Plant Invasion in Mountain Ecosystems

I have just spent several days in the breathtaking mountain landscapes of the Nahuel Huapi National Park (San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina) together with Ann Milbau, Jonas LembrechtsAnibal Pauchard and Martin Nuñez talking about plant invasion at high altitudes and latitudes. I’m still very much a novice in the field of plant invasions and thus this post might sound pretty naive to those of you who are plant-invasion geeks. Anyway, I think that I’m learning a lot by hanging around Ann, Jonas, Anibal and Martin who all know a great deal on this topic and thus I’m giving it a try. Please, correct me if I’m saying anything stupid here. One thing that I have rapidely understood is that although these cold and harsh environments are among the least invaded ecosystems in the world, nonnative plants are becoming increasingly common in these environments (Pauchard et al., 2009) and will be even more with future climate change, posing a threat to native plant species. Within the Nahuel Huapi National Park, up to 130 invasive plants have been recorded so far. Nahuel Huapi National Park Shortly after landing in San Carlos de Bariloche, I could easily grasp the phenomenon and see by myself how important are plant invasions in mountain ecosystems such as in the Nahuel Huapi National Park and its surroundings. The Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorda), native from the western part of North America, has already rapidly expanded into the dry steppes surrounding Bariloche’s airport at the foothill of the Patagonian Andes. Lodgepole pine invasion into the dry steppes surrounding Bariloche’s airport at the foothill of the Andes As we were heading towards Bariloche, I could not miss the bright yellow colors of the Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) along the road. This European fellow is simply everywhere on the roadsides. Scoth broom on the shore of Nahuel Huapi lake From the lakeshore, close to Bariloche, we climbed uphill within the impressive Coihue forest (Nothofagus dombeyi) which understorey was covered by a carpet of dead Caña coihue (Chusquea coleou) after a massive die-off happening some years ago. This native bamboo is flowering on a thirty-year basis, on average, triggering mice population explosions the following years due to large seed supplies. Bamboo native from Latine America As we moved up along the trail, I encountered plenty of our little European plant fellows playing hide and seek in the clearings, among others: Prunus avium, Sorbus aucuparia, Juniperus communis, Rosa rubiginosa, Rubus idaeus and Taraxacum officinale. Prunus invasion As we kept climbing upward it got less crowded with European plants and once we reached the vegetation belt of the Lenga forest (Nothofagus pumilio), only few individuals were standing here and there along the trail (Rosa rubiginosa, Taraxacum officinale and Hieracium pilosella), barely visible. Lenga forest Finally, once we reached the treeline, at the doorstep of the alpine vegetation belt when Lenga trees rapidly decreases in size (see the two pictures below with Martin for the scale), then I did not see any of our European fellows anymore but maybe these little guys were just hiding very well and I was just too tired after the hike. Lenga tree before the treeline Treeline Or, most likely, I was just too much distracted by the most beautiful native alpine plant of the area (Ranunculus semiverticillatus) to see any nonnative plant… ranunculus semiverticillatus Thank Ann, Jonas, Anibal and Martin for the great discussions and for letting me discover a wonderful country (@Martin: you look great on the two pictures, very professional). For more information on plant invasions into mountain areas in general, have a look at the website of the outstanding mountain invasion research network (MIREN). Last but not least, I highly recommend to visit Jona’s blog which is just amazing and full of beautiful pictures, enjoy.

A Call for a Post-Doc Position in Ecoinformatics and Vegetation: Fine-Grained Modeling of Invasive Plants by Remote Sensing

Digital surface model of the tree canopy from the southern part of the forest of Compiègne (France). Emilie Gallet-Moron2-yr postdoc position in ecoinformatics: fine-grained modeling of biological invasions

This is a call for a PhD who is interested in either biological invasions, remote sensing or species distribution modeling. Applications are invited for a 2-yr postdoc position starting in late 2014 or beginning of 2015 in the research team “Ecologie et Dynamique des Systèmes Anthropisés (EDYSAN)”, based at Jules Vernes University of Picardie, Amiens, France. EDYSAN is a young, diverse, vibrant and international research community with strong collaborative interdisciplinary ties within and beyond Amiens. More information about the people and research activities of the group can be found here.

The successful applicant will be tightly involved in the BiodivERsA project entitled “Detection of invasive plant species and assessment of their impact on ecosystem properties through remote sensing (DIARS)”. By combining two aircraft remote sensing technologies (hyperspectral imaging and light detection-and-ranging), DIARS aims at monitoring and predicting spread and risk assessment of invasive plant species at fine spatial resolution. Focusing on three different study sites in Southern France, Belgium and Western Germany, the postdoc will use LiDAR-derived data to assess current and future distributions of three invasive plants: one moss (Campilopus introflexus); one perennial herb (Oxalis pes-caprae); and one tree (Prunus serotina). The postdoc will also be involved in an ecoinformatics initiative designing a toolbox to facilitate the use of remote sensing data for assessing and characterizing the ecosystem impacts of invasive plants in a Free and Open Source environment. There will be ample opportunity for independent and collaborative research in related areas of ecoinformatics.

The candidate is expected to have:

  • A Ph.D. in environmental sciences, computer sciences, statistics or mathematics;
  • Cutting-edge expertise in modeling and advanced statistical analyses;
  • Programming skills in Free and Open Source environments (R and GRASS);
  • Basic knowledge and interest in ecology;
  • Strong collaborative skills;
  • Proven abilities to publish at a high International level;
  • Good oral and written communication skills in English.

Experience in remote sensing, species distribution modeling, plant ecology or biological invasions would also be an advantage for the position.

The main supervisors are Dr. Jonathan Lenoir and Dr. Duccio Rocchini who are Associate Professor in Biostatistics and Researcher in Geographical Modeling and Spatial Ecology, respectively. The postdoc will benefit from interactions with researchers in remote sensing (Dr. Ben Somers, Dr. Feilhauer Hannes, Prof. Sebastian Schmidtlein and Prof. Gregory Asner), conservation ecology (Prof. Olivier Honnay) and biological invasions (Prof. Guillaume Decocq).

Please send your CV, including a list of publication, together with a cover letter and the contact information of 3 references to Jonathan Lenoir –