Bad for biodiversity
Invasive foreign plants are encroaching on higher mountains
Mountain regions have so far been largely spared from the invasion of non-native plants. According to a new international study led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), this is the end of it.
Published: 20 minutes ago
A researcher from ETH Zurich records non-native plant species along a mountain road in Valais.
In the last ten years, neophytes have spread rapidly to greater heights along transport routes, as the study recently published in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution” shows.
The number of alien species examined worldwide has increased by 16 percent in ten years. In addition, the scientists found neophytes at significantly higher altitudes in ten of the eleven study areas than they did ten or even five years ago. This has a negative impact on biodiversity.
Traffic routes are to blame. Neophytes have an easy time along roads because people spread their seeds, ETH Zurich wrote in a statement on Friday. In addition, the natural vegetation is disturbed by the traffic infrastructure. Native plants are therefore less competitive. According to the study, however, biological invaders have a difficult time in intact mountain habitats far away from roads.
The fact that the neophytes occur in higher areas did not surprise lead author Evelin Iseli from ETH Zurich. “But we were amazed that these plants spread so quickly and that the number of non-native species has increased so much within a decade,” she was quoted as saying in the university’s statement. “It usually takes several decades for species to establish themselves in an area and spread widely.”
The data on which the study is based includes almost 15,000 observations of 616 non-native plant species from 651 study plots. The vegetation recordings were made in Chile, Australia, Tenerife, Switzerland, the USA, Hawaii, the Kashmir region and Norway.
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