Phenotypic plasticity mediates climate change responses among invasive and indigenous arthropods

Chown, Steven L. ; Slabber, Sarette ; McGeoch, Melodie A. ; Janion, Charlene ; Leinaas, Hans Petter (2007-10)

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Synergies between global change and biological invasion have been identified as a major potential threat to global biodiversity and human welfare. The global change-type drought characteristic of many temperate terrestrial ecosystems is especially significant because it will apparently favour invasive over indigenous species, adding to the burden of conservation and compromising ecosystem service delivery. However, the nature of and mechanisms underlying this synergy remain poorly explored. Here we show that in a temperate terrestrial ecosystem, invasive and indigenous springtail species differ in the form of their phenotypic plasticity such that warmer conditions promote survival of desiccation in the invasive species and reduce it in the indigenous ones. These differences are consistent with significant declines in the densities of indigenous species and little change in those of invasive species in a manipulative field experiment that mimicked climate change trends. We suggest that it is not so much the extent of phenotypic plasticity that distinguishes climate change responses among these invasive and indigenous species, as the form that this plasticity takes. Nonetheless, this differential physiological response provides support for the idea that in temperate terrestrial systems experiencing global change-type drought, invasive species may well be at an advantage relative to their indigenous counterparts. © 2007 The Royal Society.

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