About this Research Topic
Anthropocene has become an environmental and political buzzword ever since Paul Crutzen popularized it in 2000. Today, our planet is facing a global change era, and at the same time biological invasions are one of the main human-driven process and one of the major threats to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning at the global scale. The ever-increasing global spread of invasive alien species leads to serious damages to human economic activities such as forestry, agriculture, fisheries, and it is a hindrance to international trade. The massive presence of invasive alien species in many cases has created brand new ecosystems. Throughout the world, there are both success stories of invasive species control and outstanding failures, leading to the need of managing these novel ecosystems and to coexist with them. In addition, a large number of alien species are not invasive and are key species for agriculture, bio-based products, landscaping, and many other uses. They supply numerous raw materials and characterize landscapes, traditions, human culture and anthropic systems in every part of the world.
This general trend does apply to aquatic ecosystems as well, due to their intense exploitation for multiple purposes. Freshwater networks have become one of the main corridor promoting the human-mediated and natural spread of many alien species. In addition, the severe impairment of global water quality, as well as the substantial tampering of flow regimes by climate change has very frequently favored the establishment of new invaders. It is not unexpected, therefore, that a significant portion of invasive alien species is harbored by aquatic ecosystems, with the appearance of novel ecosystems that include alien plants and animals.
While the impact of invasive alien species on the diversity of aquatic ecosystems is commonly accepted, a limited number of studies have focused on their multiple roles in new habitats (including also marginal contexts). There is an urgent need to help fill this gap, also considering human heritage values. Particularly, we are interested in expanding the comprehension of the biology, dynamics and ecology of alien plants in aquatic and riparian ecosystems, including – among others – structure, diversity, function, and services. This is fundamental to improve our knowledge of resilience, spread patterns across scales and contexts, and to develop control and prevention measures, or no intervention strategies. It is also crucial to study the ecosystems balance dynamics.
In this context, some prominent questions are:
• Can alien species and related novel ecosystem rearrangement play a strategic role to foster biodiversity, productivity, resistance of ecosystems facing human pressure (desertification, urbanization, deforestation, pollution, landforms and climate changes)?
• Can alien species in freshwaters be a critical problem in some contexts while an asset in others?
Outlooks and unbiased discussions about these issues can be of wide interest, in land and ecosystem management policies, in human heritage preservation, and natural resources management strategies. This Research Topic will bring together these issues to improve the development of knowledge, transcending the classical paradigm on the expected one-way role of alien species in ecosystems, being invasive alien the ones commonly most addressed.
As in literature there is only little evidence to support a “non-negative” role of alien plants in freshwater ecosystem, this Research Topic pursues the objective to collect a series of high-quality articles focusing on the multiple roles played by invasive and non-invasive alien plants in aquatic ecosystems. This embraces a wide variety of critical themes, including biogeochemical, trophic and competitive interactions between species, spatial and temporal species’ dynamics, co-occurrence and species’ association, and traits both at the individual (species) and community (habitat) level. This Research Topic also welcomes submissions related to functions and services, impaired or enhanced by aquatic alien plants. We therefore encourage interdisciplinary submissions across ecology and biology of aquatic alien plants.
Photo Credit: Dr Rossano Bolpagni - Nelumbo nucifera in Mantua lakes (northern Italy)
Keywords: Non-Native Macrophytes, Biological Invasions, Ecosystem Processes, Biotic-Abiotic Interactions, Aquatic Ecosystems
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