Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Invasive Species Fight Climate Change!

And now, a kind word about one of the Chesapeake Bay’s most hated invasive plants: phragmites.

The tall, feathery-plumed marsh reed is the bane of waterfowl lovers around the Chesapeake Bay region, as it crowds out native wetland plants, depriving ducks, geese and swans of nourishment. Landowners and resource managers alike spend a lot of time and money trying to control its spread, if not eliminate stands of it.

But a new study finds that Phragmites australis and some other invasive plants help to fight climate change by enhancing the storage of “blue carbon” — the carbon that’s accumulated and kept in oceans and coastal environments like salt marshes, mangroves and seagrasses.
Size comparison

“We were aware of the effects of invasions on other facets of these habitats, but this was the first time we really delved into blue carbon storage,” said Ian Davidson, a marine invasions biologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD. He is the lead author of the new study published Monday in the journal Global Change Biology.
. . .
Davidson and colleagues, including Smithsonian marine biologist Christina Simkanin and two researchers from Ireland, performed a “meta-analysis” of 104 relevant studies. They found a 40 percent net gain in carbon storage in invaded coastal vegetated habitats compared with similar ecosystems free of nonnative plants. And where invaders performed similar ecological roles in coastal habitats to the plants they were replacing, the carbon storage more than doubled, by 117 percent.

“When you have these essentially ‘ecosystem engineers’ come into the system, not only are they helping build habitat, they seem to be doing it more aggressively and more efficiently,” Davidson said in a release describing the study.
Note Phragmites in background
Phrag (the name insiders generally use) is an interesting plant. It really isn't a invasive species. The same species, Phragmites australis, is native to the United States. However, the type of Phrag that is invading, and spreading rapidly is a sub-species from Eurasia that is only slightly different in appearance from the native plant. It is, however, much better at doing a lot of things than our native clone, collecting nutrients, photosynthesizing, and growing. It's sort of the Genghis Khan of marsh grasses; marching continuously into new territory.

By definition, an invasive species is a species, that having been introduced to a new region, begins to spread rapidly, and makes a significant impact on the existing ecology. It is guesstimated that of 100 species introduced to a new area, 10 are successful in becoming established, and 1 of those will become "invasive."

It's not a great surprise then, that the invasive Phragmites, wildly successful at turning wetlands in to wetlands covered with Phrag, is also successful at making carbon and putting it into the ground.

Wombat-socho has Rule 5 Sunday: Brennschluss ready and waiting.

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