Predicting the Distribution and Dominance of Exotic Species Across Landscapes of Southern AppalachiaEPA Grant Number: R828897
Title: Predicting the Distribution and Dominance of Exotic Species Across Landscapes of Southern Appalachia
Investigators: Huston, Michael A. , Johnston, J. W. , Pounds, Larry R.
Institution: Interdisciplinary Solutions for Environmental Sustainability Inc.
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: September 1, 2001 through August 31, 2004 (Extended to January 31, 2006)
Project Amount: $448,205
RFA: Exploratory Research to Anticipate Future Environmental Issues (2000) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Water , Ecosystems
Displacement of native species by invasive exotic species is one of the most serious types of "biopollution" and is a major threat to biodiversity worldwide. While the issue of invasions and invasibility has only recently become a high profile conservation issue, it has a long history in the ecological literature and plays a central role in theories related to ecosystem stability and biodiversity. Over the past few years, several field studies (Stohlgren et al. 1999; Lonsdale 1999) have found results that contradict a central tenet of the classical ecological theory of invasibility, calling into question the conclusion that high species diversity confers resistance to invasion.
The primary objective of this project is to develop a method for predicting spatial patterns of exotic species invasion and dominance across landscapes, as well as the time period over which a particular exotic species is likely to be a problem in a given area. We will also determine the degree to which the physiology and life history traits of invasive species are correlated with the spatial patterns of invasion, specifically with patterns of disturbance and resource availability. This will allow prediction of which environment a particular exotic species is most likely to invade, whether its effect will be severe or minor, and how long it is expected to be a problem, in relation to changes in environmental conditions caused by natural successional changes. Our approach views invasion by exotic plant species as a dynamic process that interacts with the natural dynamics of vegetation (focusing on plant establishment and competitive dominance), consistent with the dynamic equilibrium model of species diversity.
We will focus our efforts in three distinct physiographic and vegetation regions within the Southern Appalachians: 1) Big South Fork National Recreation Area, BSFNRA (Cumberland Plateau); 2) Great Smoky Mountains National Park, GSMNP (Southern Blue Ridge); and Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park, ORNERP (Ridge and Valley Province). Each of these regions differ in their underlying geology, soil properties and fertility, and current degree of human disturbance. Each region includes areas of conservation concern, and each faces different types of exotic species invasions. Together, they should provide a test of our hypotheses across a broad range of environmental conditions and human impacts.