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Climate Change and Invasive Species. Michael W. Slimak, Ph.D. The views expressed in this presentation are those of the author and they do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Observed Temperature Changes 1901 - 2004.

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climate change and invasive species

Climate Change and Invasive Species

Michael W. Slimak, Ph.D.

The views expressed in this presentation are those of the author and they do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Observed Temperature Changes 1901 - 2004

Source: Koblinsky 2006 ICLEI






Flow regulation


Climate Change






Biological Impact











Climate Change not the only Stressor

Interactive effect of multiple stressors; climate is exacerbating

Temperature, hydrologic, geomorphic ecological processes & species

take home message
Take Home Message
  • Earth is getting warmer; climate is changing with a regional texture
  • Anthropogenic global warming due to excess GHG’s; CO2 the most important
  • Rate of GHG increase and rate of global warming is of concern
  • Climate change and invasive species are inextricably linked
  • As climate changes, we can expect ecosystem changes
  • Ecosystem changes results in shifts in plant and animal distributions
  • Rapid ecosystem change favors species with high genetic plasticity
  • Many successful invaders have high plasticity as they are pioneers
  • Profound impact on co-evolution of ecosystems and their components
us government s climate change science program
US Government’s Climate Change Science Program
  • Climate Change Science Program (CCSP)
    • 13 federal agencies
    • Current research & assessments based on 2003 strategic plan
  • Five broad goals

1. Research of past & present climate change & variability

2.Quantification of Earth’s climate and related systems

3. Reduce uncertainty in climate change projections

4. Understand climate change impacts to ecosystems & humans

5. Knowledge to manage risks & opportunities related to climate change

ccsp synthesis and assessment reports
CCSP Synthesis and Assessment Reports
  • 21 Reports due out over the next year
  • The “4 series” involves impacts and adaptation

4.1 Sea level rise

4.2 Thresholds of change

4.3 Impacts on agriculture, biodiversity, land & water resources

4.4 Adaptation options for climate-sensitive ecosystems

4.5 Impacts on energy production

4.6 Impacts on human health, welfare and human settlements

4.7 Impacts on transportation systems

  • Available at WWW. USGCRP.GOV
2007 ipcc report on impacts adaptation main points for freshwater systems management
2007 IPCC Report on Impacts & AdaptationMain Points for Freshwater Systems & Management
  • Seasonal shift in streamflow
    • Increased winter flows, less snow storage
  • Decreased water resources in Western US
    • Decreased groundwater recharge due to increased population and water demand
  • Increased precipitation intensity & variability
    • Increased flooding & drought in many areas
  • Increased water temp, precipitation intensity, and longer periods of low flows exacerbate water pollution
  • Sea level rise will increase saltwater intrusion into groundwater & estuaries
    • Decreased freshwater availability in coastal areas
watersheds are highly sensitive to climate change global warming intensifies the hydrologic cycle
Watersheds are highly sensitive to climate changeGlobal Warming Intensifies the Hydrologic Cycle
  • In many areas significant changes are likely:
  • hydrology
  • water quality
  • ecosystems

Overview of impacts of climate change on rivers

  • Temperature increases likely in most regions
  • Rainfall changes less certain: extreme events like storms/droughts will
  • be more common in some areas and less so in others
  • Snowmelt earlier in some regions
current water stress levels
Current Water Stress Levels

Chap. 3, IPCC 2007

increases in rainfall
Increases in Rainfall

Trends in precipitation: 1901-1998

Trends in proportion of precipitation occurring

as extreme events: 1910-1995

Green = increase

Brown = decrease

shift from snowfall to rainfall
Shift from Snowfall to Rainfall

Knowles et al. 2005, AGU


1 0 1 2 3



Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (MD)




Open Water


climate change effects on aquatic invasive species
Climate Change Effects on Aquatic Invasive Species
  • Several mechanisms of effects and many consequences for AIS
  • Changes in air temperature influence changes in water temperature
  • Changes in precipitation timing and amount affect water quantity and quality, and timing of flows
  • Thermal expansion and polar melting cause sea level rise
  • Increasing atmospheric CO2 decreases pH

Effects vary regionally and seasonally

Alterations have consequences throughout ecosystem

some consequences for water quality
Some Consequences for Water Quality
  • Re-suspension of bottom sediments & compounds from lower water levels
  • Increased turbidity from more intense rainfall
  • Increased pollution washed from soils from more intense rainfall
  • Increased algal blooms from increased water temperatures
  • Enhanced transfer of volatile & semi-volatile compounds with increasing water temperature
  • Increased acidification from acidic atmospheric deposition

Chap. 3, IPCC 2007

aquatic ecosystem impacts
Aquatic Ecosystem Impacts

Increasing water temperatures

  • Decreasing O2 concentration, P release from sediments, increasing thermal stability, altered mixing patterns in lakes
  • Earlier ice cover break up, increasing ice free periods
  • Species moving up in altitude and latitude
    • Changing species composition
    • Changing seasonality & productivity of plankton
    • Changing food web interactions

Chap. 4, IPCC 2007

evidence of stream warming
Evidence of Stream Warming

Strong evidence of changes in length of seasonFreeze dates are later,thaw dates are earlier

From J.J. Magnuson and IPCC reports


Aquatic Ecosystem Impacts

Increasing UV-B radiation & temperature

  • Increased dissolved organic carbon (DOC)
  • Altered biogeochemical cycles
  • Changed (probably increased) net primary productivity
  • Q10 phenomenon

Chap. 4, IPCC 2007

increased biological production
Increased Biological Production

Benke 1993

Elliott and Hurley 2000

is it possible to reduce impacts to aquatic ecosystems
Is it Possible to Reduce Impacts to Aquatic Ecosystems?

Increase resilience of ecosystems

  • Reduce impacts from other stressors (e.g., pollution, acidification, desertification, eutrophication, invasive species)
    • Likely to enhance resilience to climate change
  • Maintain habitat connectivity, population sizes, genetic diversity
  • Restore habitat
    • Activities need to account for new environmental conditions

SAP 4.4 of US Climate Change evaluates adaptation options

bottom line
Bottom Line
  • Climate is changing
  • Rate of change is more rapid than previously experienced
  • Will result in profound ecosystem changes
  • Will favor species with high genetic plasticity
  • Likely to have major implications for controlling aquatic invasive species
for additional information
For additional information…

EPA Climate Change

EPA Global Change Research Program

Climate Change Science Program

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


Britta Bierwagen, EPA

Margaret Palmer, University of Maryland

EPA’s Global Change Research Program