Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Non-native plants exert strong but under-studied influence on fire dynamics.

Abstract

Altered fire regimes are among the most destructive consequences of anthropogenic environmental change. Fires have increased in frequency in some regions, and invasion by fire-adapted non-native species has been identified as a major driver of this change, which results in a feedback cycle promoting further spread by the non-native species and diminishing occurrence of natives. We notice, however, that non-native species are often invoked in passing as a primary cause of changing fire dynamics, but that data supporting this claim are rarely presented. We therefore performed a meta-analysis of published literature to determine whether a significant relationship exists between non-native species presence and increased fire effects and risk, examined via various fire metrics. Our analysis detected a strongly significant difference between fire metrics associated with non-native and native species, with non-native species linked to enhanced fire effects and risk. However, only 30 papers discussing this linkage provided data to support it, and those quantitative studies examined only eight regions, five biome types, and a total of 22 unique non-native taxa. It is clear that we are only beginning to understand the relationship between non-native species and fire and that results drawn from an extremely limited set of contexts have been broadly applied in the literature. It is important for ecologists to continue to investigate drivers of changing fire regimes as factors such as climate change and land use change alter native and non-native fuels alike.