great, and are directly related to global climate change, biodiversity AND release of genetically engineered organisms. Progress in invasion studies hinges on the following research trends: realization that species' ranges are naturally dynamic; recognition that colonist species and target communities cannot be studied independently, but that species-community interactions determine invasion success; increasingly quantitative tests of how species and habitat characteristics relate to invasibility and impact; recognition from paleobiological, experimental and modeling studies that history, chance and determinism together shape community invasibility. Copyright © 1993. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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            Does global change increase the success of biological invaders?

            Biological invasions are gaining attention as a major threat to biodiversity and an important element of global change. Recent research indicates that other components of global change, such as increases in nitrogen deposition and atmospheric CO2 concentration, favor groups of species that share certain physiological or life history traits. New evidence suggests that many invasive species share traits that will allow them to capitalize on the various elements of global change. Increases in the prevalence of some of these biological invaders would alter basic ecosystem properties in ways that feed back to affect many components of global change.
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              Modeled impact of anthropogenic warming on the frequency of intense Atlantic hurricanes.

              Several recent models suggest that the frequency of Atlantic tropical cyclones could decrease as the climate warms. However, these models are unable to reproduce storms of category 3 or higher intensity. We explored the influence of future global warming on Atlantic hurricanes with a downscaling strategy by using an operational hurricane-prediction model that produces a realistic distribution of intense hurricane activity for present-day conditions. The model projects nearly a doubling of the frequency of category 4 and 5 storms by the end of the 21st century, despite a decrease in the overall frequency of tropical cyclones, when the downscaling is based on the ensemble mean of 18 global climate-change projections. The largest increase is projected to occur in the Western Atlantic, north of 20 degrees N.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                30 May 2014
                : 9
                : 5
                : e98478
                [1]Department of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States of America
                University of New South Wales, Australia
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: GPB JTC. Performed the experiments: GPB. Analyzed the data: GPB JTC. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: JTC. Wrote the paper: GPB JTC.

                Copyright @ 2014

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                : 14 January 2014
                : 2 May 2014
                Page count
                Pages: 7
                Financial support provided by National Science Foundation Grant DEB-1050084 to JTC, and Louisiana Environmental Education Commission Grant, Louisiana State University-Biograds and Carrie Lynn Yoder Memorial Fellowships to GPB. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Coastal Ecology
                Global Change Ecology
                Plant Ecology
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences



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