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NE CSC Hosts Workshop on Climate Change and Invasive Species in the Northeast

Friday, August 19, 2016

The first Northeast Regional Invasive Species and Climate Change (RISCC) Management Workshop (initially called the Northeast Invasive Species and Climate Change, or NISCC, workshop) was held on July 21, 2016, at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA. It was convened by NE CSC, the New York Invasive Species Research Institute (NY ISRI), and UMass Amherst.  

It was the first step in a conversation to address the question “How can we manage for upcoming biological invasions in the light of climate change?”. The objective of the workshop was to bring together a small group of climate scientists and invasive species scientists, managers, and policy makers from New York and New England to promote a two-way dialogue to:

  1. Review the state of current research on the topic; 
  2. Share regional knowledge about current management strategies; and 
  3. Identify specific information needs of managers surrounding invasive species and climate change. 

The workshop was attended by 19 individuals representing nine northeastern state/municipal natural resource agencies, the North Atlantic LCC, the US Forest Service Northern Research Station, The Nature Conservancy, the USA National Phenology Network, academic institutions, the NE CSC, NY ISRI, and UMass, Amherst. 

The current state of climate change knowledge, presented by NE CSC’s Alex Bryan, set the stage for the workshop.  We will expect more climate extremes, more variability, and stronger variability (such as for fires and increasing frequency of temperature and precipitation extremes).  In particular, the overall rise in temperature, more rain and less snow in the winter, earlier springs, and the change in length of the growing season opens up new questions on how invasive will respond.  Bethany Bradley of UMass, also outlined the trends we are seeing and how models are incorporating the changes in climate to better predict future invasions.   A major concern with climate change is that if a native species changes, resistance of other organisms in the community to extreme events changes.   Climate variability is a form of disturbance, and invasives favor disturbance. Earlier springs could create conditions that provide priority establishment for invasives that arrive first to an area.  Buckthorn is a good example, particularly in the Midwest.

During a brainstorm session and throughout the day, participants suggested research topics that were of interest to them and their work.  Some of the  goals that emerged from the workshop include identifying clear, short-term research needs that can be communicated to the scientific community.  Other goals involve developing a community of practice amongst those who are researching climate change and invasive species or applying results to management actions.  This would achieve research and networking objectives such as:

  • Compile available resources in the Northeast to support management of invasive species in the face of climate change
  • Coordinate a regional (northeast) conference on invasives and climate change that is intended for both researchers and managers to attend with opportunities for interaction
  • Develop cross-state collaborations and networks so invasive species managers can learn from each other and share information
  • Create an expert advisory board on invasive species and climate change that can guide the effort
  • Identify specific priority areas/invasion fronts as opportunities for research and communicate this to researchers interested in studying climate change and invasive species
  • Synthesize existing climate change and invasive species research
  • Incorporate climate vulnerability and prediction data in invasive species databases
  • Integrate invasive species and climate change state programs and forest and marine ecosystem management

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