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The Shell Center for Sustainability's mission is to foster an interdisciplinary program of research, outreach, and education to address actions that can be taken to ensure the sustainable development of communities' living standards, interpreted broadly, to encompass all factors affecting the overall quality of life.

Effects of anthropogenic nutrient enrichment and climate change on invasion success and impacts on native freshwater communities


Maria Meza-Lopez, Student, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Rice University

Maria Meza-Lopez
Project Background   

Freshwater ecosystems are often invaded by multiple exotic species. Native biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems is declining at a higher rate than biodiversity in marine and terrestrial environments combined. Exotic plant and animal invasions, habitat modification by nutrient pollution and climate change each impact native species and ecosystems. Understanding the effects of nutrient pollution and climate change (anthropogenic factors) on the interactions between native and exotic species in food webs is critical to predict the effects of these factors on Gulf Coast freshwater ecosystems. 

In southeast Texas, common native plants cattail (Typha spp.), pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata), frog’s bit (Limnobium spongia), and pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) together with native snails Physa spp. and ramhorn (Planorbarius spp.) co-occur with exotic plants water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and the exotic island apple snail (Pomacea insularum). These exotic species heavily invade local freshwater ecosystems and co-occur in their native (South America) and in their introduced ranges (US).

With the award from the Shell Center for Sustainability (SCS), we will conduct experiments investigating 1) the responses of freshwater ecosystems to nutrient pollution and to climate change, 2) the effects of exotic plant and animal species on these ecosystems, and 3) how the presence of exotic species modifies the vulnerability of these ecosystems to nutrient pollution and to climate change. We will establish native freshwater communities composed of native plants and snails that invaded by an exotic plant and/or an exotic snail to investigate the impacts of nutrient addition as well as the impacts of warming on native communities and the interactions among exotic species. These experiments will increase our knowledge of how exotic species invasion and anthropogenic factors such as nutrient pollution and/or climate change alter the interaction between multiple exotic species and their impact on native communities. 


Publications & Outcomes:

Presentation at the Ecological Society of America Annual Conference 

Presentation at the Ford Foundation Fellows Conference 

Presentation at the SACNAS National Conference 

Presentation at the Emerging Researchers National Conference 



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Juvenile island apple snails

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Adult island apple snail

Exotic island apple snail (Pomacea insularum) egg masses on native pickerelweed 

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