The Mountain Invasion Research Network

For MIREN, we are working on an awesome new blog series summarizing our scientific findings from the last 15 years for conservation, policy makers and the global public. This is chapter 1, so stay tuned for more! Originally posted on www.mountaininvasions.org.

In July 2005, a group of mountain ecologists got together near Vienna, Austria, to discuss what was at that time an unknown and hardly studied issue: the invasion of non-native plant species into mountains1. Up till then, mountain regions had mostly been considered resistant to invasion. Yet those times were changing,  and mountain areas were increasingly threatened by invasive alien plants.

That group of mountain ecologists in Vienna launched the Mountain Invasion Research Network (MIREN), following the cry that ‘now it is time to act’: by addressing the issue before it spiraled out of control, science could prove to be the gatekeeper of biodiversity in the fragile mountain world2.

The MIREN-network started off with 6 core-regions, covering all major climatic zones and including both islands and continental ecosystems1. In these 6 regions, it aimed to initiate and integrates surveys, monitoring, experimental research, and management of plant invasions into mountains1. The key goals of these endeavors where two-fold: to increase awareness about the growing importance of species expansion—both non-native and native—at high elevation and high latitude with global change3, and to offer possible solutions for conservation management and policy-makers.

Overview of the regions participating in MIRENs baseline screening and monitoring as of October 2018.

Since this first meeting in 2005, the network has steadily grown, and now it features over 20 mountain regions that participate in standardized baseline screening and monitoring, including the “T-transect” survey along mountain roads or trails and other experiments (see map). Through the years, MIREN has shown dedication to take on board scientists from developing countries 4,5 and has stated the case for transdisciplinary research that draws upon the expertise of social scientists, economists and bioengineers6. The network now even has its own mascot: Poa mireniana, a new grass species identified within long-term MIREN surveys in Kosciuszko National Park, Australia 7.

Poa mireniana, a new species of grass discovered during MIREN-fieldwork in the Australian Alps

We felt that after all these years of work, time was ripe to share our main conclusions with you. Mountain scientists, conservationists, mountain enthusiasts and policy-makers all over the world: read and take note, as in the following posts, we will summarize the fruits of 13 years of studying native and non-native species movement in the mountains. We will discuss patterns and processes of species movement and discuss the observed and predicted impacts of these travelling species on our mountain ecosystems. Ultimately, we hope to offer some useful suggestions for conservation and management.

The MIREN team at its latest meeting in 2017 in Centennial Valley, close to Yellowstone, USA.

A lot to tell, so stay tuned for the next episode!

References

  1. Dietz, H. et al. (2006). MIREN: A new research network concerned with plant invasion into mountain areas. Mountain Research and Development 26, 80-81.
  2. McDougall, K. et al. in Mountain Forum Bulletin. 23-25 (ICIMOD).
  3. Pauchard, A. et al. (2016). Non-native and native organisms moving into high elevation and high latitude ecosystems in an era of climate change: new challenges for ecology and conservation. Biological Invasions 18, 345-353.
  4. Pauchard, A. et al. (2009). Global networks: a reply to Khuroo et al. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7, 518-518.
  5. Khuroo, A. A. et al. (2009). Plant invasions in montane ecosystems. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7, 408-408.
  6. Kueffer, C. (2010). Transdisciplinary research is needed to predict plant invasions in an era of global change. Trends in ecology & evolution 25, 619-620.
  7. Walsh, N. G. & McDougall, K. L. (2018). A new species of PoaL.(Poaceae) from Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales.
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