Thermal landscape change as a driver of ectotherm responses to plant invasions

19 July 2019

A growing body of research demonstrates the impacts of invasive alien plants on native animals, but few studies consider thermal effects as a driver of the responses of native organisms. As invasive alien plants establish and alter the composition and arrangement of plant communities, the thermal landscapes available to ectotherms also change. Our study reviews the research undertaken to date on the thermal effects of alien plant invasions on native reptiles, amphibians, insects and arachnids. The 37 studies published between 1970 and early 2019 portray an overall detrimental effect of invasive plants on thermal landscapes, ectothermic individuals' performance and species abundance, diversity and composition. With a case study of a lizard species, we illustrate the use of thermal ecology tools in plant invasion research and test the generality of alien plant effects: changes in thermoregulation behaviour in invaded landscapes varied depending on the level of invasion and lizard traits. Together, the literature review and case study show that thermal effects of alien plants on ectotherms can be substantial albeit context-dependent. Further research should cover multiple combinations of native/invasive plant growth forms, invasion stages and ectotherm traits. More attention is also needed to test causality along the chain of effects from thermal landscapes to individuals, populations and communities.