A photo of the heavily invasive European buckthorn.

Invasive plants and terrestrial food webs

Date : January 18, 2018 By Dr Matthew A McCary

The proliferation of invasive plants into local ecosystems is a major threat to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning on a global scale, which is a disturbance that is predicted to become even more severe in the 21st century. To offset the adverse effects of invasive plants on ecosystem function and overall health, a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms by which plant invaders alter ecological communities and networks is essential. This research examined the effects of invasive plants on soil food webs in urban woodlands. Here, I adopted a multidisciplinary framework, which included a combination of meta-analyses, field experimentation, and Next-Generation DNA sequencing to profile soil microbial communities. In short, my research findings show that invasive plants can severely alter the function and structure of woodland food webs, with the effect weakening as you move up the food chain.




McCary, M.A., R. Mores, M. Farfan, and D.H. Wise. 2016. Invasive plants have different effects on trophic structure of green and brown food webs in terrestrial ecosystems: a meta-analysis. Ecology Letters 19: 328-335.

McCary, M.A. 2016. Evaluating the Impacts of Invasive Plants on the Forest-floor Food Web (Ph.D. Thesis). The University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL.