Funded Research Projects: FOREST ECOLOGY

Build Me Up Buttercup: The Effects of Non-Native Plants on Invertebrate-Based Ecosystem Services

Research Sponsored By: Royalty Research Fund (RRF)
Principal Investigator: Patrick Tobin
Project Description
Non-native invasive species pose a threat to the function and structure of native ecosystems and biodiversity. In some cases, the impacts are dramatic and direct, leading to the potential functional extinction of native species. In other cases, their effects are more subtle and indirect, causing a disruption in community interactions with cascading effects throughout the ecological community. In addition, multiple non-native species can interact and affect ecosystem dynamics in a manner in which the individual impacts from each species are not necessarily additive on a community level but rather multiplicative; such a concept is known as an invasional meltdown. Recently, there has been much attention to the importance of ecosystem services and the benefits gained from sustainable ecosystem management. However, to date only scant attention has been given to the impact of invasive species and the potential importance of invasional meltdowns within the context of ecosystem services. This project will bridge this gap by using three species of plants within the buttercup family – one native and two non-native – to quantify the below and above ground ecosystem services provided by invertebrates. Using the framework developed by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, I will measure the effect of native and non-native plant composition on supporting, provisioning, and regulating services provided by invertebrates under field conditions. An overarching goal of the proposed study is to use support from the Royalty Research Fund to gain valuable pilot data and assist me in building up a program along a critically important avenue of environmental research.