TWU's Dr. David Clements and team track climate change-driven spread of invasive plants in Metro Vancouver, inform municipal strategies

Yellow starthistle, an invasive species found in nearby Washington State. Photo by Dr. David Clements.

"As the pandemic has taught us, the more prepared we are for biological threats and the earlier we act on them, the better! There is little doubt that some of the plants we are studying will invade our area in the near future, and that climate change will play a role. Our research will help Metro Vancouver and our other partners to be better prepared.”

— Dr. David Clements, Professor of Biology, Assistant Dean, Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences (Research)

A team of researchers led by Trinity Western University’s Dr. David Clements is undertaking a two-year study to better understand how new invasive plants may spread into Metro Vancouver and beyond, thanks to grant funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and financial support from the Metro Vancouver Regional District.

The study aims to model how invasive plants such as Brazilian elodea, European common reed, Dyer's woad, shiny geranium, mouse ear hawkweed or water hyacinth may take advantage of climate change to establish and spread across the region, and will help governments develop tools and best practices for detecting, prioritizing, and managing outbreaks of invasive species.

The Metro Vancouver area is vulnerable to invasive plants due to its favourable climate and diverse landscapes. Climate change is expected to make it easier for invasive plant species to spread, particularly northward into Canada. As a major port of entry into Canada, Metro Vancouver provides numerous pathways for invasive species to enter via land crossings and from overseas.

Dr. David Clements and his team are working to develop the methodology for modelling habitat suitability under climate change for Metro Vancouver, incorporating the unique features of the region’s diverse landscape.

His team’s project, “Habitat Suitability and Climate Modelling for Predicting the Risk of New Invasive Plants in Metro Vancouver,” has received generous funding from an NSERC grant in February. The Alliance Grant from NSERC required a non-university funding ally to apply the results of the scientific research, and Dr. Clements had previously teamed up with Metro Vancouver, which is contributing $15,000 per year to the project over two years. Two other partners will also help shape the approach: the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver, represented by executive director, Tasha Murray.

See also: Dr. David Clement's research in Burnaby Now:
TWU in Burnaby Now

“The ability of these organizations to both understand the issues and take action make them ideal partners,” said Dr. Clements.

In total, $87,000 has been awarded to Dr. Clements and his team by Metro Vancouver and NSERC for the duration of the project, which will last approximately two years.

The B.C. Government has already developed provincial-scale risk assessments for invasive plant species, which Dr. Clements’s team will build upon by examining priority species for Metro Vancouver through the lens of climate change.

Shauna-Lee Chai, representing the project’s B.C. Ministry of Agriculture partner, previously completed a similar project for the Province of Alberta. The research will be carried out by master's student and TWU alumna, Emma Nikkel, and co-supervised by Dr. Clements at Trinity Western University and Dr. Jennifer Williams at the University of British Columbia. Undergrad research students will complete the team. This diverse partnership will provide the trainees with both scientific training and mentoring in equity, diversity and inclusiveness. For more information on invasive species in the Metro Vancouver region, please visit their website.

About Trinity Western University

Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to establish meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has five campuses and locations: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, Ottawa, and Bellingham, WA. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vital faith community committed to forming leaders to have a transformational impact on culture. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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