From science to action: Collaborative efforts to address non-native plant invasions at the landscape scale
The Crown of the Continent ecosystem (CCE), which encompasses the Rocky Mountain region of Montana, British Columbia, and Alberta including the headwaters of three of North America’s major river systems, is one of North America’s most ecologically diverse and jurisdictionally fragmented ecosystems. The Continental Divide creates distinct eastern and western biomes characterized by their difference in climate. Within those two biomes are five eco-regions that support over 70 species of mammals, 260 species of birds, and over 1,000 native plant species. These native plant communities are the foundation of the CCE. However, the cumulative effects of drivers of biodiversity change threaten to overwhelm managers’ capacity to maintain the CCE’s diversity and function in the long term. Today, roughly ten percent of the plants in the CCE are non-native. The effectiveness of responding to threats like invasive species in the CCE is complicated by jurisdictional fragmentation in the region. To resolve this problem the Crown Manager’s Partnership (CMP) (a voluntary trans-boundary diverse group of science and resource management agencies) seeks to demonstrate a common, collective institutional capacity across borders to effectively manage the cumulative effects of human activities and land use practices in the CCE. With this in mind the CMP set to develop an overview of non-native plant distribution and priorities in the CCE to managers and practitioners. We identified the top ten non-native plant species priorities for managers in the CCE and used MaxEnt to model suitable habitat under current (1981 – 2010 climate normal) and future (2050) climate scenarios using two Representative Concentration Pathways (4.5 and 8.5).
Our results indicate that the suitable habitat for seven out of the ten species will expand in the CCE. More importantly, under climate change, the suitable habitat and therefore the management burden would shift between jurisdictions, highlighting the importance of creating a collective institutional capacity to respond to the threat of non-native plants spread in the CCE. Delivering science to collaboratives like the CMP will allow us to highlight challenges, identify opportunities for improved cooperation and develop structured regional approaches that effectively address environmental management issues in areas where multiple stakeholders have different mandates, not enough resources, or capacity to focus on a large landscape like the CCE.