FCE LTER Journal Articles


Extreme climate events can interact synergistically with invasions to dramatically alter ecosystem structure, function, and services. Yet, the effects of extreme climate events on species invasions remain unresolved. Extreme climate events may increase resources and decrease biotic resistance by causing physiological stress and/or mortality of native taxa, resulting in invasion opportunities for nonnative species. Alternatively, extreme climate events may regulate nonnative populations, preventing them from achieving dominance. We examined whether a sequence of three cold spells had a negative or positive effect on fish invasions in the coastal Everglades. We compared resistance (initial effects) and resilience (rate of recovery) to the cold spells between native fishes and the dominant nonnative invader, the Mayan cichlid, across eight populations expanding two mangroves drainages in the southern Everglades. We tracked native fish and nonnative Mayan cichlid populations for 10 yr including 3 yr pre- and 4 yr post-cold spells. In both drainages, native fishes were more resistant to the cold spells than the nonnative species. While native fishes experienced declines at only one site, nonnative Mayan numbers were reduced by 90–100% across six sites where they were abundant pre-disturbances. Four years after the last cold spell, we saw limited resilience in the affected nonnative populations. Only one of the six affected sites fully recovered, whereas the other five sites showed no recovery in Mayan cichlid numbers. The recovered site was closest to a canal, known to act as thermal refuges for nonnative fishes. In summary, cold spells can reduce nonnative abundances, but whether cold spells can effectively knock back invasions (and range expansions) by tropical/subtropical nonnative species will depend on how the frequency and severity of cold spells are affected by climate change. We propose that these mortality-causing extreme events could provide rare management opportunities late in an invasion.


© 2016 Rehage et al. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1268

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 #DEB-1237517, #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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