Invasive Vines: Drivers of Large-Scale Ecosystem Shifts Worldwide and Consequences for Restoration
Wednesday, August 12, 2015: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
342, Baltimore Convention Center
Large-scale shifts in plant functional groups have been widely documented in numerous water-limited biomes. In mesic to wet biomes similar large-scale shifts may be unfolding driven by the spread of native and non-native vines - herbaceous and shrubby climbing plants. Specifically, vines are blanketing post-agricultural landscapes and human-built environments over large areas in many regions around the world as illustrated in SE United States (Pueraria lobata ~3M ha), NE Australia (Cryptostegia grandiflora ~0.7M ha), and the island of St. Eustatius (Antigononus leptotus ~ 420 ha). In these and other regions vines are reaching epidemic proportions and future projections indicate that the problem may exacerbate with the continuous abandonment of agro-ecosystems and built environments, and changing climate. Vine-driven ecosystem shifts may be particularly complex given that vines access critical resources such as light by climbing structures that provide them with support. With their fast growth rates, vines can quickly shade and ultimately reduce host growth and survival and, in the case of non-living hosts, affect infrastructure and the built environment. Thus, a combination of vine and host traits determines the outcome of these interactions. To date few studies have investigated these interactions and the consequences of these interactions at scales commensurate with the extent of their current cover and spread potential. This session will offer an opportunity to synthesize the state of research on invasive vines globally. Towards this end we are bringing together a diverse group of speakers conducting research on invasive vines in different tropical and temperate habitats and using diverse approaches including compilation of plant trait databases, modeling, and remote sensing. Several questions drive this proposal: 1) Do invasive vines have unique traits that allow them to thrive? 2) Why some landscapes are more prone than others to invasion? 3) What are the external drivers facilitating ecosystem shifts mediated by vines? 4) What are the cumulative impacts of vines on the functioning of these landscapes? 5) What management options exist and what are the opportunities for restoration?