Identifying high-impact invasive plants likely to shift into northern New England with climate change.
Invasive plants are expanding their ranges due to climate change, creating new challenges for invasive species management. Early detection and rapid response could address some nascent invasions, but limited resources make it impossible to monitor for every range-shifting species. Here, we aimed to create a more focused watch list by evaluating the impacts of 87 plant species projected to shift into northern New England (the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and/or Vermont). We used the Environmental Impact Classification for Alien Taxa (EICAT) protocol to evaluate all ecological impacts reported in the scientific literature, scoring ecological impacts from 1 (minimal concern) to 4 (major) depending on the level of reported impact. For each species, we also recorded any reported impacts on socioeconomic systems (agriculture, human health, or economics) as "present." We found 24 range-shifting species with impacts on ecological communities, of which 22 have reported impacts in ecosystems common to northern New England. Almost all of these species also had impacts on socioeconomic systems and were available for purchase at ornamental plant retailers or online. Thus, these species can be considered high risk to northern New England with climate change based on their large negative impacts and potential to arrive quickly with deliberate human introduction. Our study demonstrates the use of impact assessments for creating targeted priority lists for invasive species monitoring and management.