Audrey Barker Plotkin and Annette Evans of the Northeast Regional Invasive Species and Climate Change Management Network recently summarized a publication from Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, authored by Martin Andres Nuñez and others.

“Trees are the backbone of most Northeastern ecosystems, and they help mitigate the negative effects of climate change by taking up and storing atmospheric carbon. However, planting or allowing the spread of non-native trees in traditionally treeless landscapes such as grasslands and shrublands can disrupt important ecological processes and dynamics of the native ecosystem and may have net negative consequences for climate. Nuñez et al. (2021) caution managers to consider carefully the negative ecosystem consequences of planting non-native trees against potential benefits of carbon sequestration. For example, while invasive trees are able to accumulate and store carbon efficiently in their stems, increased tree cover can intensify fire regimes and reduce albedo (that is, increase absorption of sunlight by the vegetation, leading to increased surface warming), counteracting these gains. Tree invasions also decrease streamflow and water availability in grasslands and shrublands, a major concern in regions where water is scarce. The authors conclude that allowing non-native tree invasions is rarely an effective means to mitigate climate change. Instead focus should be placed on alternative management strategies such as restoring historically forested areas by planting native trees or a mix of native species and non-native trees identified by risk assessments as representing a low-risk of invasion and negative impact.”

Read more of this research summary.