The naturalization to invasion transition: Are there introduction-history correlates of invasiveness in exotic plants of Australia?



Of the large number of exotic plant species that become naturalized in new geographic regions, only a subset make the transition to become invasive. Identifying the factors that underpin the transition from naturalization to invasion is important for our understanding of biological invasions. To determine introduction-history correlates of invasiveness among naturalized plant species of Australia, we compared geographic origin, reason for introduction, minimum residence time and growth form between naturalized non-invasive species and naturalized invasive plant species. We found that more invasive species than expected originated from South America and North America, while fewer invasive species than expected originated from Europe and Australasia. There was no significant difference between invasive and non-invasive species with respect to reason for introduction to Australia. However, invasive species were significantly more likely to have been resident in Australia for a longer period of time than non-invasive species. Residence times of invasive species were consistently and significantly higher than residence times of non-invasive species even when each continent of origin was considered separately. Furthermore, residence times for both invasive and non-invasive species varied significantly as a function of continent of origin, with species from South America having been introduced to Australia more recently on average than species from Europe, Australasia and North America. We also found that fewer invasive species than expected were herbs and more invasive species than expected were primarily climbers. Considered together, our results indicate a high propensity for invasiveness in Australia among exotic plant species from South America, given that they appear in general capable of more rapid shifts to invasiveness than aliens from other regions. Furthermore, our findings support an emerging global generality that introduction-history traits must be statistically controlled for in comparative studies exploring life-history and ecological correlates of invasion success.