Bhattarai, G. P. and J. T. Cronin. 2014. Hurricane activity and the large-scale pattern of spread of an invasive plant species. PLoS One 9(5): e98478. DOI: 10.1371/journal/pone.0098478.


Disturbances are a primary facilitator of the growth and spread of invasive species. However, the effects of large-scale disturbances, such as hurricanes and tropical storms, on the broad geographic patterns of invasive species growth and spread have not been investigated. We used historical aerial imagery to determine the spread of invasive genotypes of Phragmites australis in wetlands along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States. Over the past several decades, P. australis stands have expanded in size by 6-35% per year and the growth rate was strongly and positively correlated with hurricane frequency. In the context of global climate change, in which many climatic models predict an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes over the next century, these results suggest a potentially significant link between climate change and species invasion.

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