Following plant invaders

Invading plants… Plant species follow us everywhere we go on our travels, resulting in a global exchange of species that only intensified with the increased globalization. No regions but the most pristine are nowadays free of invaders. The arctic mountains long seemed to be protected by their cold and inhospitable environment, but as we are starting to use the north more and more, the invading species inevitably follow. Up and higher, every year a little bit further north, every year a few more plants. Traveling attached to car tires or the mud underneath a traveler’s shoe, species like this white clover are becoming a common sight in the arctic mountains.

Trifolium repens


We follow these traveling plants to the cold climate of the north, and further, into the mountains. After a first inventory of the alien species in Norwegian mountain roadsides in the summer of 2013 (you can read more about the basic findings here), we started an experiment to unravel the different factors that limit and promote this plant invasion in (sub)arctic mountains. For this purpose, we planted seeds of typical alien species in controlled plots on different elevations in the mountains. Their germination has already been proved, as can be seen on the picture.

Experiment Abisko


This exciting two-year experiment brings us to the far north (Abisko, Sweden), but also the most southern part of the world (Punta Arenas, Chile). With the support of INTERACT, we will organize two field campaigns to Abisko this season, to measure winter survival in spring and harvest the total biomass of the aliens at the end of their second growing season.

My name is Jonas Lembrechts, I am a brand-new PhD-student from the University of Antwerp in Belgium, and a committed scientific blogger (this is my personal blog!). I am part of an international team of scientists from Sweden, Chile, Argentina and Belgium and I am happy to share our international adventures with you on this blog. 

7 thoughts on “Following plant invaders

  1. uknowispeaksense

    Will your work establish species tolerance limits that could act as a baseline for future research into the extent that climate change also facilitates weed invasions?

    1. lembrechtsjonas

      That is indeed one of the major aims of my research! By comparing alien species performance on different elevations, we can estimate the effect of the temperature. However, we expect a major importance of micro variation in climate. We will also another experiment (I did not yet talk about) where we will take into account this microclimate. We expect it to allow alien species to establish much higher than their average tolerance limits.
      Moreover, I will use a modeling approach in the second part of my PhD to link all studied factors together and predict mountain invasion under different scenarios of climate change.

      1. uknowispeaksense

        Sounds excellent and ambitious. I hope you do some great science and I wish you well.

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