Is the Warmer Weather Increasing the Bloom of Invasive Species?

2022-06-06

 |  Biodiversity/Conservation

It has been shown that Canada’s climate has increased by 1.7°C between 1948 and 2016 (Bush, E. and Lemmen, D.S., 2019). As we transition into the warmer months, more plant species will be in bloom which could lead to an increase in habitable environments for other species.

However, what does climate change mean for our native species? Specifically, will the warmer weather increase the prevalence of invasive species? 

Invasive species are defined as any organism that causes ecological or economic harm in a new environment where it is not native.

It has indeed been shown that warmer weather does increase invasive species. The Invasive Species Centre in Canada has outlined climate change and warmer weather as a way for invasive species to spread. The combination of invasive species with climate change can reduce ecosystem resilience and negatively impact biodiversity. There are a number of ways that this can occur:

  1. Climate change causes an increase of extreme weather events including floods and droughts. These weather events can cause stress to native species and ultimately push them out and allow the opportunity for invasive species to move in.
  2. The warmer climate can change the way native species behave – ultimately affecting their life cycles. Moreover, the warmer weather also serves as a way for invasive species’ behaviours to change – and further cause them to push native species out. 
  3. The warmer weather, alongside an increase in precipitation and humidity, can allow more favourable conditions for the spread of invasive species.
  4. As the climate gets warmer, the ice sheets in Northern Canada continue to melt. This allows for more shipping routes to emerge and further the spread of invasive species.

Photo Credit: Karsten Winegeart (Unsplash)

In some parts of Canada an increase in forest fires can be attributed to invasive species. Invasive cheatgrass was introduced to North America in the early 1800s. Cheatgrass has an advantage over native species as it seeds earlier than native species, allowing it to push them out of the ecosystem. The large amount of cheatgrass prevalent in drier environments, such as the Canadian prairies, serves as fuel for forest fires.

In addition, climate change and ultimately warmer weather allows for native species to change their range, and invasive species to bloom. For example, the white-tailed deer is shifting their range further south, disrupting moose. Due to this, moose are disrupting caribou as they shift their range to the north. Due to a shift in competition and species-range as a result of the warmer weather, invasive species can have more opportunity to move in.

Photo Credit: Markus Spiske (Unsplash)

What can we do? 

  • Vote for policy-makers that incorporate a passion for responding to and improving climate change policy to help prevent the spread of invasive species. 
  • Further educate yourself on what invasive species are prevalent in your area. Some excellent resources include:
  • As always, continue leading an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle to prevent your own emissions contribution to climate change.

References: 

Bush, E. and Lemmen, D.S., editors (2019): Canada’s Changing Climate Report; Government of Canada, Ottawa, ON. 444 p.

Canadian Council on Invasive Species. (2022). Invasive Species and Climate Change. https://canadainvasives.ca/invasive-species/invasive-species-and-climate-change/

Invasive Species Centre. (2022). Climate Change. https://www.invasivespeciescentre.ca/invasive-species/what-is-at-risk/climate-change/

National Ocean Services. (2021). What is an invasive species? https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/invasive.html