Invasion hotspots for non-native plants in Australia under current and future climates

Authors


Correspondence: Jessica O'Donnell, Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia, tel. + 61 2 9850 8318, fax + 61 2 9850 8420, e-mail: jessica.odonnell@mq.edu.au

Abstract

We apply the concept of biodiversity hotspot analysis (the identification of biogeographical regions of high species diversity) to identify invasion hotspots – areas of potentially suitable climate for multiple non-native plant species – in Australia under current and future climates. We used the species distribution model Maxent to model climate suitability surfaces for 72 taxa, recognized as ‘Weeds of National Significance’ (WoNS) in Australia, under current and projected climate for 2020 and 2050. Current climate suitability layers were summed across all 72 species, and we observed two regions of high climatic suitability corresponding to the top 25th percentile of combined climatic suitability values across Australia. We defined these as potential invasion hotspots. Areas of climatic suitability equivalent to the hotspot regions were identified in the composite maps for 2020 and 2050, to track spatial changes in the hotspots over the two time steps. Two potential invasion hotspot regions were identified under current and projected climates: the south west corner of Western Australia (SW), and south eastern Australia (SE). Herbarium data confirmed the presence of 73% and 99% of those species predicted to be in each hotspot respectively, suggesting that the SE has greater invasion potential. The area of both hotspots was predicted to retract southward and towards the coast under future climate scenarios, reducing in size by 81% (SW) and 71% (SE) by 2050. This reduction was driven by the dominance of southern temperate invasive plant species in the WoNS list (47 of the 72), of which 44 were predicted to experience reductions in their bioclimatic range by 2050. While climate is likely to become less suitable for the majority of WoNS in the future, potential invasion hotspots based on climate suitability are likely to remain in the far south of eastern Australia, and in the far south west of Western Australia by 2050.

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