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Keywords:

  • alien invasive species;
  • amphibians;
  • future scenarios;
  • habitat suitability models;
  • invasion dynamics;
  • long term monitoring;
  • Rana catesbeiana;
  • temporal dynamics

Abstract

Biological invasions and land-use changes are two major causes of the global modifications of biodiversity. Habitat suitability models are the tools of choice to predict potential distributions of invasive species. Although land-use is a key driver of alien species invasions, it is often assumed that land-use is constant in time. Here we combine historical and present day information, to evaluate whether land-use changes could explain the dynamic of invasion of the American bullfrog Rana catesbeiana (=Lithobathes catesbeianus) in Northern Italy, from the 1950s to present-day. We used maxent to build habitat suitability models, on the basis of past (1960s, 1980s) and present-day data on land-uses and species distribution. For example, we used models built using the 1960s data to predict distribution in the 1980s, and so on. Furthermore, we used land-use scenarios to project suitability in the future. Habitat suitability models predicted well the spread of bullfrogs in the subsequent temporal step. Models considering land-use changes predicted invasion dynamics better than models assuming constant land-use over the last 50 years. Scenarios of future land-use suggest that suitability will remain similar in the next years. Habitat suitability models can help to understand and predict the dynamics of invasions; however, land-use is not constant in time: land-use modifications can strongly affect invasions; furthermore, both land management and the suitability of a given land-use class may vary in time. An integration of land-use changes in studies of biological invasions can help to improve management strategies.