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Keywords:

  • Alien species;
  • biogeography;
  • dispersal syndrome;
  • island ecology;
  • life-history traits;
  • macroecology;
  • Mediterranean Basin

ABSTRACT

Aim  We assess the importance of three relevant and readily obtainable life-history traits (dispersal syndrome, stem height and growth form) and biogeographical origin (European vs. non-European) on the local and regional abundance of over 400 exotic plant species across eight Mediterranean islands.

Location  The Mediterranean islands of Lesbos, Rhodes, Crete, Malta, Corsica, Sardinia, Majorca and Minorca.

Methods  We adopt two abundance criteria for each exotic species: the proportion of islands in which the species occurs (regional abundance), and a qualitative estimate of species abundance within each of five islands (local abundance). Subsequently, we assess the relationship between local and regional abundance, as well as the role of key life-history traits on both regional and local abundance. These analyses were undertaken separately for the European exotics and the non-European exotics.

Results  Only 10.9% of the species occur on more than four islands, and only four species are present on all eight islands. Both local and regional abundances were higher for the non-European than the European species. Local and regional abundances were positively correlated, particularly for exotics with non-European origins. Wind-dispersed species tended to have higher regional abundance than species dispersed by other means but this trend only occurred for local abundance on two islands — Corsica and Majorca. Neither a species’ growth form nor its stem height explained trends in regional or local abundance.

Conclusions  Although wind-dispersed exotics are more widespread in the Mediterranean, plant life-history traits appear to play a lesser role in invasion success than area of biogeographical origin. In general, exotic species of non-European origin were more abundant at both local and regional scales. Invasion patterns should be interpreted at both local and regional scales, but the stochastic nature of biological invasions may limit deterministic interpretations of invasion patterns, especially if islands are studied in isolation.