Climate Change and Invasive Species


water chestnut removal
European water chestnut (trapa natans), which forms dense mats across the surface of shallow lakes and slow-moving streams, is becoming increasingly common in watersheds across the Garden State.

Climate change -- with its increasing frequency of extreme weather events and its ability to alter critical components of natural systems such as temperature, precipitation, atmospheric composition and land cover -- can facilitate the spread of invasive species. When rivers overflow their banks, invasive plants and animals can be transported to new sites. When heavy winds topple trees in forests, invasive plants often outcompete natives for the sunlight streaming in through newly-opened gaps in the canopy. Higher average temperatures lengthen terrestrial growing seasons, enhance the winter survival rates of species that would otherwise suffer die-backs due to freezes, and expand aquatic habitats for invasive warm–water species while stressing populations of native cool-water species.

Diligent monitoring of vulnerable areas is required to spot and stop populations of invasives, whether they arise after events like Superstorm Sandy, slower moving impacts of climate change, or other factors (the inadvertent transport of Didymosphenia geminata, more commonly known as rock snot, from one waterway to another on boats, waders and other fishing equipment, for example).

Climate change is opening doors to invasive species, but we do not have to have to stand idly by. We can arm ourselves with knowledge about the invasive species most likely to cross New Jersey's thresholds, be on the lookout for them and strike as soon as they are detected! Every community has unique features that determine which species are most likely to threaten it. By sharing our expertise and resources and thereby deploying more monitors across the landscape, we help local organizations address the concerns about emerging invasive species that are specific to their communities.