FCE LTER Journal Articles

Title

A conceptual ecological model to facilitate understanding the role of invasive species in large-scale ecosystem restoration

Abstract

We developed a conceptual ecological model (CEM) for invasive species to help understand the role invasive exotics have in ecosystem ecology and their impacts on restoration activities. Our model, which can be applied to any invasive species, grew from the eco-regional conceptual models developed for Everglades restoration. These models identify ecological drivers, stressors, effects and attributes; we integrated the unique aspects of exotic species invasions and effects into this conceptual hierarchy. We used the model to help identify important aspects of invasion in the development of an invasive exotic plant ecological indicator, which is described a companion paper in this special issue journal. A key aspect of the CEM is that it is a general ecological model that can be tailored to specific cases and species, as the details of any invasion are unique to that invasive species. Our model encompasses the temporal and spatial changes that characterize invasion, identifying the general conditions that allow a species to become invasive in a de novo environment; it then enumerates the possible effects exotic species may have collectively and individually at varying scales and for different ecosystem properties, once a species becomes invasive. The model provides suites of characteristics and processes, as well as hypothesized causal relationships to consider when thinking about the effects or potential effects of an invasive exotic and how restoration efforts will affect these characteristics and processes. In order to illustrate how to use the model as a blueprint for applying a similar approach to other invasive species and ecosystems, we give two examples of using this conceptual model to evaluate the status of two south Florida invasive exotic plant species (melaleuca and Old World climbing fern) and consider potential impacts of these invasive species on restoration.

Comments

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DBI-0620409 and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.



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