Potential impact of four invasive alien plants on the provision of ecosystem services in Europe under present and future climatic scenarios

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Invasive alien species (IAS) are one of the main threats to biodiversity conservation, with significant socioeconomic and ecological impacts as they disrupt ecosystem services and compromise human well-being. Global change may exacerbate the impacts of IAS, since rising temperatures and human activities favour their introduction and range expansion. Therefore, anticipating the impacts of biological invasions is crucial to support decision-making for their management. In this work, the potential impacts of four invasive alien plant species: Ailanthus altissima, Baccharis halimifolia, Impatiens glandulifera and Pueraria montana, on the provision of three ecosystem services in Europe were evaluated under current and future climate change scenarios. Using a risk analysis protocol, we determined that the most affected services are food provisioning, soil erosion regulation and the maintenance of biological diversity. To evaluate future impacts, species distribution models were calibrated using bioclimatic, environmental and human impact variables. We found that most of continental Europe is suitable for the establishment of A. altissima, B. halimifolia and I. glandulifera, while the potential distribution of P. montana is more limited. Models anticipate a shift in the distribution range for the species towards the north and east of Europe under future scenarios. Bivariate analysis allowed the identification of trends for future impacts in ecosystem services by simultaneously visualising the potential distribution of invasive species and the provision of ecosystem services. Our models project an increase in critical and high impact areas on the analysed ecosystem services, with Western Europe and the British Isles as the most affected regions. In comparison, lower impacts are projected for the Mediterranean region, likely as a consequence of the northwards expansion of invaders. Measures need to be taken to mitigate the expansion and impact of invasive species as our work shows that it can jeopardise the provision of three key services in Europe.
CRUE-CSIC (Acuerdos Transformativos 2022)