Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Global impacts of invasive species on the tipping points of shallow lakes.

Abstract

There is growing acknowledgement that human-induced change can push ecosystems beyond tipping points, resulting in the dramatic and sudden loss of vital ecosystem services. Invasive non-native species (INNS) are spreading rapidly due to anthropogenic activities and climate change and can drive changes to ecosystem functioning by altering abiotic conditions and restructuring native communities. Shallow lake ecosystems are especially vulnerable to perturbation from INNS as they can exist in two alternative stable states: either clear water with an abundance of vegetation or turbid, unvegetated and dominated by phytoplankton. Through a global meta-analysis of studies observing the effects of INNS on recipient lake ecosystems, we found that certain INNS drive significant changes in the abundance of key taxa and conditions that govern the balance of alternative equilibria in shallow lakes. Invasive fish and crustaceans demonstrated effects likely to lead to early ecosystem collapse to a turbid state and delay ecosystem recovery. Invasive molluscs presented opposite effects, which may delay ecosystem collapse and encourage ecosystem recovery. Our results demonstrate that INNS could significantly alter the tipping points of ecosystem collapse and recovery, and that not all invasive species may initiate system collapse. Our results provide guidance for managers of invaded shallow lake ecosystems, which provide diverse services including sanitation, potable water supply, industrial cooling, aquaculture and recreational resources. Moreover, our approach could be applied to identify key potential drivers of change in other crucial ecosystems which demonstrate alternative equilibria, such as coral reefs and kelp forests.