Global Environmental Changes More Frequently Offset than Intensify Detrimental Effects of Biological Invasion
Human-induced abiotic global environmental changes (GECs) and the spread of non-native invasive species are rapidly altering ecosystems. Understanding the relative and interactive effects of invasion and GECs is critical for informing ecosystem adaptation and management, but this information has not been synthesized. We conducted a meta-analysis to investigate effects of invasions, GECs, and their combined influences on native ecosystems. We found 458 cases from 95 published studies that reported individual and combined effects of invasions and a GEC stressor, which was most commonly warming, drought, or nitrogen addition. We calculated standardized effect sizes (Hedges’ d ) for individual and combined treatments and classified interactions as additive (sum of individual treatment effects), antagonistic (smaller than expected), or synergistic (outside the expected range).
The ecological effects of GECs varied, with detrimental effects more likely with drought than the other GECs. Invasions were more strongly detrimental, on average, than GECs. Invasion and GEC interactions were mostly antagonistic, but synergistic interactions occurred in >25% of cases and mostly led to more detrimental outcomes for ecosystems. While interactive effects were most often smaller than expected from individual invasion and GEC effects, synergisms were not rare and occurred across ecological responses from the individual to the ecosystem scale. Overall, interactions between invasions and GECs were typically no worse than the effects of invasions alone, highlighting the importance of managing invasions locally as a crucial step toward reducing harm from multiple global changes.
Significance: International concern about the consequences of human-induced global environmental changes has prompted a renewed focus on reducing ecological effects of biological invasions, climate change, and nutrient pollution. Our results show that the combined effects of nonnative species invasions and abiotic global environmental changes are often negative but no worse than invasion impacts alone. Invasion impacts are also more strongly detrimental than warming temperatures or nitrogen deposition, two common stressors. Thus, reducing the spread of invasive species is critical for mitigating harms from anthropogenic changes to global ecosystems.