An invasive plant may cost a Caribbean island 576,704 dollars per year

Guest blog post by Wendy Jesse

Coralita overgrowing vegetation. Photo from https://www.wur.nl/en/show/invasive-plants-in-caribbean-netherlands.htm

A recent study in One Ecosystem has estimated the severe loss of ecosystem service value as a result of the widespread invasion by the plant species Coralita (Antigonon leptopus) on the Caribbean island of St. Eustatius. The results illustrate the drastic impact that a single invader can have on the economy of a small island and inform policy makers about priority areas for invasive species management.

See for full article: Huisman, S., Jesse, W., Ellers, J., & van Beukering, P. (2021). Mapping the economic loss of ecosystem services caused by the invasive plant species Antigonon leptopus on the Dutch Caribbean Island of St. Eustatius. One Ecosystem6, e72881. https://doi.org/10.3897/oneeco.6.e72881

The invader: Coralita

Coralita is a fast-growing, climbing vine with beautiful pink or white flowers. Originally from Mexico, it was introduced as a popular garden plant to many Caribbean islands and around the world. Its fast-growing nature means that it can outcompete most native species for terrain, quickly becoming the dominant species and reducing overall diversity (Jesse et al. 2020, Nature Today 2020, Eppinga et al. 2021a). This is especially the case on St. Eustatius, where published ground surveys indicate that the plant already appears on 33 percent of the island.

Losses of ecosystem services

Coralita overgrowing cars. Photo by Rotem Zilber

We estimated the total terrestrial ecosystem service (ES) value on St. Eustatius to be $2.7 million per year by mapping five important terrestrial ecosystem services: Tourism, Carbon sequestration, Non-use (i.e., intrinsic biodiversity) value, Local recreational value, and Archeological value. Subsequently, we calculated Coralita-induced loss of ecosystem services under two realistic distributional scenarios of Coralita cover on the island: 3% of island dominantly covered (based on Haber et al. 2021, Nature Today 2021) and 36% dominant cover (if entire range would reach dominant coverage), causing an annual ES value loss of $39,804 and $576,704 respectively. The highest ES value (17,584 $/ha/year) as well as the most severe losses (3% scenario: 184 $/ha/year; 36% scenario: 1,257 $/ha/year) were located on the dormant Quill volcano; a highly biodiverse location with popular hiking trails for locals and tourists alike.

Consequences for policy makers and practitioners

Coralita blocking water a drainage channel. Photo by Wendy Jesse.

There is an urgent need for studies such as this one that help to bridge the gap between academia and policy planning, as these translate abstract numbers into intuitive information. Instead of invasive species being just a biological term, direct impacts on people’s value systems and sources of income immediately strike a chord. I experience this on a daily basis, because in addition to being a coauthor on this paper, I currently work as a policy employee in nature protection and management.

Coralita overgrowing archeological heritage on St. Eustatius. Photo from St. Eustatius Center for Archeological Research (SECAR)

This study helps to prioritize locations for invasive species prevention, management, eradication, and restoration. It is imperative that invasive species do not reach locations of high ecosystem service value. Management of isolated satellite patches of Coralita close to locations of high ES value will likely be most effective in halting the plant’s invasive spread (Eppinga et al. 2021b). Setting up a targeted monitoring and rapid response strategy, as well as legislation for biosecurity measures to prevent other invasive species from entering the island, would likely help to reduce impacts on the important ecosystem services on St. Eustatius.

References

Academic literature:

Eppinga, M. B., Haber, E. A., Sweeney, L., Santos, M. J., Rietkerk, M., & Wassen, M. J. (2021a). Antigonon leptopus invasion is associated with plant community disassembly in a Caribbean island ecosystem. Biological Invasions, 1-19.

Eppinga M, Baudena M, Haber E, Rietkerk M, Wassen M, Santos M (2021b) Spatially explicit removal strategies increase the efficiency of invasive plant species control.

Ecological Applications 31 (3): 1‑13. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.2257Haber E, Santos M, Leitão P, Schwieder M, Ketner P, Ernst J, Rietkerk M, Wassen M, Eppinga M (2021) High spatial resolution mapping identifies habitat characteristics of the invasive vine Antigonon leptopuson St. Eustatius (Lesser Antilles). Biotropica 53 (3): 941‑953. https://doi.org/10.1111/btp.12939

Jesse, W. A., Molleman, J., Franken, O., Lammers, M., Berg, M. P., Behm, J. E., … & Ellers, J. (2020). Disentangling the effects of plant species invasion and urban development on arthropod community composition. Global change biology26(6), 3294-3306.

Blog posts on Nature Today website:

van Maanen, G. Molleman, J., Jesse, W.A.M. (2020) Drastic effects of coralita on the biodiversity of insects and spiders. Nature Today. naturetoday.com/intl/en/nature-reports/message/?msg=26339

Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (2021) Using satellite imagery to map St. Eustatius’ coralita invasion. Nature Today. naturetoday.com/intl/en/nature-reports/message/?msg=28317

Ten years of ecosystem services matrix: Review of a (r)evolution

In recent years, the concept of Ecosystem Services (ES): the benefits people obtain from ecosystems, such as pollination provided by bees for crop growing, timber provided by forests or recreation enabled by appealing landscapes, has been greatly popularised, especially in the context of impeding ecological crises and constantly degrading natural environments. 

Hence, there has been an increasing need for robust and practical methodologies to assess ES, in order to provide key stakeholders and decision-makers with crucial information. One such method to map and assess ES: the ES Matrix approach, has been increasingly used in the last decade.

The ES Matrix approach is based on the use of a lookup table consisting of geospatial units (e.g. types of ecosystems, habitats, land uses) and sets of ES, meant to be assessed for a specific study area, which means that the selection of a particular study area is the starting point in the assessment. Only then, suitable indicators and methods for ES quantification can be defined. Based on this information, a score for each of the ES considered is generated, referring to ES potential, ES supply, ES flow/use or demand for ES. 

Originally developed in a 2009 paper by a team, led by Prof Dr Benjamin Burkhard (Leibniz University Hannover and Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research ZALF), the ES Matrix allows the assessment of the capacity of particular ecosystem types or geospatial units to provide ES.

Ten years later, a research led by Dr C. Sylvie Campagne (Leibniz University Hannover, Germany), Dr Philip Roche (INRAE, France), Prof Dr Felix Muller (University of Kiel, Germany) and Prof Dr Benjamin Burkhard conducted a review of 109 published studies applying the ES matrix approach to find out how the ES matrix approach was applied and whether this was done in an oversimplified way or not.

In their recent paper, published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal One Ecosystem, the review confirms the method’s flexibility, appropriateness and utility for decision-making, as well as its ability to increase awareness of ES. Nevertheless, the ES matrix approach has often been used in a “quick and dirty” way that urges more transparency and integration of variability analyses, they conclude.

“We analysed the diversity of application contexts, highlighted trends of uses and proposed future recommendations for improved applications of the ES matrix. Amongst the main patterns observed, the ES matrix approach allows for the assessment of a higher number of ES than other ES assessment methods. ES can be jointly assessed with indicators for ecosystem condition and biodiversity in the ES matrix,”

explains Campagne.

“Although the ES matrix allows us to consider many data sources to achieve the assessment scores for the individual ES, these were mainly used together with expert-based scoring (73%) and/or ES scores that were based on an already-published ES matrix or deduced by information found in related scientific publications (51%),”

she elaborates. 

In 29% of the studies, an already existing matrix was used as an initial matrix for the assessment and in 16% no other data were used for the matrix scores or no adaptation of the existing matrix used was made. 

“Nevertheless, we recommend to use only scores assessed for a specific study or, if one wishes to use pre-existing scores from another study, to revise them in depth, taking into account the local context of the new assessment,”

she points out.

The researchers also acknowledge the fact that 27% of the reviewed studies did not clearly explain their methodology, which underlines the lack of method elucidation on how the data had been used and where the scores came from. Although some studies addressed the need to consider variabilities and uncertainties in ES assessments, only a minority of studies (15%) did so. Thus, the team also recommends to systematically report and consider variabilities and uncertainties in each ES assessment.

“We emphasise the need for all scientific studies to describe clearly and extensively the whole methodology used to score or evaluate ES, in order to be able to rate the quality of the scores obtained. The increasing number of studies that use the ES matrix approach confirms its success, appropriateness, flexibility and utility to generate information for decision-making, as well as its ability to increase awareness of ES, but the application of the ES matrix has to become more transparent and integrate more variability analyses,”

concludes the research team.

Original source:
Campagne CS, Roche P, Müller F, Burkhard B (2020) Ten years of ecosystem services matrix: Review of a (r)evolution. One Ecosystem 5: e51103. https://doi.org/10.3897/oneeco.5.e51103

Nature gem within the city: What grows in the biodiversity-rich Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve

Established as early as 1900, Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve (BNFR) is the oldest of its kind in Malaysia, offering a biodiversity- rich enclave, right in the middle of an ever-growing urban skyline in the capital city Kuala Lumpur.

Despite witnessing its territory reduced over time, from 17.5 to 9.37 ha, a team of scientists prove that Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve (now known as KL Forest Eco Park) still retains important biodiversity.

Making use of a specifically designed ‘Ecosystem Inventory’ article template in the innovative open access journal One Ecosystem, the team of scientists from Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) prove that although it’s lost almost half of its territories, when it comes to plant species the reserve retained most of its diversity.

During the new surveys conducted in April 2015 until May 2016, the authors recorded a total of 425 plant species still growing in BNFR territories, out of which 159 were new record species never collected from the area before. For comparison, the cumulative total of records from all previous surveys, the first ones starting as early as 1901, amounts to 499 species.

With its small area, BNFR surprises with rich flora, and it comes as no surprise that it has traditionally been the site used by many Forest Department officers as a place to study plants.

“This, alongside the important position of Bukit Nanas in Kuala Lumpur’s urban context, as a green lung in the bustling city, enriching its biodiversity, history, public recreation qualities and offering possibilities for scientific study and education, has prompted our surveys of the floristic richness of the reserve.” comment the authors.

The scientists were not disappointed by the park’s biodiversity, surprisingly still finding some enormous trees that appeared to be several hundred years old. The biggest of these is Ficus vasculosa, commonly known as ‘Ara’, with a diameter at breast height (dbh) of 124 cm.

From Henderson’s list, one of the very first, Tarrena rudis, an endemic species found only in Selangor, was recollected by the FRIM researchers, surprisingly still dwelling in BNFR after 87 years of its first record there.

In terms of endemic loss compared to previous surveys, however, 12 species could no longer be found on the territories anymore in BNFR.

“Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve can be still categorized as a forest with a good structure and diversity still holding a great variety of species.”explain the authors in conclusion. “The large loss of previously recorded endemics, however, raises concerns about the future of this reserve and calls for reconsideration of conservation measures.”

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Additional Information:

One Ecosystem is an innovative open access scholarly journal that goes beyond the conventional research article publication, open for submissions ranging across the entire research cycle, including: data, models, methods, workflows, results, software, perspectives, policy recommendations & more.

The journal offers a wide set of article templates, including domain-specific ones, such as Ecosystem services mapping, Ecological models or Environmental monitoring, allowing scientists to publish and get credit for their work at any stage of the research cycle.

For fresh updates from the journal, find us on Twitter @OneEcosystem

Original source:

Salleh N, Azeman S, Kiew R, Kamin I, Cheng Kong R (2017) Plant Checklist of the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. One Ecosystem 2: e13708. https://doi.org/10.3897/oneeco.2.e13708

What could be the importance of marine and coastal cultural ecosystem services

A detailed scientific literature review published in the open access journal One Ecosystem confirmed that research on marine and coastal cultural ecosystem services is scarce compared to other ecosystem service categories, revealing curious insights and identifying major knowledge gaps.

Available knowledge is not only primarily focused on local and regional sociocultural or economic assessments, but is also mostly coming from Western Europe and North America (USA and Canada). Largely underrepresented, the Global South has only a few studies in South America, Madagascar, and China. Remarkably, no marine and coastal cultural ecosystem services assessments were found in any country of the African continent.

“Such research bias narrows the understanding of social-ecological interactions to a western cultural setting, undermining the role of other worldviews in the understanding of a wide range of interactions between cultural practices and ecosystems worldwide” explain the study authors led by João Garcia Rodrigues.

In addition to this regional bias, the authors have identified clusters of co-occurring drivers of change affecting marine and coastal habitats and their cultural ecosystem services. Damming, land reclamation, tourism and industrial fishing were among the identified drivers of change.

The main knowledge gaps found were the lack of integrated valuation assessments; linking the contribution of cultural ecosystem service benefits to human well-being; assessing more subjective and intangible classes; identifying the role of open-ocean and deep-sea areas in providing these services; and understanding the role of non-natural capital in the co-production of cultural ecosystem services. “Research priorities should be aimed at filling these knowledge gaps” explain the authors.

Overcoming such challenges can result in more balanced decisions that will ultimately contribute to more sustainable interactions between humans and the marine environment. The authors highlight that “cultural ecosystem services are strong motivations for people to embrace sustainability, and hence their inclusion in environmental decision-supporting mechanisms can contribute to a more sustainable future for marine and coastal ecosystems”.

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Original Source:

Garcia Rodrigues J, Conides A, Rivero Rodriguez S, Raicevich S, Pita P, Kleisner K, Pita C, Lopes P, Alonso Roldán V, Ramos S, Klaoudatos D, Outeiro L, Armstrong C, Teneva L, Stefanski S, Böhnke-Henrichs A, Kruse M, Lillebø A, Bennett EM, Belgrano A, Murillas A, Sousa Pinto I, Burkhard B, Villasante S (2017) Marine and Coastal Cultural Ecosystem Services: knowledge gaps and research priorities. One Ecosystem 2: e12290. https://doi.org/10.3897/oneeco.2.e12290

Could green façades cool down cities in the future

Predictions for temperature rise and the particular sensitivity of urban ecosystems to heat stress pose a pressure to find the best solution for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Could green façades be a sustainable and easy to implement strategy to keep our cities cool? A new study in the open access journal One Ecosystem uses the method of Bayesian networks to assess applicability of this nature-based solution, within the context of Berlin’s urban environment.

Urban heat is a recognised challenge for mid-latitude cities possibly aggravated by global climate change. Among the strategies to adapt the urban fabric, façade greening has been identified as an important measure to adjust the building stock and new buildings to adverse climatic impacts. Yet, little is known on factors that influence implementation probabilities for this adaptation measure.

Façade greening could be rather suitable way to establish vegetation in cities despite the development pressure. Not used for other purposes, unlike most of the horizontal green and open spaces in cities, façade greening needs very little space on the ground eliminating pressure and user competition.

In the past years, most German cities have developed climate change adaptation strategies which particularly focus on nature-based measures for urban planning to tackle the impacts of urban heat. In 15 of the 24 German adaptation strategies façade greening is mentioned as a measure to improve microclimatic conditions. But what is the likelihood of implementing and what is the attitude towards this measure?

Analysing attitudes and possibilities in the context of Berlin, a group of scientists found out that experts in Berlin estimate the likelihood of an implementation of façade greening under current conditions at 2% only. A different scenario including financial incentives from a backyard greening program, however, has shown to raise the chances to 14 %. Nonetheless, the factor of “willingness” of involved actors and the right combination of supportive and legislative factors appeared as a crucial pre-condition for the implementation of this measure.

“Our analysis allowed for ranking the influence of each of the factors on the outcome the research and we were surprised to see that in this case the “attitude” of determinant actors is of outmost importance, while financial prerequisites, legal and technical conditions also have an influence on the decision to install green façades but remain lower on the list.” comments the lead author of the study Nora Sprondel, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany.

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Original Source:

Sprondel N, Donner J, Mahlkow N, Köppel J (2016) Urban climate and heat stress: how likely is the implementation of adaptation measures in mid-latitude cities? The case of façade greening analyzed with Bayesian networks. One Ecosystem 1: e9280. https://doi.org/10.3897/oneeco.1.e9280

Global change, ecosystem services and human well being: An assessment for Europe

Highly dependent on the different aspects of global change, variations in ecosystem services supply can also have direct impacts on human well being. A new article published in the open access journal One Ecosystem assesses the relationships between climate and land use change and ecosystem services supply in Europe, to pave the way on research connecting them to adaptation and human well being in a changing world.

Ecosystem services arise when ecological structures or functions contribute toward meeting a human demand. With global change impacting biodiversity and ecosystems properties, ecosystem services supply are also likely to be affected, consequently impacting various aspects of human well being.

In this context, assessing the possible bio-physical impacts of the ongoing and future changes in climate and land use becomes highly relevant for designing mitigation and adaptation policies.

While undergoing a comprehensive climate and land use impact assessment continues to be a demanding research challenge due to the large knowledge gaps, in their new paper, the team of scientists from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy and the Institute for Environmental Studies at the VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands, present a first of its kind spatially explicit preliminary assessment of the changes in ecosystem services supply as a function of these global change drivers.

Carried out for the mainland of the 28 Member States of the European Union, the focus of this analysis is on regulating ecosystem services, due to their direct dependency on the proper functioning of ecosystems. Focusing on three regulating services: air quality regulation, soil erosion control, and water flow regulation, the new research presents an assessment of changes related to global change and their projected impacts, positive or negative, on human well being in the different European regions.

“Considering both land use projections and climate change scenarios in our research, in principle, enabled us to capture the main pressures acting on ecosystems and their services, thus enhancing the suitability of this approach to generate policy-relevant information,” explains the authors. “Yet, this study is only preliminary and a stepping stone for further research, needed not only to expand the analysis to other ES, but also to incorporate processes and scaling properties of the systems considered as they become available, and to account for spatial dependencies.”

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Original Source:

Polce C, Maes J, Brander L, Cescatti A, Baranzelli C, Lavalle C, Zulian G (2016) Global change impacts on ecosystem services: a spatially explicit assessment for Europe. One Ecosystem 1: e9990. https://doi.org/10.3897/oneeco.1.e9990

Machine Learning techniques and the future of Ecology and Earth Science Research

Increasingly becoming a necessity in Ecology and Earth Science research, handling complex data can be a tough nut when traditional statistical methods are applied. As one of its first publications, the new technologically-advanced Open Access journal One Ecosystem features a review paper describing the benefits of using machine learning technologies when working with highly-dimensional and non-linear data.

Natural sciences, such as Ecology and Earth science, focus on the complex interactions between biotic and abiotic systems in order to infer understand these systems and make predictions. Traditional statistical methods can impose unrealistic assumptions that result in unsound conclusions as the era of ‘big data’ meets ecology and earth science. Machine-learning-based methods, capable of inferring missing data and handling complex interactions, are more apt for handling complex scientific data.

“A wider adoption of machine-learning methods in ecology and earth science has the potential to greatly accelerate the pace and quality of science,” explains the author of the study, Dr. Anne Thessen, the Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship. “Despite these advantages, however, machine-learning techniques have not met their full potential in ecology and earth science”.

The present gap between the potential and actual use of machine-learning methods is mainly due to to the lack of communication and collaboration between the machine-learning research community and natural scientists; the current deficiency in graduate education in machine learning methods; and the requirement for a robust training and test data set.

However, according to the newly published review paper, these impediments can be overcome through financial support for collaborative work and education.

“For many researchers, machine learning is a relatively new paradigm that has only recently become accessible with the development of modern computing. In this paper I suggest several mechanisms through which this useful method can be quickly introduced within the ecological and earth science fields, to ensure their wider application.” adds Dr. Thessen.

“We are extremely happy to pioneer One Ecosystem publications with this particular article. Created as an innovator in the fields of Ecology and Sustainability Sciences, one of the journal’s main objectives is to answer the need for Open Access not only to the final research content, but also to all underpinning data. Tackling issues of the ‘big data’ era, this article provides a perfect match for being among the first publications in a journal that aims at innovation,” comments Benjamin Burkhard, Editor-in-Chief of One Ecosystem.

Original Source:

Thessen A (2016) Adoption of Machine Learning Techniques in Ecology and Earth Science. One Ecosystem 1: e8621. doi:10.3897/oneeco.1.e8621

Additional information:

The author would like to acknowledge NASA for financial support and the Boston Machine Learning Meetup Group for inspiration.