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. © 2014 Bhattarai, Cronin.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Bhattarai, G., & Cronin, J. (2014). Hurricane activity and the large-scale pattern of spread of an invasive plant species. PLoS ONE, 9 (5) https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0098478