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New study finds climate change could lead to invasive plants outcompeting native ones

Kellogg Biological Station Long-Term Ecological Research Program at Michigan State University

Climate change could lead to non-native plants out-competing native plants across the midwest.

Those are the findings of a new study out of Michigan State University which exposed 52 plant species to higher temperatures and measured the results.

Dr. Jennifer Lau worked on the study. She said the plants were grown at the Kellogg Biological Station in Kalamazoo County using infrared heaters to mimic climate change.

“So we have these plots that are surrounded by these heaters and elevated temperatures by about three degrees celcius on average.”

According to the study the three degree increase matches predictions for the amount of warming that may occur in the midwest by 2100.

Researchers found that non-native plants could better adapt to the increased heat - changing their flowering times by over ten days.

“Given other studies showing that plants that are able to shift their flowering times seem to do better under more recent climate conditions it is a little bit worrying,” Lau said.

According to Lau it makes sense that non-native species would be more adaptable.

“If we think about it these invasive plants are coming from across the ocean to a new habitat and they need to be able to flower and produce fast enough wherever they end up.”

Lau said what this means for midwest ecosystems as a whole remains to be seen.