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'Forest killer' plant study explores rapid environmental change factors
Date:9/21/2012

TEMPE (Sept. 21, 2012) - It's called mile-a-minute weed or "forest killer." Mikania micrantha is an exotic, invasive species that spreads quickly, covering crops, smothering trees and rapidly altering the environment.

Researchers at Arizona State University are spearheading a four-year research project that will explore what factors cause people and the environment to be vulnerable to rapid environmental change, such as an invasion by Mikania. Study findings likely will serve as a harbinger of the future as humans increasingly experience abrupt, extreme conditions associated with climate change, said Sharon J. Hall, the study's co-principal investigator and Arizona State University School of Life Sciences associate professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"There are many communities that have to deal with and adapt to rapid change. Mikania is just one example. We're looking at how social and ecological forces in communities make them more resistant or vulnerable to rapid environmental change," Hall said. "Mikania is considered one of the world's worst invader weeds, and it is having a significant impact on agriculture in India and China. If there are crop species, it will grow over them. It grows extremely fast, up and over trees, as quickly as three inches per day."

The study, "Feedbacks Between Human Community Dynamics and Socioecological Vulnerability in a Biodiversity Hotspot," examines how the social and natural ecosystem surrounding Chitwan National Park of Nepal is being threatened by invasive plant species. It is funded by a $1,449,521 grant from the Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems program of the National Science Foundation.

Researchers will conduct the study in an area covering approximately 20 square miles in forests surrounding Chitwan National Park, a protected area that is home to many endangered species, including Bengal tiger and one-horned rhinoceros. The park borders
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Contact: Julie Newberg
julie.newberg@asu.edu
480-727-3116
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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