Using life strategies to explore the vulnerability of ecosystem services to invasion by alien plants

Invasive plants can have different effects on ecosystem functioning and on the provision of ecosystem services, with the direction and magnitude of such effects depending on the service and ecosystem being considered, but also on the life strategies of the invaders. Strategies can influence invasiveness, but also key processes of host ecosystems. To address the combined effects of these various factors, we developed a methodological framework to identify areas of possible conflict between ecosystem services and alien invasive plants, considering interactions between landscape invasibility and species invasiveness. Our framework combines multi-model inference, efficient techniques to map ecosystem services, and life strategies. The latter provides a functional link between invasion, functional changes, and potential provision of services by invaded ecosystems. The framework was applied to a region in Portugal, for which we could successfully predict current patterns of plant invasion, of ecosystem service provision, and of potential conflict between alien species richness and the potential provision of selected services. Potential conflicts were identified for all combinations of plant strategy and ecosystem service, with an emphasis on carbon sequestration, water regulation, and wood production. Lower levels of conflict were obtained between invasive plant strategies and the habitat for biodiversity supporting service. The value of the proposed framework for landscape management and planning is discussed with emphasis on anticipation of conflicts, mitigation of negative impacts, and facilitation of positive effects of plant invasions on ecosystems and their services.