What is the "real" impact of invasive plant species?
Tekiela, Daniel R.
Dollete, Eugene S. J.
Tomasek, Bradley J.
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Invasive plant species should be evaluated and prioritized for management according to their impacts, which include reduction in native diversity, changes to nutrient pools, and alteration of fire regimes. However, the impacts of most invasive species have not been quantified and, when measured, those impacts are based on a limited number of response metrics. As a result, invasion ecology has been overwhelmed by speculation and bias regarding the ecological consequences of invasive plants. We propose a quantitative mathematical framework that integrates any number of impact metrics as a function of groundcover and geographic extent. By making relative comparisons between invaded and uninvaded landscapes at the population scale, which results in a percent change for each metric, we overcome previous limitations that confounded the integration of metrics based on different units. Our model offers a quantitative approach to ecological impact that may allow identification of the transition from benign introduction to impactful invader, while also allowing empirical comparisons at the species and population levels that will be useful for management prioritization.