Climate change alters many aspects of weed performance, and may also alter the effectiveness of management practices to control pests. Despite this concern, entire categories of widely-used management practices, such as physical control, remain understudied in this context. We conducted a field experiment growing the invasive pest musk thistle (Carduus nutans) at ambient and experimentally elevated temperatures. We tested mowing management strategies that varied in the timing of a single mowing event relative to thistles' stem elongation phenology and compared these with an un-mowed control. Results from this experiment informed demographic models to project population growth rates for different warming/mowing scenarios. Compared to plants grown under ambient conditions, warmed thistles were more likely to survive the same mowing treatment, flowered earlier in the season, grew to taller heights, and produced more flowering capitula. Proportional reductions in plant height and capitulum production caused by mowing were smaller under warming. Warming did not change the relative ranking of mowing treatments; mowing late in the growing season (two weeks after individuals first reached a height of 40 cm) was most effective at ambient temperatures and under warming. Warming caused significant increases in projected local population growth rate for all mowing treatments. For invasive musk thistle, warmed individuals outperformed individuals grown at ambient temperatures across all of the mowing treatments we considered. Our results suggest that to achieve outcomes comparable to those attainable at today's temperatures, farmers will need to apply supplemental management, possibly including additional mowing effort or alternative practices such as chemical control. We recommend that scientists test management practices under experimental warming, where possible, and that managers monitor ongoing management to identify changes in effectiveness. Information about changes in managed weeds' mortality, fecundity, and phenology can then be used to make informed decisions in future climates.
Keller JA, Shea K. (2022). Pest management in future climates: Warming reduces physical weed management effectiveness. Ecological applications : a publication of the Ecological Society of America