Dave Moeller (right) and members of his research lab.
From melting ice caps to rising sea levels, climate change tends to evoke thoughts of global-scale phenomena. But understanding the local effects “on the ground” and being able to predict outcomes based on climate projections is critical. That’s where College of Biological Sciences researchers David Moeller and Peter Tiffin come in.
Moeller and Tiffin are looking at the potential impact of climate change on how fast and far certain invasive plants in Minnesota spread. They received a 2.5-year grant from the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center to create species distribution models that will help predict the how fast and how far exotic plants of special concern in Minnesota are likely to expand their range.
“Climate change is causing a lot of change to species’ distribution,” says Moeller. “We’re not always fully clear about what sets the limits to a species’ range and so we’re not sure how they’ll react with these changes.”
Moeller and Tiffin are investigating eight plant species not currently in Minnesota or not yet well established here, though they may thrive in neighboring states. In those instances, they will look at whether the environment is unsuitable for the species if other factors are at play.
“A significant outcome of this research would be that the projections that we might make about things in the future would help us predict where species will move so we can target areas to observe,” says Moeller. “There’s a lot of territory in the state and where do you start looking? Honing that down would be a big success.” - Lance Janssen