Global patterns of plant invasions and the concept of invasibility

  • Lonsdale W
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With a simple model, I show that comparisons of invasibility between regions are impossible to make unless one can control for all of the variables besides invasibility that influence exotic richness, including the rates of immigration of species and the char- acteristics of the invading species themselves. Using data from the literature for 184 sites around the world, I found that nature reserves had one-half of the exotic fraction of sites outside reserves, and island sites had nearly three times the exotic fraction of mainland sites. However, the exotic fraction and the number of exotics were also dependent on site area, and this had to be taken into account to make valid comparisons between sites. The number of native species was used as a surrogate for site area and habitat diversity. Nearly 70% of the variation in the number of exotic species was accounted for by a multiple regression containing the following predictors: the number of native species, whether the site was an island or on the mainland, and whether or not it was a nature reserve. After controlling for scale, there were significant differences among biomes, but not continents, in their level of invasion. Multiple biome regions and temperate agricultural or urban sites were among the most invaded biomes, and deserts and savannas were among the least. However, there was considerable within-group variation in the mean degree of invasion. Scale-controlled analysis also showed that the New World is significantly more invaded than the Old World, but only when site native richness (probably a surrogate for habitat diversity) is factored out. Contrary to expectation, communities richer in native species had more, not fewer, exotics. For mainland sites, the degree of invasion increased with latitude, but there was no such relationship for islands. Although islands are more invaded than mainland sites, this is apparently not because of low native species richness, as the islands in this data set were no less rich in native species than were mainland sites of similar area. The number of exotic species in nature reserves increases with the number of visitors. However, it is difficult to draw conclusions about relative invasibility, invasion potential, or the roles of dispersal and disturbance from any of these results. Most of the observed patterns here and in the literature could potentially be explained by differences between regions in species properties, ecosystem properties, or propagule pressure.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Dispersal
  • Disturbance
  • Exotic species
  • Extinction
  • Immigration
  • Invasibility
  • Islands
  • Nature reserves
  • Plant invasions
  • Propagule pressure
  • Weeds

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  • W. M. Lonsdale

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