Invasive plants can promote blue carbon storage

Coastal ecosystems store more carbon with certain plant invaders, but animal invaders set them back.

Invasive Phragmites reeds encroach on a boardwalk in a Maryland marsh. On this marsh, biologists with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center have been running climate change experiments for more than 30 years. CREDIT Gary Peresta/Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Invasive Phragmites reeds encroach on a boardwalk in a Maryland marsh. On this marsh, biologists with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center have been running climate change experiments for more than 30 years. CREDIT Gary Peresta/Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

At the point when invasive species enter the photo, things are infrequently high contrast. Another paper has uncovered that some plant intruders could help battle environmental change by making it less demanding for biological systems to store ‘blue carbon’ the carbon put away in beachfront situations like salt marshes, mangroves, and seagrass. Be that as it may, different invaders, most eminently animals, can behave opposite.

The scientist in a new study, determined marine habitats when tackling the issue of invasions and carbon storage. Past carbon storage research has concentrated to a great extent on earthbound conditions like forests.

Yet, marshes and mangroves can store carbon an expected 40 times quicker forests. What’s more, over the previous century, scholars gauge the world has lost 25 to 50 percent of its blue carbon living spaces, with an extra 8,000 square kilometers vanishing each year.

Understanding these biological communities is basic as policymakers work to moderate both environmental change and the effects of intrusive species.

Ian Davidson, a marine invasions biologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) said, ‘We were aware of the effects of invasions on other facets of these habitats, but this was the first time we really delved into blue carbon storage.”

This Maryland wetland is covered with invasive Phragmites reeds, light-brown stalks that grow taller than native grasses. However, marshes and other coastal ecosystems excel at storing "blue carbon," and some invasive plants like Phragmites could more than double this ability. CREDIT Gary Peresta/Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
This Maryland wetland is covered with invasive Phragmites reeds, light-brown stalks that grow taller than native grasses. However, marshes and other coastal ecosystems excel at storing “blue carbon,” and some invasive plants like Phragmites could more than double this ability.
CREDIT
Gary Peresta/Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Understanding these biological communities is basic as policymakers work to mitigate both environmental change and the effects of invasive species.

Scientists gathered the data from 104 different studies, covering 345 comparisons around the world. Each investigation contrasted an attacked blue-carbon ecosystem with a comparative uninvaded one.

The researchers utilized the information to compute how much plant-based biomass or soil carbon changed in each place within the sight of a trespasser. After some time, plant-based pools of biomass can be changed over into significant blue-carbon storage “sinks” that are secured in the soils underneath these living spaces.

But when the researchers crunched the numbers, they discovered invasive species do not fall into a single camp. When the most powerful plants invaded–the ones Davidson called “ecosystem engineers”–biomass skyrocketed. At a 117 percent boost, they more than doubled an ecosystem’s biomass and potential to store carbon.

The reason, the authors said, is because most of those plants were similar to the species they usurped (a new kind of mangrove tree entering a mangrove forest, for example, or a reed like Phragmites entering a salt marsh). Because the invaders grew larger and faster than the native species, the ecosystem as a whole could store more carbon.

Davidson said, “not only are they helping build habitat, but they also seem to be doing it more aggressively and more efficiently. Introduced animals are essentially going in there eating, trampling, cutting and destroying biomass.”

“Introduced animals are essentially going in there eating, trampling, cutting and destroying biomass.”

Salt marshes appeared to get the greatest biomass support from their trespassers, around 91 percent overall. This was incompletely in light of the fact that most salt marsh trespassers fell into the “ecosystem engineer” plant.

However, the authors pointed out, salt marshes made up a huge portion of the data they were able to analyze. Seagrass and mangroves have received much less attention, so the researchers did not have as much information to draw on.

Christina Simkanin, a marine biologist at SERC said, “We’re talking about how to best manage systems that are already impacted by humans, and how to do that in terms of what functions you want to preserve or you find most important.”

Grace Cott, a wetland ecologist at University College Cork said, “Ecosystem managers will be faced with a decision to eradicate or control invasive species. The information contained in this study can help managers make decisions if carbon storage is a function they want to enhance.”

The study is published in the journal Global Change Biology.