ASICS (ASsessing and mitigating the effects of climate change and biological Invasions on the spatial redistribution of biodiversity in Cold environmentS) is a global network of ecologists passionate about biodiversity in the earth’s most remote areas: the cold north and south, and high-elevation areas. We bring together expertise on field observations, experiments and ecological modelling to answer one important question: how are global changes affecting cold-environment species redistributions, and can this knowledge help us halt the deterioration of these precious ecosystems?

Climate in the coldest regions on Earth is changing at an unprecedented rate, triggering poleward and upward species redistribution, and increasing the likelihood of biological invasions. However, we know little about the impacts of invading species in high-elevation and high-latitude ecosystems, and how species invasions are likely to interact with other global change factors, such as climate and land-use changes. In ASICS, we aim to combine expertise and existing data from cold environments (sub-Antarctic islands, Arctic, Antarctic and alpine regions) to better understand the combined effects of climate changes and biological invasions on contemporary species redistributions. Our main research questions are: (i) Changes of climatic conditions on sub-Antarctic islands and along elevation gradients are expected to shape vegetation belts, but do they trigger differences in the speed of species redistribution between native and non-native plants? (ii) As native species have evolved under cooler conditions, are native plants and invertebrates expanding upwards more quickly than their non-native counterparts? (iii) Have/will the different rates of expansion (asynchrony) cause novel species interactions? (iv) How much does the redistribution of native and non-native species affect patterns of functional biodiversity metrics?

The Austrian subproject will use a combination of species distribution models and models of the future development of trade and traffic to make predictions on likely future invasive plants on a number of subantarctic islands such as Crozet and Kerguelen. We will moreover apply dynamic population models to forecast the likely re-distribution of native and alien plant species on these islands under different scenarios of climate warming. These models will be informed by monitoring data collected on these islands over the last decades.