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Climate, CO2 and Invasive Weeds: Meeting the Challenge

Carbon dioxide is rising in the atmosphere.  Carbon dioxide provides the raw material needed for plants to grow and as it increases, plant growth will be stimulated.  However, the increase in carbon dioxide, and associated changes in temperature are likely to not only stimulate the growth and reproduction of desirable plants, but also to affect the biology of weedy species, particularly invasive weeds.  In this overview I will present data on how CO2 and/or rising temperatures are likely to impact the establishment, growth and reproductive success of three invasive weeds of national importance.  Specifically I will discuss how warming winter temperatures are affecting the northward migration of kudzu, how rising CO2 is affecting cheat grass and fire frequency and how CO2 interacts with nitrogen to affect the growth of Canada thistle.  In addition, I will discuss how CO2 and/or temperature are likely to affect the chemical control of these species.  Although the current data are limited, these existing studies suggest unprecedented, rapid changes in our understanding of invasive weed biology.


Dr. Lewis Ziska

Crop Systems and Global Change
10300 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, 20705
(301) 504-6639

BIO: Dr. Ziska is a Plant Physiologist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland. After graduating from the University of California, Davis, he began his career as a Smithsonian fellow, and then took up residence as the Project Leader for global climate change at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines before joining USDA. Dr. Ziska has published numerous papers on carbon dioxide and climate change impacts on agriculture, weed biology and public health. At present he is investigating the role of rising carbon dioxide and changing climate on food security, invasive species and aerobiology. Dr. Ziska’s research has appeared in: The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report and CNN Headline News. He has appeared on the ABC nightly news with Charles Gibson and the NBC nightly news with Brian Williams. He was also featured in the HBO documentary, “Too Hot Not to Handle”.


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